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Fleming Coaches Aspiring Singers

World-renowned soprano leads master class for undergraduates

Renée Fleming directs a Harvard student vocalist during a masters class. Known as "the people’s diva," this two-time Grammy Award winner is one of the most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors of our time. Fleming gave advice to several students during the class, while audience members listened and asked questions.
Renée Fleming directs a Harvard student vocalist during a masters class. Known as "the people’s diva," this two-time Grammy Award winner is one of the most beloved and celebrated musical ambassadors of our time. Fleming gave advice to several students during the class, while audience members listened and asked questions.
By Bethina Liu, Contributing Writer

World-renowned soprano Renée Fleming challenged student singers to push their limits in a master class yesterday as part of Harvard’s Learning From Performers program, offering feedback for four performers and leading the audience through a number of breathing exercises.

Fleming, a three-time Grammy Award winner who specializes in opera and lieder, provided constructive criticism to the singers after each of their individual performances in the master class, which was organized by the Office for the Arts.

The American artist challenged the four student performers—Bridget Haile ’11, Michael D. Cherella ’11, Francesca R. L. Reindel ’11, and Sofia M. Selowsky ’12—to “get out of the comfort zone” and to “impale” audience members with their singing.

Fleming said she sought to use the master class to “feed little bits of information about what I hear needs to be worked on.”

“I thought [Fleming] was wonderful at being casual, and I kind of forgot about everyone else in the audience,” said Haile, the first to perform out of the four singers. “I was very lucky to get the opportunity to be able to come out and do this.”

Fleming is in the Cambridge area this week for three performances with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, beginning Feb. 11.

Past visiting artists in the Learning From Performers program include Baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock and Grammy Award winner and actor Blair Underwood.

According to Learning From Performers Program Manager Thomas Lee, the selection of visiting artists is not “an exact science,” and depends largely upon the availability of a particular artist.

“It’s a blend of opportunities that might come up—like Ms. Fleming, which we didn’t even know about until about two weeks ago,” Lee said.

Learning From Performers—established soon after the founding of the OFA in 1975—facilitates collaboration between Harvard students and artists of various disciplines, including music, dance, theatre, and the visual arts.

The program is working towards establishing more long-term projects that involve greater interaction between visiting artists and academic departments at Harvard, according to Lee.

“Many more faculty members now approach us about bringing artists in,” Lee said. “We are always seeking out partners and collaborators—it’s a mutual goal.”

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