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The Inner Voice: The Making of a Singer Hardcover – November 4, 2004


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From Publishers Weekly Calling this candid account "the autobiography of my voice," soprano Fleming details the years of study it took to master the art of vocal production and the discipline that brought her international renown. A former manager deemed her "the single most ambitious singer he has ever known," and given the tenacity with which she faced early setbacks—"I have a noble history of being rejected from a lot of places," she writes—his comment is understandable. After her first big break in 1990 (as the Countess in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro with the Houston Grand Opera), Fleming's rise to the top was steady. But she's quick to point out that the life of an opera star is not always glitter and glamour; the business side of singing—scheduling performances, arranging interviews and recordings, choosing a repertoire and marketing herself—is arduous. Although Fleming offers glimpses into her personal life, touching on her failed marriage and her loving relationship with her two daughters and concluding with a chapter describing what she experiences backstage during a Metropolitan Opera production, this is not a deeply intimate autobiography full of childhood vignettes, personal anecdotes and behind-the-curtains gossip. Instead, it's a realistic portrait of what it takes to succeed and a volume intriguing for its advice and honesty. Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

Interview with Renee Fleming
Renee Fleming speaks about recent projects, including The Inner Voice and her recent Handel CD, in our interview.

From Publishers Weekly

Calling this candid account "the autobiography of my voice," soprano Fleming details the years of study it took to master the art of vocal production and the discipline that brought her international renown. A former manager deemed her "the single most ambitious singer he has ever known," and given the tenacity with which she faced early setbacks—"I have a noble history of being rejected from a lot of places," she writes—his comment is understandable. After her first big break in 1990 (as the Countess in Mozart's Le Nozze di Figaro with the Houston Grand Opera), Fleming's rise to the top was steady. But she's quick to point out that the life of an opera star is not always glitter and glamour; the business side of singing—scheduling performances, arranging interviews and recordings, choosing a repertoire and marketing herself—is arduous. Although Fleming offers glimpses into her personal life, touching on her failed marriage and her loving relationship with her two daughters and concluding with a chapter describing what she experiences backstage during a Metropolitan Opera production, this is not a deeply intimate autobiography full of childhood vignettes, personal anecdotes and behind-the-curtains gossip. Instead, it's a realistic portrait of what it takes to succeed and a volume intriguing for its advice and honesty.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Viking Adult (November 4, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0670033510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0670033515
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #416,740 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars
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See all 68 customer reviews
Her insight is priceless, and determination inspiring.
Anne M. Kraley
Ms. Fleming takes us into her deeper world and tells us candidly about her upbringing, on stage and backstage experiences.
Mete Civelek
If you have aspirations to be a great singer, read this book!
Seth E. Parshall

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

86 of 91 people found the following review helpful By Eileen Pollock on December 16, 2004
Format: Hardcover
This book is so high class I hardly know where to begin to recount its virtues. First, it is not a celebrity autobiography and it does not give the inside opera gossip. Thankfully, it is free of the nastiness that so many opera tell-alls seem to revel in. This is the opposite, a gracious recounting of the creation of a diva's career. Renee Fleming is the voice of experience. Her discussion of vocal technique may be estoteric to general readers, but well the voice student knows how basic is breath support, and that the key to an aria's suitability is not the individual high notes, but the tessitura as a whole. Renee Fleming is the best possible guide to making a lasting career, and she discusses her own mistakes candidly, such as choosing too difficult and unknown material for auditions. No overnight success, she struggled for mastery. She sounds like a balanced person with good basic values. Every disappointment she suffered she managed to turn to her advantage. For example, when she had to attend a state college rather than Oberlin for financial reasons, she found an excellent voice teacher there who helped in grounding her basic technique. Renee Fleming tells us the high points of a diva's impossibly glamorous life, but she also tells us how painful and lonely it is to tour without family and friends. Years ago, I observed an attractive, friendly woman who was attending a Cecelia Bartoli appearance at Tower Records - she was greeted warmly by her friends and called "Renee". I realized that this must be Renee Fleming. This book is the woman I saw -- pleasant, open, realistic, and nice. And much more - knowledgeable about the needs of a career in opera, and generous in conveying her knowledge to others. Ann Patchett, the novelist, is certainly behind the sure, artistic and professional prose style. A lovely book of lasting value.
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70 of 78 people found the following review helpful By Bookreporter on December 3, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Renee Fleming evidently started out determined to write a different sort of opera singer's memoir. She calls her book "the autobiography of my voice" and tries gamely to keep matters of breath control, vocal placement, posture and resonance at center stage. She succeeds about half the time, and that makes her slim volume well worth reading. Inevitably, there is a certain amount of backstage chitchat and career-mongering in the mix, but Fleming deserves credit for at least trying to write a book that rises above all that.

Fleming is the daughter of two school music teachers from upstate New York (her mother sang with the Rochester Opera) who discovered her voice as an adolescent and seems to be still surprised by the success it has brought her as opera star, recitalist and soloist with orchestras. Even today, having reached the very top of the operatic tree, she writes of feeling insecure and having anxiety attacks that can come close to making her cancel engagements.

She gives major credit for developing her talent to two teachers, both of them virtual unknowns to the general public --- Pat Misslin at the State University of New York at Potsdam and the late Beverley Johnson in New York City. Teaching singing is a notoriously inexact business and a profession harboring a disturbing number of charlatans; the young singer who finds the right teachers is fortunate indeed, and Fleming expresses her gratitude to these mentors freely.

Her book goes into deep anatomical detail about vocal production. The problem, of course, is that this subject is almost impossible to pin down in sensible English, so we end up with passages like this: "my job is to keep the back of my neck open, relaxed and free.
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22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Ed Uyeshima HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on November 19, 2004
Format: Hardcover
I knew it had to be more than coincidence that the opera singer Roxane Coss in Ann Patchett's accomplished novel, "Bel Canto", reminded me of Renée Fleming. As it turns out, Patchett assisted the world-renowned soprano in the writing of her polite yet down-to-earth memoir here. Despite how colorfully punctilious the opera world can be, there is nary a tidbit of gossip to be found in this book, and having performed in the world's leading opera houses, she has probably seen it all and could tell some ribald stories. But she takes a more tactful route and as a result, she comes across as almost academic yet powerfully ambitious. The seemingly contradictory combination actually helps make some of her vaunted statements more reflective than self-serving (for example, "I believe the ultimate goal of an opera singer is to create a legacy"). In fact, Fleming seems intent on providing a primer for rising young singers to learn her lessons with chapter titles such as "Business" and "Image". And she has reason to be heard, as she is probably the only female classical music star today who is comparable to Callas, Sutherland and Sills in stature.

Truth be told, Fleming is not as innately likeable as Sills, but I don't think she aspires to be either. She is truly the product of hard work and discipline, values that permeate her career as much as her vast talent. At least, the soprano is honest about her fragile and recalcitrant voice being the product of care and technique rather than positioning it as some inspirational gift to share with the masses. In that vein, I also like her sharp accounts of brutally honest publicists and managers who have criticized her clothes, her acting and her weight.
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