Let's Reclaim the Word Diva!

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Merriam-Webster defines diva (Italian for "goddess") as a prima donna (Italian for "first woman"). The dictionary gives two English definitions for prima donna: (1) a principal female singer in an opera, and (2) a vain or undisciplined person who finds it difficult to work…as part of a team.

These days, we're more likely to think of the second kind of diva--a performer who puts on airs, throws tantrums and demonstrates completely unprofessional behavior. But when Renée Fleming came to WQXR to talk about her new rock album
Dark Hope, I was reminded that diva can--and should--be a positive appellation. 

Fleming, who’s one of the most sought-after performers today, arrived on the dot, with little fanfare and spoke intelligently, articulately and matter-of-factly about her work. One thing in particular struck me--she said the register she used to sing her latest album is the same low register where she speaks. And it’s true. Unlike some singers, who carefully place and enunciate every syllable in rounded, silvery tones, Renée Fleming just talks, the way you or I would. She just doesn’t sing the way we do!

WQXR will air my interview with Renée Fleming this Saturday afternoon at about 3:45, right after the Lyric Opera of Chicago broadcast of Tosca. We talked about  her about being asked to cut a rock album, singing rock vs. opera and the highlights of her career. I hope you enjoy listening to it as much as I enjoyed speaking with her.