Let's Reclaim the Word Diva!

Thursday, June 17, 2010 - 02:21 PM

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.

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Comments [4]

jerry carroll from Manhattan

Really disappionted in the overly promoted Renee Fleming interview. 15 scanty minutes? I wanted more...like a sampling of her new album, "Dark Hope." I've seen and heard "Endlessly" and both the music and video are top notch. As a DJ and house and techno remixer - and a big fan of WQXR - I think this is great. Maybe super slick but still really good...and "Endlessly" is one of those romantic songs that'll raise the hairs on the back of your neck.

Jun. 20 2010 07:46 PM
Michael Meltzer

Divas (in their worse sense) are not usually to be found earning a living by teaching school or keeping up their skills singing oratorio solos at All Souls Unitarian. Success did not come overnight to Ms. Fleming and there are no stories going around of her achieving any successes by stepping on anyone else's neck. She is "real people."
These days, the real divas are to be found on the basketball court, young kids who find themselves with ten million dollars in the bank before they've learned to wipe their nose, who have taken their talent to the forefront by the liberal use of their elbows. The public creates them, and begs to be insulted and demeaned by them.

Jun. 20 2010 05:45 AM

I feel Ms. Fleming to be WAY over -rated as an opera performer. Her voice has a very unusual deep quality that I personally find distracting. (Not even in the same universe as say a Beverly Sills) Diva?...hmmmmm

Jun. 18 2010 11:24 AM

I saw John Schaefer's video of Renee Fleming, this picture is either old or terrible.

Jun. 17 2010 10:57 PM

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