In between reading the books that I was assigned in June for my summer assignments, I picked up The Inner Voice: The Making of a Singer by world renowned soprano Renée Fleming. I had wanted to read this book for a long time, but I felt that reading it while I was preparing to go to Manhattan School of Music for precollege voice would be a good idea, so I could familiarize with how music schools work and how students, specifically voice students, make their way in the music world. I am so glad that I read it this summer, because it really did make me more aware of what I am getting myself into by pursuing entrance into the field of music.
Every young singer should read this book. Ms. Fleming’s book is different from most other opera singer’s autobiographies. Instead of just talking about her career and background, Ms. Fleming goes in depth about her voice lessons, her teachers, her audition techniques and the results, and many other things that are always in the minds and schedules of young singers. She even gives vocal tips and practicing tips that she learned from her teachers, such as holding your upper lip to release tension around the mouth, and bring out more sound. Who would have guessed that? She also admitted that it is a rough road to drive on to succeed vocally in the music world, and even spoke of times when she almost gave up on her idea of a singing career, or other people told her to wrap it up. During college, she won a Fulbright Scholarship to study in Frankfurt, Germany for a year. She said that she was lucky that planes do not turn around once they are in the air, because she was asking herself what she was doing on a plane flying to Germany, not knowing a word of German or where to go when she got there! That sounds so scary, yet so relatable to a young singer traveling the world to study. Ms. Fleming’s book can be very relatable, and almost comforting to read, or even re-read, for young singers who are struggling to keep faith.
Once Ms. Fleming finishes her parts about her schooling and auditioning and hits the many big, operatic stages, it is very interesting reading about her actual performances! For example: She talks about her Met Debut as Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro and how she was so giddy and excited to be singing onstage with some of her idols: Samuel Ramey as Figaro and Frederica von Stade as Cherubino. Today, so many young singers look up to Renée Fleming and would feel the same giddiness and excitement singing onstage with her that she did back on March 16, 1991 in her Met Debut. Ms. Fleming also said the same about autographs. She had the amazing opportunity to meet Leontyne Price when she was 10 years old where she grew up in upstate New York, and Ms. Price became an idol and mentor to her in the future. Now, Ms. Fleming signs autographs for 10 year olds and young singers today, just as she did when she was younger.
Renée Fleming as Countess Madeleine in Strauss’ Capriccio
I would recommend this book to any voice student, or even music students in general, more than the regular opera attendee. This book not only talks about her career, but also her journey to where she is today, voice lessons, technique, teachers, and tons and tons of auditions. Every young singer should read The Inner Voice: The Making of a Singer by Renée Fleming.