No, this isn’t a post about last night’s Super Bowl game. I am not remotely qualified to analyze or comment on football or any other kind of sporting event. Jim and I did watch the first half of last night’s game with a few friends; we left early because the party was in the DC suburbs and both of us had to work today.
Like many of my friends and colleagues, I was thrilled to hear that Renee Fleming had been chosen to be the first opera singer to perform the National Anthem at the Super Bowl. Any time classical music – especially opera! – is featured in a positive way in popular culture, I rejoice. Despite my lack of interest in sports, I know very well that the Super Bowl is a major event; some even refer to it as a national holiday. As such, those of us whose livelihoods are tied to classical music, or who simply love listening to it, were eager to cheer Ms. Fleming on, yet a bit anxious regarding how her performance would be received by the public and the press.
Based on the few articles and blog posts I’ve had time to click on this morning, it seems the reaction to Ms. Fleming’s interpretation of the National Anthem was overwhelmingly positive. Writers ranging from USA Today Sports’ Chris Chase to fashion bloggers Tom and Lorenzo are singing her praises. The notable exception thus far is Anne Midgette of the Washington Post, who made unfavorable comparisons between Ms. Fleming and Queen Latifah and even referred to a very unkind Tweet at the end of her article.
My musician friends’ reactions have been somewhat mixed, but most seem to feel that whether or not some of the vocal choices Ms. Fleming made would have been ours, she sang well and represented opera admirably. The guests at our friends’ party included two Peabody grads, several folks who may or may not have been to the opera once or twice, but aren’t averse to it as an art form, and, of course, Jim and myself, both opera fans who have sung for numerous amateur and professional companies over the years. Generally, everyone thought Ms. Fleming’s performance had a Broadway sound – a good, old-school one that more of today’s musical theater singers would do well to emulate. Her decision not to go for any overly flashy high notes was deemed wise. It’s the National Anthem, not an aria.
It seems commercials aired during this year’s Super Bowl were priced at $4 million per 30-seconds. Few, if any, opera companies could afford to purchase such an ad these days! Renee Fleming’s performance last night may well have “bought” her art form some priceless mainstream publicity. Bravissima!
National Anthem, New Jersey Symphony, opera, Renée Fleming, Super Bowl