Renée Fleming’s Favorite Cities

Renée Fleming

By Shivani Vora, New York Times

For the soprano Renée Fleming, 57, constant travel is a nonnegotiable part of her work. Though the four-time Grammy-winning artist has homes in New York City and Washington, she estimates she is on the road 80 percent of the year for recitals and operas in cities such as Amsterdam; Sydney, Australia, and Buenos Aires.

Given Ms. Fleming’s grueling schedule, her latest job as the curator for the inaugural Hamptons Festival of the Arts is a welcome relief; the event is at the Parrish Art Museum in Water Mill, N.Y., on Aug. 13 and 14. “I enjoy being in the Hamptons, and it will be so nice to be a drivable distance from home for a change,” she said.

Below are edited excerpts from a conversation with Ms. Fleming.

Q. You get to visit fantastic destinations when you’re working. Do you ever have time to explore them?

A. I make the time because there’s nothing more enjoyable to me than exploring and soaking up culture and going to museums and concerts. Recently, for example, I was in Peru for the first time and saw Lima, which is such a vibrant city and restaurant mecca. I dined at Central, rated as one of the world’s best restaurants, and ate ceviche every day. I also got to go to Machu Picchu, which I have wanted to do for a while.

On that same trip, I went to Mexico City, where I visited museums including Museo Soumaya, which is designed by the Mexican architect Fernando Romero and absolutely beautiful. Then in April I went to Marrakesh and sang at the French Consulate and stayed at Richard Branson’s hotel Kasbah Tamadot, in the Atlas Mountains, and fell in love with the area. The landscape is breathtaking.

What are your favorite opera houses?

I’m partial to historic houses like the Royal Opera House in London and Palais Garnier in Paris. When I sing in them, I find it very moving to think of all the great artists who have performed there before me. In the U.S., there’s the Met in New York and the Lyric Opera in Chicago, which is an Art Deco masterpiece.

Are there cities you look forward to visiting again and again?

Paris, Vienna and London. I have spent so much time in all of them, and when I get there, I walk through my old haunts. I used to have an apartment in Le Marais in Paris so I walk for hours through the neighborhood and to Notre Dame, Opera Bastille and Les Halles. In Vienna, I walk through the entire city and see the major sights and gardens. You feel like you are in a period film when you’re there because so much of it hasn’t changed over time. In London, I go to the Tate Modern quite often and to the theater almost every night. Also, in the U.S., I am in love with Chicago’s culture scene. The Steppenwolf Theater Company, the Goodman Theater and the Chicago Symphony all host unbelievable performances.

Do you have a favorite hotel?

Rather than a specific name, a hotel for me is about a few amenities I can’t do without, and those are a room on a high floor that has a view and lots of light and also a property with a gym. Given my preferences, I don’t usually stay in smaller, boutique properties.

Where do you like to go for vacation?

I build vacation onto my tours, and when I’m not touring, I like to be at home and take a staycation where I take walks and go biking. It’s also my chance to visit museums. In New York that means the big names like MoMA, and in D.C., it’s the Smithsonian.

What are your travel essentials?

A cashmere stole for the plane because it can get really cold, a pile of drugs in case I get sick, a small humidifier for my hotel room, my music scores, powdered Crystal Light with caffeine, powdered shakes and a shaker.

Have the terrorist attacks made you apprehensive about traveling?

No. I’m sure that statistics would tell you that you have a greater chance of getting hit by a car than you do of being affected by a terrorist attack. You have to live your life. What are you going to do? Stay home? For me, that’s not an option.

Read article