Though the renowned soprano mostly discusses singing here, her perceptive account of what it takes to become and continue to be a great performer will resonate with all those who dream big.
First-time author Fleming recalls her experiences with agreeable frankness, but she favors tracing her education as a singer over breathlessly reprising her past. The Inner Voice is primarily about music, though she mentions with appreciation the influence of her musician parents and describes her husband, their painful divorce, and their two daughters. “Not just natural talent and hard work, but tenacity, resilience, and luck” make a singer, Fleming writes, and she had plenty of all five. Tracing her path from high school in Rochester, New York, where she starred in productions of My Fair Lady, to the Metropolitan Opera, she ruefully recalls the nerves and self-consciousness that once led her to fall apart on stage when auditioning for the Met National Council Auditions, which were designed to help promising singers. But she never thought of quitting as she struggled with these fears, and though there were setbacks she was accepted at Juilliard, awarded a Fulbright to study in Germany with the famous Elisabeth Schwartzkopf, and given opportunities to sing at La Scala and the Met. As she notes these achievements, Fleming offers advice on how to treat the voice itself, on choosing the right teacher (you need an unerring intuition about whether the instruction suits your needs), on learning to act; and, given today’s realities, on the business side of maintaining a great career. Singers, she notes, need able advisers who will not only secure engagements at the great opera house and major concerts halls, but also recording contracts and TV appearances. Her advice and insights are seasoned with recollections of great singers she has known, from Renata Scotto to Luciano Pavarotti.
A beguiling self-portrait of a great artist at work.