Soprano Renée Fleming’s first memories of music are listening to her parents’ LPs.
“I was a very shy child,” Fleming told GBH’s Morning Edition co-host Jeremy Siegel ahead of a performance at Boston’s Symphony Hall originally scheduled for Sunday.
The performance has been rescheduled for Feb. 4, 2024 at 5 p.m. because of a COVID case.
“I remember listening to LPs and just being obsessed with [Sergei] Prokofiev's 'Peter and The Wolf,' for instance, and playing it over and over and over again. And it was really one step ahead of the other," Fleming said.
Her parents were both high school music teachers, she said. Still, she did not think about a career in opera as a child.
“That was not in my realm of possibility at that time,” she said. “When I hear recordings of myself in my early 20s, there are a couple, I always say I sounded like an insect. … It was not a particularly attractive sound at the time. You know, my teacher said, 'you're a wonderful musician. And so you might have a career because of your musicianship, but not your voice.'”
As she reached her late 20s, she said, she felt her voice start to develop more.
Fleming has since won five Grammy awards, performed with operas around the world and crossed genre boundaries, performing with artists like Lou Reed and John Prine. She was also the first classical artist to sing "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Super Bowl; she’s performed for the Queen of England, and at President Obama's inaugural celebration.
“Now when I listen back to that period and I think, yeah, yeah, it was always there. It just took a while for people to give me a chance,” she said.
On Sunday at Boston’s Symphony Hall, she’ll be performing pieces from her Grammy-winning album "Voice of Nature," which explores our relationship with nature and how it's changing in the face of climate change. She’ll be accompanied by pianist Inon Barnatan.
Fleming said she drew inspiration from two eras: One from poets of the 19th and early 20th centuries, like Paul Verlaine and Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who were “framing human existence through the lens of nature.” The second was new commissioned work exploring humans’ relationship with nature in the 21st century.
“We have to have optimism,” she said. “We have to be hopeful in order to feel that we can achieve what we need to achieve. And I believe that artists can change hearts and minds, and we do. And there's a lot going on that's positive. We just need to do more.”