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Soprano Renée Fleming was born in Indiana, Pennsylvania. The daughter of high school vocal-music teachers, Renée grew up with music while growing up in Rochester, New York. After graduating from high school, she attended the State University of New York (SUNY) at Potsdam, where she studied voice with Patricia Misslin. She earned her degree from SUNY Potsdam in 1981, and shortly later began graduate work at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester.
From 1983 to 1987, Fleming attended the Juilliard School's American Opera Center in New York City, where she studied with voice teacher Beverly Johnson. In 1984, she traveled to Frankfurt, Germany, where she studied voice with two lengendary sopranos, Dame Elisabeth Schwarzkopf and the late Arleen Augér. Fleming returned to New York in 1985 and completed her studies at the Juilliard School. The following year, she made her professional stage debut as Konstanze in Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail at the Landsestheater in Salzburg, Austria.
In 1988, Fleming won the Eleanor McCollum Competition in Houston, and was immediately cast as the Countess in a new production Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro, which launched her to stardom. From 1988 to 1990, she won many awards, including the Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions, the George London Prize, and the Richard Tucker Award. She made her New York City Opera debut in August 1989 as Mimi Puccini's La Bohème. Three months later, she made her Covent Garden debut in London as Glauce in Cherubini's Medea.
Fleming was scheduled to make her Metropolitan Opera debut in 1992, but it came unexpectedly early in March 1991 when she replaced an ill Felicity Lott as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro. As the Countess, Fleming also made her debuts in San Francisco (1991), Vienna (1993), Geneva (1993), and Glyndebourne (1994). She made her La Scala debut in Milan in 1993 as Donna Elvira in Mozart's Don Giovanni. With the Houston Grand Opera in 1995, she sang her first Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier, a role which has also brought her great acclaim.
In her career, Fleming has appeared in the world premiere of three operas. In 1991, she created the role of the Countess in Corigliano's The Ghosts of Versailles at the Met, and in 1994 she appeared as Madam de Tourvel in the world premiere of Susa's The Dangerous Liaisons. More recently, in September 1998, she premiered the role of Blanche DuBois in André Previn's A Streetcar Named Desire at the San Francisco Opera.
Renée Fleming is one the most sought after sopranos of today. Besides the roles already mentioned, her repertoire also includes the roles of Fiordiligi in Mozart's Cosi fan tutte, Donna Anna in Don Giovanni (which she sang at the reopening of Palais Garnier in Paris in 1996), the title role in Dvorák's Rusalka, Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, Ellen Orford in Britten's Peter Grimes, Desdemona in Verdi's Otello, and Marguerite in Gounod's Faust.