Soprano Renee Fleming to Make Sarasota Bow

Renowned soprano Renee Fleming to appear at the Van Wezel with the Sarasota Orchestra.

By Kay Kipling August 20, 2015

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Soprano Renee Fleming. Photo by Timothy White

Acclaimed soprano Renee Fleming will make her Sarasota debut on the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall stage this season, performing with the Sarasota Orchestra under the baton of music director Anu Tali.

Her appearance on Jan. 27, 2016, is big news for opera and classical music fans. Fleming, a four-time Grammy winner, has performed at opera houses and concert halls around the world and also recently starred on Broadway as—what else?—an opera diva in the show Living on Love.

It’s also a sign of collaboration between the Van Wezel, the Sarasota Orchestra, and the Van Wezel Foundation, which helps support the hall’s programming financially. “I’d been wanting to present her for years, but the stars wouldn’t align,” says Van Wezel executive director Mary Bensel. “I had been thinking she would perform in a recital, but I learned she only performs with an orchestra. I called Joe [Sarasota orchestra exec director Joe McKenna], who was just overwhelmingly excited” at the prospect of the orchestra performing with Fleming. And, Bensel adds, “Renee Fleming usually brings her own conductor, but she does everything she can to support women conductors,” making Tali’s leadership of the orchestra for the concert possible.

“It’s a win-win for the Sarasota region,” says McKenna of the partnership bringing Fleming here. “Our hope is to work together with artists like this in the future” as well.

In fact, the night of the Fleming concert will also be the evening of the orchestra’s annual gala, which will include pre-concert dining, a live music interlude and premium concert seating. And, says Monica Slater Van Buskirk, executive director of the Van Wezel Foundation, the celebration continues with an after-concert party that “will give 200 guests the chance to meet the elegant Renee Fleming. She’s so gracious to agree” to that.

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Fleming appears in Sarasota Jan. 27. Photo by Andrew Eccles

The concert will include songs of Puccini and Rodgers and Hammerstein, among others; McKenna says there are discussions to also include some Mozart works on the program, as Jan. 27 is the birthday of the composer, and the orchestra will present Mozart music the following week as part of its Masterworks season, “making it more of a two-week celebration of Mozart,” he says.

“We’ve had some great classical artists at the Van Wezel in the past,” says Bensel, “including Beverly Sills and Luciano Pavarotti. This is returning to that heyday of the Van Wezel, and we hope to partner with the orchestra here with some superstars in the future, too.”

Tickets for the Fleming concert go on sale Sept. 12; you can call (941) 953-3368, go online at or stop by the hall’s box office. For tickets to the orchestra gala event, call (941) 487-2737 or email [email protected] And for the after-party including the meet-and greet with Fleming, call (941) 366-5578 or visit

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