Renee Fleming, one of the world's top divas, will be joining the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra and Music Director JoAnn Falletta at 8 p.m. today in Kleinhans Music Hall for a concert including the lovely "Exsultate, Jubilate," which Mozart wrote as a teen-ager, and colorful arias by Verdi and Bellini.
Fleming is on a tight schedule, and can talk only for 15 minutes. She punctuates her answers with a soft cough, making a reporter worry that the singer is straining her voice. But she's friendly and cordial, and her speaking carries a hint of the rich, honeyed tones she displays when she sings.
It's thrilling to have you singing Mozart's "Exsultate, Jubilate." Is that a piece close to your heart?
I really love that piece. It's about the only Mozart I still sing. I'm not doing Mozart operas right now. "Exsultate Jubilate" is incredibly beautiful, especially that whole B section. (The middle section the singer is alluding to is a slow, lyrical hymn to the Virgin.)
Do you do research into Mozart's life and letters for clues about how he wanted his music to be performed?
Absolutely, as much as I can. I wish there were recordings back in Mozart's time. I wish I could hear what Mozart's performances sounded like. We have to work it all out from what we read. There are so many things I'd like to consult with Mozart about.
That's one reason, too, I love new music. I can consult with someone, talk to the composer. I just learned George Crumb's "Apparition."
With your busy schedule, how do you learn new repertoire?
It's time-consuming. Tomorrow I'm learning songs by (jazz pianist) Brad Mehldau. They're really challenging. It's a big cycle, and they're challenging in every way. He's so gifted. They sound like him. His jazz singing has a lot of the qualities of his piano playing.
How is your jazz singing going?
"Haunted Heart" (Fleming's jazz CD) is still up and around. The French embrace it. Jazz singing is my first love. Recently, I've been listening ad nauseam to Sarah Vaughan, and Mark Murphy.
What else is new and exciting right now in your career?
I'm doing Handel's "Rodelinda" again. I'm touring with Handel in recital. I just love it -- it's a good fit with me.
I'm enjoying myself immensely. I'm grateful to be having such a great time doing what I'm doing. So often, you're not lucky enough to appreciate what you do.
Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra with Renee Fleming
8 p.m. today, Kleinhans Music Hall, Symphony Circle
885-5000 or (800) 699-3168.