"The Inner Voice" is a brief autobiography of a loving, unaffected, decent middle-class girl from upstate New York who grew up to be a single mom with two young daughters, a couple of assistants, a publicist, a manager, couturiers donating ball gowns, a hair stylist on staff, a home in Connecticut and a second home in Paris, and a year-round performance schedule.
Renee Fleming describes her formal education, the paths to breaking into a singing career, and how to go about learning on the job; pays homage to her mentors; reflects on master classes, the selection of repertoire, diet and "singing in the zone," and the business (and future) of classical music (she sometimes feels, she says, like Renee Fleming, Inc., building her brand through carefully timed publicity, product endorsements, recordings, and -- one might add -- book contracts); and gives the reader a day in the life of a really nice singer performing as Violetta at the Met.
The book is short on opera anecdotes even as it is generous with praise and brief character studies of classical music figures (Georg Solti, Leontyne Price, Joe Volpe) every opera fan will know. Similarly, while Ms. Fleming is unusually candid in describing the uncertainties that have occasionally affected her (stage fright verging on panic attacks, self-worth issues, growing apart from and then divorcing her actor-husband), some readers -- warming to her kindness and openness -- may wonder whatever happened to her divorced parents, whether the girls now have horses of their own, and whom, if anyone, Ms. Fleming now chooses to date. These, it appears, are facts for a future memoir.
This report prepared by Robert E. Olsen