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Interview: Renée Fleming Discusses Bringing Opera to IMAX in CITIES THAT SING: PARIS Film

Interview: Renée Fleming Discusses Bringing Opera to IMAX in CITIES THAT SING: PARIS Film

The special will screen in IMAX theaters on Sunday, September 18 and Wednesday, September 21.

This Sunday, acclaimed opera singer and Tony nominee Renée Fleming will bring a first-of-its-kind combination of IMAX, opera and Paris culture to 250 IMAX theaters with her Renée Fleming's Cities That Sing: Paris special.

This groundbreaking cinematic event features a performance by Fleming at the historic Théâtre du Châtelet, where she is joined on stage by world-renowned tenor Piotr Beczala and featured performers Axelle Fanyo and Alexandre Duhamel as they perform opera selections with connections to Paris.

Leading couterier Alexis Mabille and acclaimed director Robert Carsen also join Fleming in the film, which can only be experienced in IMAX.

This cinematic event will take place in IMAX cinemas nationwide for two days only - including 100 locations that will hold a special IMAX Live presentation on Sunday, Sept. 18, featuring the film plus a LIVE conversation with Renée Fleming and Kelsey Grammer. A film-only encore presentation will take place in about 250 select IMAX cinemas Sept. 21.

BroadwayWorld sat down with Fleming to dicuss the new special, how she brough opera to IMAX theaters, and what city she would like to highlight next.

How did this special initially come about?

I believe this was initially supposed to be part of their live series. There's so many IMAX theaters now around the world and they were looking for new programming and this is one of the things that they thought to do. We've realized that live is very difficult, putting all of these elements together and I wanted to kind of follow up on the success of these stories that combine food with culture and with other European cities. I thought we could do this with opera as well. That's how this started. The conversation started. The planning took a long time, a lot of pieces and moving pieces to put together. It's turned out beautifully.

Interview: Renée Fleming Discusses Bringing Opera to IMAX in CITIES THAT SING: PARIS Film
Renée Fleming

This is one of the first times we've seen this opera and IMAX hybrid together. What can audiences expect from that?

Well, the difference between this and say the HD broadcast at the Met, which has obviously been a tremendous service to the opera world, is that this isa focus on the city of Paris, as well as on the opera. We're not producing or showing a staged opera production. These are the highlights of, of French opera and we're in concert dress. It's beautifully filmed. It's very interestingly filmed. I get to wear these spectacular costumes from Alexi Madia, one of the only 14 authentic French couture designers right now.

I'm highlighting and featuring young artists, young singers and as well as my colleague Piotr Beczala, who is one of the greatest tenors singing today. So yeah, I think it's really exciting.

You mentioned you have some younger artists joining you. What can you tell us about these special guests?

So Piotr is really such a successful tenor right now and the young artist Axelle Fanyo is very charismatic, beautiful voice, beautiful woman and so fun to talk to. I really felt like she has star quality, which is why I wanted to feature her. We have a lovely interview in a vinyl record store and on the Left Bay. And it is so much fun to kind of look through the stacks and just see what's there.

Alexandre Duhamel is a very successful baritone and these are artists who can sing and at home, basically. There's so many French theaters, there's so much love for classical music and opera in France that they can basically work at home successfully and earn a living. Alexandra is doing just that singing all over the country.

Interview: Renée Fleming Discusses Bringing Opera to IMAX in CITIES THAT SING: PARIS Film
René Fleming in her upcoming Cities That Sing: Paris film.

It does sound like you will be introducing Paris and the Paris opera scene to people who might not be familiar with it. What excites you about sort of introducing this part of Paris to them through the IMAX film?

Well, it's a completely different idea that you start with the city. I'm hosting through the whole piece. So I start literally on the river and I end on the roof of the Châtelet, which is the best view ever. In the meantime, you know, we're in a wine shop, we're in a cafe. I mean, we get to sort of see parts of Paris. The thing about Paris that I love so much is no matter where you go and you're walking, you turn the corner and you see something delightful that you've never seen before. You can discover endlessly there. I think that's really the fun of it. And then the music is so glorious. I mean, it's absolutely beautiful. You have a shared experience in theater with 12 surround sound speakers and a huge screen and yet it seems very intimate at the same time, it's something different.

From your concert performance in this special, what can audiences who have seen you in an opera before or in concert before expect to hear?

Well, I do selections from Manon, which is an opera that I love. I sang it at the Met a couple of times. But that's a role I miss very much so it was fun to be able to, especially to perform the duet with Piotr, which is so exciting that the one where she seduces him and convinces him to come back. Axelle sings the "Habanera" from Carmen. "Pearl Fishers Duet" by Bizet is something that people know and Axelle and I sing The Tales of Hoffman "Barcarolle."

So I think a lot of this will be special. I knew that I couldn't sing all of these pieces because it's not my voice. I only sing the soprano repertoire that's for my voice. So it's really a pleasure to have three other great artists filling out some of these other iconic works.

Interview: Renée Fleming Discusses Bringing Opera to IMAX in CITIES THAT SING: PARIS Film
Fleming and Axelle Fanyo

I'm sure it's with the surround sound speakers and with that beautiful orchestra that it's going to sound glorious in an IMAX theater.

Yeah, I know. I can't wait. I haven't even seen it. I'm gonna be there in New York on Sunday and that'll be the first time I've seen it on the IMAX screen.

And you're doing a conversation with Kelsey Grammer beforehand.

Yeah. I saw Kelsey in Man of La Mancha in London and went backstage and I've met him at a couple of events so I was delighted and surprised to learn that he really wanted to do this.

This will will hopefully open up more possibilities for more of these specials in the future. Are there any other cities that you would be interested in highlighting in another IMAX special in the future?

Well, we finished Venice already. That's coming out in the new year. We have a whole list. I mean, there's a whole wish list.

Watch the trailer for the special here:

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