When you think of buzz-worthy Super Bowl performers, you might think of Janet Jackson’s 2004 wardrobe malfunction, M.I.A’s 2012 obscene finger gesture, or Prince’s 2007 “inadvertent” phallic symbol. But this year, one Super Bowl performer seems to be generating more buzz than any of these artists before even singing one note – opera superstar Renée Fleming.
Even though I’m a classical musician, I have to admit that I was taken aback when I learned that Renée Fleming will be singing the “Star-Spangled Banner” at this year’s Super Bowl. But after the initial surprise wore off, I was excited by the prospect of a classical musician performing at what will probably be the most-watched television event in America this year.
It’s been intriguing to observe the buzz surrounding Renée Fleming’s upcoming experience. After all, you don’t come across the pairing of opera and football every day. Fleming’s fans were understandably excited when the news broke . Facebook and Twitter user Richard Schilling wrote, “As I just said on Twitter, I don’t even watch football but I will not miss this – finally the National Anthem will be sung by someone who can do it justice!”
Local Chicago media is excited as well. Bill Zwecker of the Chicago Sun-Times explained, “For most Americans, it means we won’t be exposed to someone attempting to get weirdly ‘creative’ with the iconic song.”
This is all well and good for classical music fans, but what does the rest of the world think? Some people have never heard of Fleming. An article on Parade.com said, “While she may not be a household name (yet!) Fleming definitely has the musical chops to pull off a performance of this caliber.” Good Morning America questioned if football fans would reject the opera singer entirely.
As would be expected, there are plenty of sourpusses who are less than pleased. Rock Radio station 98.5 WKRZ in Pittsburgh posted on Facebook, “Opera singer to sing national anthem at Super Bowl. Not feelin’ it. You?” Predictable responses included “Boo hiss…”, “Not feeling that at all…. How is that festive?”, and complete ignorance in the form of “Who??”
So how does Fleming feel about all of this? According to an AP report, when the NFL first asked her to sing the national anthem, she didn’t think it was real.
“Really, I just rejected it out of hand,” she said. “I just thought, ‘Oh that’s ridiculous, you know, it must be a joke.’ Nobody’s going to ask me to sing for the Super Bowl, even the national anthem, because it’s just never been done, that anybody who was in classical music or any other genre, frankly, other than really mainstream, successful, top-selling, commercial, mainstream artists. So I was stunned when it was real!”
Fleming’s performance will certainly be in real operatic style. She’ll be singing live, not lip-synching, with accompaniment by the New Jersey Symphony and 32 military singers from all of the service branches. And I’ll be relishing every second of her performance. I’m glad I’ll finally have a reason to watch the Super Bowl.
Or at least the first 15 minutes of it.
To hear even more of Fleming’s thoughts on this unique experience, check out her recent appearance on The View in the video below.
- Renee Fleming will sing the Super Bowl national anthem (profootballtalk.nbcsports.com)
- Renee Fleming plans to sing national anthem live (washingtontimes.com)