Update: Since this story was published, Renée Fleming has stated that the New York Times headline was misleading — and that she's not actually retiring. Here's what she now says.
In a bombshell that rocked the classical music world this morning, the New York Times published an article in which soprano Renée Fleming announces her retirement from opera. She's currently appearing in Der Rosenkavalier at the Metropolitan Opera, and her performance on May 13 may be her last public appearance as a singer of staged opera.
To be clear, she doesn't plan to entirely stop singing: she just won't take roles in staged operas. She tells the Times she'll still give concerts, and make records. She's also hoping to spend more time on projects like her creative consultant role at the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and a possible internet start-up for streaming arts programs.
"Right now I feel like I'm doing everything," she says, "singing, concertizing, touring, creating new work. I just kind of love doing all these different things. Time will tell. I may never choose to focus more."
Fleming, 58, has been among the greatest stars of opera since her rapid rise to fame in the early 1990s. For over a quarter-century, she's been a genuine superstar in a field where they're increasingly rare, and the Times notes that Fleming's departure from staged opera leaves a void that will be difficult to fill.
The soprano says that her decision was guided by the example of her friend and mentor Leontyne Price, who also retired from the opera stage at age 58. "I think my contribution now," Fleming says, "is to think about audience development, about supporting young artists, and the development of the art form."