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Renee Fleming takes on new theatrical challenges / The Boston Globe

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The afternoon of last year's Super Bowl, Renée Fleming was in a familiar place - onstage at Boston's Symphony Hall, performing a selection of arias in a Celebrity Series concert.

When the Seattle Seahawks and Denver Broncos met in February for this year's title game, she was a little closer to the action - on the field, in fact, singing "The Star-Spangled Banner" for assembled fans and a television audience of well more than 100 million viewers.

It was a milestone. The popular soprano, often nicknamed "the people's diva," was the first classical singer ever to nab that most populist of assignments. Afterward, the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History acquired the Vera Wang gown she wore.

"You would think they would want someone who would get phenomenal sales as a result of this," Fleming says. "A classical musician would not be that person. Red Hot Chili Peppers? Maybe, yeah."

But she's used to bumping against the boundaries that often keep her peers penned up in a gated musical community, set off from a pop culture where the gaudy, highly ornamental vocal style rewarded on television shows like "American Idol" seems de rigueur. (She says she received a ton of mail after the Super Bowl, much of it from viewers who thanked her for "singing it straight.")

She's known for a broad taste in operatic repertoire, having sung more than 50 different roles to date. But she also has much affection for show tunes, and in 2010 released a pop album that featured material by Arcade Fire, Death Cab for Cutie, and Leonard Cohen. As the featured soloist for the opening-night Boston Symphony Orchestra concert at Tanglewood on July 5, she'll sing Samuel Barber's wistful "Knoxville: Summer of 1915" before turning to a selection of Broadway favorites from "The Sound of Music," "South Pacific," and other shows. READ THE FULL Boston Globe ARTICLE.