NEW YORK, N.Y. – Renee Fleming says she only knows how to sing America’s national anthem one way: live.
The 53-year-old opera singer will perform “The Star-Spangled Banner” at Sunday’s Super Bowl. She said in an interview Thursday she won’t sing to a pre-recorded track and that she “wouldn’t know how to lip-sync if you paid me.”
“It would be a disaster. I only know how to sing live,” said the singer, known as “The People’s Diva.”
Some artists choose to lip-sync, especially in cold weather. Whitney Houston’s unforgettable performance of the national anthem in 1991 at the Super Bowl was sung to a track, and Beyonce did the same at President Barack Obama’s Inauguration last year.
But Fleming promises it will be entirely real when she walks onto the field at MetLife Stadium, where the Seattle Seahawks will play the Denver Broncos. She’ll be singing along to an arrangement from the New Jersey Symphony and have 32 military singers from all the service branches as backup.
Fleming, who has performed around the world and serenaded Queen Elizabeth II and President Barack Obama, will be the first opera singer to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl.
“The thing I love to remind people about what I do is we’re not even amplified,” the soprano told The Associated Press after a news conference in New York City. “We are the final, major art form that is 100 per cent acoustic and unplugged.”
Fleming says when the National Football League 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 is performing at the Met Opera in “Rusalka” through February. She received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honour the government gives to artists, in 2012.