International opera star Renée Fleming teams up with Prague-based pianist Evgeny Kissin in arts appeal

Renée Fleming, who has Czech roots, performed a song from her canceled tour to help artists in need

Raymond Johnston

Written by Raymond Johnston Published on 30.03.2020 15:00:56 (updated on 30.03.2020) Reading time: 2 minutes

Being on two different continents did not stop pianist Evgeny Kissin, in Prague, and soprano Renée Fleming, in the US state of Virginia, from using their phones to record a rendition of Schubert’s Ave Maria to raise money for the arts.

“Wishing health, safety, and hope to our friends around the world,” Fleming said on Facebook.

Her list in the US includes the American Guild of Musical Artists, the Artists Relief Tree, New Music Solidarity Fund, and resources listed by Billboard magazine. In the Czech Republic, there is a movement to not reclaim ticket prices from canceled shows as well as arts groups raising money for freelancers.

“We want to thank David Frost, whose expert guidance helped us put this video together. Please be well, be safe, and if you can’t donate, just keep the music playing — because that helps, too,” Fleming concluded. Frost is a Grammy-winning American classical record producer and pianist who works with the Metropolitan Opera. (The talk show host of the same name passed away in 2013.)

In the video, Kissin comments that to protect each other people need to stay apart, but music and technology can bring us together. Fleming thanks all the healthcare workers for their efforts.

Fleming was born in the US but had grandparents who were born in Prague, and who introduced her to Czech music and language. In a June 2019 article in UK newspaper The Guardian she attributed her work ethic to her Czech roots.

Her signature piece is “Song to the Moon” from Antonín Dvořák’s fairytale opera Rusalka. In 2014, her performance at the Metropolitan Opera was shown live around the world in 2,000 cinemas, and a screen was set up in public at náměstí Republiky so thousands of fans could watch for free.

She was last in Prague in July 2019 for a concert to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, at Smetana Hall in Obecní dům. A decade earlier she was at an evening at Prague Crossroads organized by Václav Havel to mark the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution. Joan Baez and Lou Reed also performed, along with Czech musicians. She first appeared in Prague in 1996.

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Russian composer and pianist Evgeny Kissin, now 48 years old, was a child prodigy. He has won numerous awards in the US, Russia and other countries. In 2017, he married childhood friend Karina Arzumanova in Prague.

“I absolutely love living in Prague; all my family members and friends can confirm this. Since my first visit here in 2000 I fell in love with your beautiful city. [Ever since] I learned some things about the history of Czechoslovakia (1938, 1968), I have always felt lots of respect and sympathy for your people. I moved here for family reasons, but I am really glad that it happened,” he said in 2019 interview for the Rudolf Firkušný Piano Festival.

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