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A Christmas dream: Famed soprano Renee Fleming to perform with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

SHARE A Christmas dream: Famed soprano Renee Fleming to perform with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir

Soprano Renee Fleming says she grew up listening to the Mormon Tabernacle Choir.

"My father was a high school chorus director," Fleming said by phone from her New York home. "My mother taught music, too. I've lived in New York all my life, and we went to the Mormon Pageant each year in upstate New York. It still is a wonderful production. I remember going and seeing the performance and listening to the music. My father had Mormon Tabernacle Choir music, and we would listen to it and sing with it.

"However, I never knew they allowed soloists to perform with them. I never thought about singing with them until a couple of years ago when my friend Bryn Terfel sang with them. We talked about it and he said, 'Renee, if you can, you need to work with them. They are amazing.' And, well, here I am, getting ready for it."

Welsh Baritone Terfel and mezzo-soprano Frederica von Stade performed with the choir's 2003 Christmas concert. "He only had praises for the Mormon Tabernacle Choir," said Fleming.

Growing up, Fleming's family used music to bring them together, she said. "My parents would take my brothers and sisters and me to perform anywhere we could. We jokingly were known as the 'Von Trapp Family.' We would sing solos, trios and quartets — anything we thought of. We would perform at schools and churches, anyplace that would take us."

Still, Fleming said she didn't think she'd sing professionally. "I knew music would be a part of my life, but I never thought it would be something I would do for a living. I think growing up with all that music in my house, I began to take it for granted."

Fleming's parents encouraged their children to sing. She graduated with a music education degree from State University of New York, then attended the Eastman School of Music and the American Opera Center at Juilliard. By 1991, she had made her Metropolitan Opera debut and had made a name for herself by performing roles of various difficulty — including Constanze from Mozart's "Die Entufhrung aus dem Serail."

"One of the highlights was singing with Placido Domingo in 'Otello' in 1995 (replacing soprano Carol Vaness, who had injured herself). It was amazing working with him."

Although Fleming is a world-renowned singer and has recorded with Terfel, Domingo and performs on the "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" movie soundtrack, she doesn't let fame get to her. "I have two daughters (ages 10 and 13). The lifestyle is very different. I look at my job as not getting paid to sing but getting paid to leave friends and family. I'm raising my daughters, and it is a struggle sometimes to find that balance.

"I'm looking forward to singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, though. This is an opportunity for me as well. I love chances that expand my repertoire."

If you go . . .

What: "Christmas Concert," Renee Fleming, Mormon Tabernacle Choir, Orchestra at Temple Square

Where: Conference Center

When: Friday and Saturday, 7:30 p.m.

How much: free, but tickets required; they can be picked up at the Conference Center box office

Web: www.lds.org

E-mail: scott@desnews.com