Renee Fleming sang the famous “Ja, ja” one last time, acknowledging the ascendancy of youth, and made a graceful exit from the stage.
The 58-year-old soprano, the most well-known American classical singer, performed the Marschallin in Strauss’ “Der Rosenkavalier” for the final time Saturday in what may have been her farewell to staged standard repertoire.
Confetti fell from the top of the Metropolitan Opera and bouquets were thrown from the crowd during a nine-minute ovation that followed the performance on the final day of the company’s 2016-17 season. Fleming plans to concentrate her appearances on concerts and will consider singing in new operas.
Fleming first sang the Marschallin, an aristocrat who accurately predicts her lover will leave her for a younger woman, at the Houston Grand Opera in 1995. Saturday was her 70th staged performance of the role, which included productions in San Francisco, London, Paris, Zurich, Baden-Baden and Munich, and with the Met on tour in Japan. She sang additional concert versions in Boston, Washington, and Paris.
“I feel satiated,” she said outside her dressing room. “It’s time — time to say goodbye.”
She was 36 for her first Marschallin, four years older than the age of the character created by composer Richard Strauss and librettist Hugo von Hofmannsthal for the opera, which premiered in 1911.
“Nothing seems like 22 years. Where did it go?” Fleming said.
The Marschallin is one of her most acclaimed roles and it seemed an apropos choice. She wistfully sings during her first act monologue: “Time is a strange thing. While one is living one’s life away, it is absolutely nothing. Then, suddenly, one is aware of nothing else.”
“This fear of aging, it touches everybody’s heart,” Fleming said after the performance.