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Renee Fleming To Make Her Broadway Debut

NEW YORK (AP & WXXI News)  Opera star Renee Fleming will make her Broadway debut this spring, playing _ what else? _ an opera star. 

The four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano, who grew up in Churchville,  will star in the comedy ``Living on Love'' at the LongacreTheatre beginning April 1. 

``I've spent my life singing tragic characters, so to be able to make people laugh is an extraordinary joy,'' said Fleming. 

The comedy was written by two-time Tony Award winner Joe DiPietro ("Memphis''), adapted from ``Peccadillo'' by Garson Kanin ("Born Yesterday'') and directed by three-time Tony Award winner Kathleen Marshall. Marshall and DiPietro worked together on Broadway's ``Nice Work If You Can Get It.'' The play was seen this summer at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. 

In it, Fleming plays an opera diva whose conductor-husband starts to fall for a woman hired to ghostwrite his long-delayed autobiography. She retaliates by hiring her own ghostwriter, but also gets romantically attached. 

Fleming never anticipated making her Broadway debut because opera singers are trained very differently than Broadway belters and so never had it on her bucket list. 

``I would have assumed that my only road to Broadway would have been in a musical. And I knew that I couldn't sing eight shows a week _ we're trained in such a different way. Like weightlifters, we need those two days off,'' said Fleming. ``So it wasn't on my list of things to do. Sometimes the most interesting things come out of the blue, in love and in life.'' 

Fleming, who has performed around the world and serenaded Queen Elizabeth and President Barack Obama, this year became the first opera singer to sing the national anthem at the Super Bowl. She received the National Medal of Arts, the highest honor the government gives to artists, in 2012. 

Before she tackles the comedy, Fleming is practicing her waltzing skills to be ready to perform ``The Merry Widow'' with The Metropolitan Opera, directed by Broadway's Susan Stroman with five-time Tony Award nominee Kelli O'Hara. 

``In one, four-month period, to be acting while dancing and singing is definitely a test,'' Fleming said. 

Though she'll sing a little in the play _ she added some improvised a cappella singing to keep her voice fresh _ Fleming is concentrating on her acting skills, ``Learning how to sing well takes a lifetime of effort. Then putting the singing aside is another whole thing,'' she said. ``But we want to remain challenged in life, I think. And I'm certainly finding a way to do it.'' 

Fleming is a graduate of Churchville-Chili High School and the Eastman School of Music.

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.