On Sunday evening, opera star Renée Fleming took the stage at the Super Bowl to sing “The Star-Spangled Banner” – making her the first-ever opera star to sing the anthem at the big game (and the first non-pop star since 2005).
Here are five things you need to know about the highly regarded New York soprano.
• The Super Bowl organizers described her as "the Peyton Manning of the arts world."
And no, it’s not because of her rivalry with Tom Brady. Rather, like the Broncos signal-caller, Fleming is a preternaturally talented professional at the top of her field. She’s sung for Barack Obama and Queen Elizabeth II, both of which are basically like winning a Super Bowl for opera singers.
• She’s in the same company as Tony Kushner, George Lucas, Elaine May and Herb Alpert.
All have been awarded the National Medal of Arts in 2012, America’s highest honor for artistic achievement.
• She comes from a musical family.
Fleming’s parents were both music teachers, and the family would travel around the country harmonizing together. “I think [my mother’s] idea was that we would be the next Von Trapps,” she told Alec Baldwin in 2012. “My father, thank God, put the kibosh on that.”
• She once sang on Sesame Street.
In 2001, Fleming taught young viewers how to count in this appearance on the long-running children’s TV show:
• She’s chummy with David Letterman.
Fleming showed up on the Late Show with David Letterman to sing a list of the top 10 opera lyrics: