On Saturday, August 13, the Parrish Art Museum will play host to the inaugural Hamptons Festival of the Arts. The festival, comprising two events, is bringing in major star power.
Soprano and opera superstar Renée Fleming will headline the first night of the festival—and she’ll be joined by Montauk’s own superstar vocalist Rufus Wainwright. Theirs will be an intimate recital, taking place in the Parrish Art Museum galleries. The August 13 recital will begin at 7 p.m.
“I’ve been out to the Hamptons a couple of times, and it’s just such a beautiful place,” says Fleming, who grew up in Rochester, NY. “But it seemed like there wasn’t much to do at night but go out to restaurants!” Naturally, Fleming isn’t casting shade on the cultural life of the East End—she admires the offerings of the Bridgehampton Chamber Music Festival, for example—but for the Hamptons Festival of the Arts she envisions mixing music with the visual arts, with dance, with theater and with other artistic disciplines.
“I’ve always been interested in combining art forms,” says Fleming. Perhaps this way of thinking comes naturally to someone steeped in opera. Fleming started performing operatic roles while still an undergraduate at the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, NY, and while continuing her studies at the Eastman School of Music and at Juilliard. In 1988, at the age of 29, Fleming won the Metropolitan Opera Auditions. To date, she has performed over 70 different operatic roles on stages all over the world.
But the performance at the Parrish will still be special. “This will be very intimate. People don’t usually get to hear my kind of voice up close.” Of course, Fleming will tone down her voice for the smaller venue. Fleming plans a light program of art songs, arias, and some musical theater pieces.
With Wainwright, Fleming plans to sing “Hallelujah,” the Leonard Cohen-penned favorite that Wainwright famously covered for the soundtrack of Shrek. Fleming will also sing the aria Les feux d’artifice from Wainwright’s own opera Prima Donna.
This year’s Hamptons Festival of the Arts is scratching the surface of what Fleming sees for the future. “The Parrish Museum is such a beautiful venue—I’d love to make use of the outdoor space as well. In the summer, people love to be outdoors.” She envisions a sort of mini Tanglewood that would make use of the beautiful surroundings surrounding and enrich the cultural life of the East End. This year is just the first step.
Renée Fleming performs with special guest Rufus Wainwright at the Parrish Art Museum, 279 Montauk Highway, Water Mill, at 7 p.m. on Saturday, August 13. Tickets $275/members $250, parrishart.org, 631-283-2118.