Renee Fleming, soprano and jazz star, teaches long COVID patients how to ‘extend their breathing’

Four-time Grammy Award-winning soprano Renee Fleming is pictured at the Budapest State Opera on January 18, 2017. Image: AFP/Attila Kisbenedek

American jazz soprano and singer Renee Fleming has found a new use for her world-class breath control: helping people suffering from long COVID.

Last summer, the 63-year-old diva launched a new online initiative, “Healing Breath”, alongside other singers including Angelique Kidjo and several Broadway stars.

“We are breathing experts. It’s the basis of what we do, like swimmers,” she told AFP before a performance at the Paris Opera this week.

“The idea is to allow long COVID patients, or anyone with lung issues, to extend their breathing,” she said.

Known as the ‘people’s diva’, the four-time Grammy winner is one of the biggest stars in the opera world and was the first woman to headline the New York Met’s opening gala in 2008.

His new initiative sees singers share their favorite breathing exercises to help rebuild lung strength and provide physical and mental support for people with chronic conditions.

But it’s far from Fleming’s first foray into art therapy, which she says has become her “main passion.”

She has worked with several US organizations, including the National Institutes of Health and the Kennedy Center in New York on “Sound Health” which explores how art therapy can be used with neurological disorders, anxiety and mental disorder. post-traumatic stress.

“I’ve always been into it because of my own body, my own combination of weird mind-body issues, performance pressure pain and even stage fright,” she said.

Fleming opened up about his debilitating anxiety in his 2004 autobiography “The Inner Voice.”

“Every cell in my body was screaming ‘No I can’t do this! When you get stage fright you feel like you’re going to die,'” she wrote.

“In our DNA”

Fleming is also advising experts at Johns Hopkins University on a “NeuroArts Blueprint” that aims to create a network of researchers and artists developing ideas around art therapy.

“What I would like to see happen is for the arts to be fully integrated into our healthcare system,” she said, praising efforts in Britain and some US states.

“Music has been with us for at least 55,000 years judging by the musical instruments we have found, and probably much longer. It’s in our DNA to respond to music and the arts.

There has been resistance from medical professionals, but she said hospitals and therapists are increasingly seeing the positive results of simple tools like harmonicas and breathing exercises, and are adopting them. .

Fleming makes a long-awaited return to New York’s Metropolitan Opera in December after a five-year absence, in “The Hours” which has already been made into a film starring Meryl Streep and Nicole Kidman.

She will return to the Paris Opera next year for “Nixon in China” by John Adams.

“I’m excited,” she said. “[It] is such an important opera that it is now part of the standard repertoire, and for good reason. J.B.


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Ada J. Kenney