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Chef Lidia Bastianich

Chef Lidia Bastianich

Wed, 24 May 2023 20:12

James Beard Award-winning chef Lidia Bastianich fled the Italian peninsula of Istria, as a child, after it was handed over to Communist Yugoslavia following WWII. She spoke with Terry Gross about her family's journey to America, her first TV dinner, and how food became her "connector." Her new PBS show is Lidia Celebrates America.

Lloyd Schwartz reviews a CD set of opera singer Renée Fleming.

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This is Fresh Air. I'm Dave Davies. Our guest, Lydia Bostionic, is a celebrity chef, famous for her Italian recipes. She has a long-running PBS series, Lydia's Kitchen. She's written over 15 cookbooks, has owned several restaurants, and has won multiple James Beard Awards. Her family lived on the Italian peninsula, Austria. As a child, she learned a lot about cooking from her grandmother, who was poor and cooked over a wood fire. All of the ingredients were from her grandmother's garden, or from the livestock they raised, including two pigs a year. But after World War 2, the peninsula changed hands from Italy to communist Yugoslavia. Bostionic's parents were followed by secret police, and her father was arrested. Her family managed to flee after the border was closed, and for a couple of years they lived in a refugee camp in Italy that was a former Nazi concentration camp. Her new special, Lydia celebrates America, flavors that define us, premieres on PBS May 30th. Her show Lydia's Kitchen returns for its 11th season in October. Bostionic spoke with Terry Gross last week at a WHY event at which Bostionic was presented with WHY's Life Long Learning Award. So you grew up in Austria, which is a peninsula kind of parallel to Italy. The Northwestern tip is attached to Italy, and the northeastern tip is attached to Croatia. The year you were born in 1947, that was the year that the peninsula that you lived on, switched hands from Italy to Yugoslavia, which was communist. So your mother was pregnant with you at the time. A lot of their friends fled, Austria, because they didn't want to live in a communist country. But because your mother was pregnant, your father said, you're not going to give birth in a refugee camp, so we're staying. When you look back at that time and think about what a consequential decision your parents had to make while your mother was pregnant with you, what do you think about when you reflect on that? You know, Terry, when I reflect on my life, I'm grateful. I have a wonderful life. I have it a wonderful family. So I cannot regret anything that happened. If anything, in that period, maybe of having a hard time and difficulties and not being able to speak your native language, not being able to respect your religion and go to church and all of that, at the time it would seem very oppressive, and it is. It is. But in retrospect, we came here, we were given that chance, and I guess that's... Well, things worked out, that's for sure. But I just imagine what it must have been like for your parents to decide whether to flee or stay while you were in utero. Right. Well, maybe I'll just describe a little bit the actual situation. So, Easter is a little peninsula that is across from Venice, and it is on the other side, you have Dalmatian Ale. And that area certainly was under Italy, Romans, the Venetians, and so on and so on. But that area was also under the Orsch Ungarian. So it was a border area that would go back and forth. We're all two, of course, I think, ended in 44, but there was the ally forces were there and the British to hold peace. So that was in 47, as you said. I was born February 21st, 1947. The peace treaty was the treaty that actually delineated the border. It was 1947, was February 27th of 1947. So a few days after me, that whole area, in those years from 44 to 47, it was the big exodus. I think about 300,000 people. Just left, they left with the belongs they had moved on, went back to Italy and moved on into the world. Once the iron curtain went down, you were locked. They began to change the names. You couldn't speak the language. Did the food change? The food change because there wasn't enough. There wasn't enough. And that's where my grandmother and all the animals, and she supplied, she lived in a little town outside of Pola. Pola is the big town. It's now called Pula, where we lived. So my parents put my brother myself with grandma. So we would be freer there, not in the city. Where actually you had, you know, the, it was called the Ud, but the police, mining and watching everybody. And there, she also, because food was scarce, was rationed. You can only buy certain things, only certain things, a certain times, were available. Her husband, my grandmother and her, of course, started to, the farm was always there, but they really, the family needed food. And that's where the chickens, and all of that came at the chickens. We had chickens, we had goats, we had rabbits, we had goose. We had two pigs every year. Had enough olives to make olive oil, enough grapes to make wine for the family, a little wheat field to make flour for the whole family, not just my media, the my aunts and my cousins and whatever. And I was raised in that setting. And I think that my passion and understanding of food really was set in me at that period. When it's your period of learning as a child. Your father was arrested when you were a child, when you were still living on the peninsula. And you went to visit him with your mother when you were, I think, eight years old. That must have been terrifying to be in a prison and see your father in it. Can you describe what you witnessed and the impact that it had on you? I remember that vividly, the, the, the fright that I felt. So my father was, he was a mechanic, but he had two trucks. So he was a little businessman and he was considered by the communist, coming in as a capitalist. They took away the trucks and they incarcerated him because he was a capitalist. And of course we went to see it and you know, as children we wanted to see him. And I remember just being so insecure, so frightened, so you know, this, everything seems so big when you're a child. You know, the, you enter into this big offices, everybody in uniform, speaking this harsh language. That's somewhat I understood, but it wasn't my language. And so it was very, very moving it. It's sort of, I remember the sentiments very well. Still now, still today. You eventually left your 10, I think? Yes. When, when you left the peninsula under false premises, your mother and her sister, your aunt, and your sister was living in Italy and Trieste, they concocted this plan where they would say that your aunt was terminally ill and that your mother and your aunt wanted to see each other and say their goodbyes with, with your mother's children with you and your brother one last time. And so you got across, and the plan was your father would walk across and sneak across later, which he managed to do after nearly getting killed. So when he finally crossed the border, with like secret police shooting at him and living in the woods and climbing over barbed wire fences and so on, what kind of shape was he in? I remember he was one o'clock at night and the door banging and my mother crying, my aunt crying, everybody so asked kids to jump up because we weren't aware that we are not going back home. You don't tell a kid that we spilled the beans. And so when we jumped up and my father actually was collapsed in front of the door and he was all muddy, covered in muddy and you know then was this big emotional and reunion and crying and wondering what is my father alive. I remember you know what is he doing here? What happened? Who you know what condition? What is it going to be alive or whatever? That was the reunion sort of. And then you ended up moving to a refugee camp which was actually it was caught in Sabah. Sabah? Yes. And Sabah and it was basically a former concentration camp during World War II. There's a picture of it in your memoir. Doesn't look good. No, it's still. Describe what the atmosphere was like there. I think you didn't know at the time that it had been a concentration camp but you know there was a crematorium there too. There were the ovens. So like what was the feeling? Did it feel haunted even though you didn't know what had gone on there? Yes, there was a feeling of darkness. There was a smell. There was you know what was the smell? It was a musty mud because also the courtyard you know it was enclosed. Everything was enclosed. They had this big gate and you couldn't pass. Now just to explain how we got there. When we came in my father met us we didn't have the papers. We didn't have complete papers. So had we remained in Italy? We could have asked for it Italian refuge but my parents decided even Italy was in conditions after the war. Let's try and go on to America or Canada or whatever. So we were there without papers and had the police because the Yugoslavs had secret police in Trieste. So and they kind of would spot people that escaped you know because they're kind of laclaus and they would ripatriate them. They would bring them to the to the guards and say listen to the police. They don't have any papers. These need to go back. So we my parents immediately decided to go to the police and ask for asylum. And at that point if you ask for asylum you're an immigrant without papers and they put us in the camp. And then there it's controlled. You can't leave. You can go out. You have to stay within those boundaries and it was closed. It was closed. It had one main entrance and it was like a big courtyard and there was a dirt on it. So when it rained and all that was really really muddy. And the rules we had little cubby halls and they were separated by no wall but cargo paper, boards, even some with cloth. That was the separation. So you heard everybody. We had two beds. What do you call them on top of each other? Two bunk beds. One for the kids and the other side of my parents. And we stayed there until we began the process of vetting and beginning to file our papers. When you waited online for the food what were you given? Mostly I remember was always spaghetti with tomato sauce. And we did get an apple at the end. Usually a fruit, an apple or something like that. And on Sundays we were allowed to go out with permission. When you had relatives we would go out to the my aunt's and we would have the meal in family. And then brought back with us. My mom brought back with us. We had a little burner up in the room so she could heat milk for us and whatever she could. You had a lot of trauma as a child whether you recognize it as trauma or not. And wondering what the relationship in your life has been between food and trauma? Because one way of trying to sue yourself when you're suffering through a trauma or reliving the trauma is to eat comfort foods, foods that you love. Of course at the time food wasn't plentiful for you. It was scarce. So what do you think in the long term like your relationship between food and trauma has been? My relationship, definite realization, what food meant to me was when we were in Trieste in Italy, in the camp. And I did not know that we were not going to go back to a grandma. And so that feeling of unfinished work I hadn't said goodbye to my grandmother to my friends. But when I realized that I wasn't going back, food became my connector. When my aunt would cook the food, the smells, it brought me back to my grandmother to that place. And I realized that I could do that to satisfy myself. And then I realized that I was pretty good at it. And then I realized that I could nurture and feed other people. And I loved that just like my grandmother did. And so on, my life became exactly that. A life of cooking and nurturing from family to people. And ultimately the opportunity of turning it all into a business. So when you were in the former concentration camp, at some point you were allowed out to go to a conference school. You had come from the peninsula where basically religion had been banned. So you started to learn about Catholicism. And you also worked in the kitchen there. And that you've described that as your introduction to commercial cooking. What's one or two of the things that you learned that you later were able to apply to restaurants? Well, how did I get to go to that school? There was a family actually, Signora Leonori. She was a wonderful woman. She had three sons and one of them was a statistic. And she was looking for somebody to help her son. And she went to the camp. And my mother was an elementary school teacher. And of course the Italian, with Spoketagia. So she asked her if she would come on a regular basis. And that she would pay a little bit to her, but also that she would pay her schooling. So they gave her the permit to go. And she would go every day, bring me to the comment. The comment was right next door to Mrs. Leonori's house. And I guess I don't know how much she contributed to my education. But the nuns also, I guess, felt that maybe I should help out a little bit to make up for my soul. I was in the kitchen. The morning when I came early with my mother, they would put me there, peel the apples, peel the potatoes, whatever. Then the first time that I saw those big pots and really sort of institutional cooking because they had the school was there and they would cook a meal for the children every day. And I enjoyed it. But also, the religion was there. Grandma tried her best to take me so I was a little bit. But it was always revived when I went to that comment, my commitment and understanding who I am and my culture. Well, you said you found a spirituality there. I did. What did that feel like? How would you describe what you found? What does religion bring to anybody? I don't think it matters which religion is. It brings a sense of hope that not all is lost, that it's not the end, that there's somebody there that will ultimately listen, hear you and help you out if you will. I think I'm still very spiritual. It's a sense for me. Yes, I believe in the whole dogma in history of Catholicism because that's who I am. But I think that God is the same God for everybody. We see, we go to Him in a different way. And I find still spiritualism very close to me. And I also find peace in religion. And I think that in our life, we all need to take ourselves to a place that we can recollect ourselves. Be it nature, I love the water, I love the sea, be it art, be it music, all of these things. And religion is one of those strong things that really gives you a place, a refuge. Does your sense of spirituality connect with food, particularly the kind of food and cooking you grew up with, with slaughtering animals for your food and growing the food, and your grandmother's food in the garden, where everything was, it was all of the earth, it was all natural, it wasn't like going to the supermarket and by being like frozen chicken. Absolutely. And not only did we grow things, but was a whole culture of foraging. Spring would come, we would go and forage for wild dandelions, for wilder sparragas, mushrooms, so it's, you know, nature was giving you gifts that you didn't have to pay for. So there is, you know, a sort of a kind of a higher work place in the works here that we have this food that, you know, that dirt there, the oldest day in the mazes me, you know, you put a seed, it grows a plant, that was beautiful tomato, it amazes me that that dirt gives you that product. Your favorite nun at the Convent, when you were leaving to come to America, gave you two things, a small Bible, and the cross that she had worn, that another nun had given to her, she gave that cross to you. Do you still have it? Yes, I have both. Her name was happened to be Lydia also. I think she was very instrumental in bringing me into a spiritual place. And as you said before, you know, Lydia, you must have had a lot of trauma, trauma. And I think she sort of healed that trauma of a young 10, 11, 12 year old girl that was, because being in the camp and being away from Yugoslavia and communism still didn't guarantee that we would be someplace free and together as a family, we were still in limbo. So she was very instrumental in kind of placating me in the sense and making me understand that life could have been partly in the spirituality, yes. We're listening to the interview Terry Gross recorded with Lydia Bastianich last week at a WHYY event. She's the host of the PBS series Lydia's Kitchen. Her new special Lydia celebrates America. Flavors that define us is about diverse food traditions in America. It premieres on PBS May 30th. We'll hear more of the interview after a break. I'm Dave Davies and this is Fresh Air. Let's get back to our interview with Lydia Bastianich, a celebrated chef, best-selling cookbook author, restaurant owner, and winner of multiple James Beard Awards. She hosts the long-running PBS series Lydia's Kitchen and has a new special that premieres on PBS May 30th called Lydia celebrates America. Flavors that define us. Bastianich spoke with Terry Gross last week at a WHYY event. So you came to America when you were 12 and you were desperate to try TV dinners after you moved here. Why TV dinners? Did you even have a TV? No, I didn't have it, but it was very American. It was never had it. At the time it was delicious. You come and we were brought here by the Catholic charities. We had nobody in America either. They put us first in a hotel and ultimately they did Settles in New Jersey. They found a little home and that's where we began our life. Luckily, and I guess intentionally, they put us in Northburg and it was an Italian community. So there we began to connect and to feel maybe life is going to be good because the neighbors, they came, they knocked on the door, they brought sugar, they brought bread, they brought chairs, they brought... They bring TV dinners? No. But going to the store shopping with the cart was a guarded effort because mom had exactly calculated how much we're going to spend. So a lot of chicken necks, soups and all of that. But they laid the packaged TV dinners and all the packaged sweets and all of that. And I said I'm going to treat myself to one. But I had also, this is 14. But I also had worked a little bit watching some babysitting. And so I took my own money. I bought the TV dinner. I wound up my TV dinner in the container in the oven just like you're supposed. I didn't pull it out. And I put myself in front of the television and I had my American dinner. So I... What was it? I think that breast of chicken was peace. It was mashed potatoes. Was the breast of chicken or turkey, I don't remember, with the gravy. With the gravy, of course. How was it? It's good. Okay. So you worked for a while at a bakery called Walkins Bakery, which is Christopher Walkins' Parents' Bakery. Did you meet Christopher Walkins? We worked together. You worked together. We were still friends. Oh no, really? What was he like as a kid? There were three brothers. There's Glenn, Christopher and Ken. How do you and how old was he? You were 14. How was he? 14. Yeah. I think he's about four... No, no, he was three or four years older than I am. And the father was a German immigrant. The mother was a Scottish, but I think she was born here. The kids worked. He put them to work. They were going to school. I know he was going... Because it was strange to me that he was going to dance in school and to me. He's a good dancer. He is. He was going to dance. The mother was putting them in the film industry, in the performing industry. And ultimately, on weekends, they would come. They would deliver the wedding cakes to the different halls. They did their job. We were friends. Then they had also a summer home out in Long Island. When they closed for vacation, I would go there to be a house helper. But then I would also play a little bit with the boys. They had a boat and so on. So, we developed a very nice relationship. As a matter of fact, we are still friends. You met your future husband at your own sweet 16. Yes. He was also... He was from the same peninsula, right? He was. He was from the other side of the peninsula, yes. Yes. You got married midway through college. You left college because you also got pregnant soon after you were married. Of course, your mother was very upset. She wanted you to finish college. She was very upset. And your son, after being... When he was 18 months old, he was diagnosed with a blood bone disease. No, it was a disease. Perthes disease is a bone disease. It is in developing infants. In the hip joint, the round part doesn't get enough nourishment. If they walk, they consume it in ultimately club food sets in. So, he had to stop walking for a year. So, just when children are really learning to walk, he couldn't walk. He was in a... Not a cast. A brace. He had a brace. He had to... 18 months. Yeah, he had to keep his legs so that the bone would get the nourishment. And this is about the same time that you and your husband are starting your first restaurant, right? Yeah. Just after we were planning, but just after that, yes. We opened our first restaurant. What was it like for you as a mother of a son who needed a lot of attention? I'm sure you were very worried about him to also be having this new undertaking with your husband. And you were needed at the restaurant and you were needed at home. Well, it's hard for a mother to hear that a child no matter what the illness is. So, the fact of assessing that and understanding and understanding that it eventually could be cured, that sort of alleviates you because you're part of the solution. So, keeping him in a brace with metal bars in front of it, and it had this... What is this thing that sticks that you can stick it? You use it and everything? Velcro? Velcro. So, they were with Velcro. So, of course, this young kid... he was... what was he was two and a half... Zoom, zoom, he would pull up and he would start running. And I would run after him, put him back into this braces. So, it was a tough time. Again, I consider myself blessed in the sense that I had my mother and my father. We always kind of... by now we had nobody else we lived together in the sense. My first few years, a few years, something of marriage, of course, you need your independence. But as soon as Joe came and all that, they moved in and they were downstairs and the typical setting of a mother and daughter. So, they helped raise their son? Yes. They were there. I couldn't have done what I did without the support, certainly, of my family, of my mother, of everybody around. But when I first had my daughter, of course, I took two or three months off and there was time that really I needed to go back, I needed to. And I was kind of questioning myself. So, I went to the pediatrician. We had no psychiatrist at that time. At least we didn't go to psychiatrist. So, I went to that and I said, I told him that I felt, you know, I don't know what to do. I have this child and the mother, I'm responsible. I want to be with her. And yet, you know, the business, I helped my husband with the business and all that, we might not be able to do a lot of things. And he was very wise. He said, Lydia, children are happy within the family. They understand, children come into a family. You don't change the family because children come into it. We chappen a lot of times. So, they say, okay, our priority is where we had to work to feed and whatever. He said, children want happy parents. But, you know, I said, okay, I can live with that. And so, it happened. I managed with my mother. I gave my kids the best time. I included them as much as I could when I was doing. I was bringing them to the restaurant as much. They had the dinner. They had their time. With the weekends, Mondays was the day off because we would always do special things with them. And they were happy. And I think that's why my children are back running the business even though I told them that this is not what they should do when they grow up. You should get an education and go on. They're back into it. What was on your first menu in your first restaurant? Oh, it was only Italian American because, you know, in 71, all the famous restaurants were Italian American. And certainly the chef that we hired was Italian American. And then, once I went into the kitchen, then I began to kind of modify and add, add, pull in the result. And that's where, sort of, I made my space. But you started off with a large meatball. Absolutely. The larger, the better. We're listening to the interview Terry recorded last week at a WHOI event honoring Lydia Bastianich, a chef, restaurant owner, cookbook author, and host of the PBS series Lydia's Kitchen. We'll hear more of the interview after a break. This is Fresh Air. It's hard, I'm not that I've ever been a chef, but must be very hard to coordinate serving like a whole table at the same time, even though they're all ordering different things while serving all the other tables, you know, who are also ordering different things. It must be like incredibly stressful. And we've all read stories about chefs who are or who become like drug addicted or alcoholic or something, in part because of all the stress. How have you dealt with the stress of, you know, running restaurants or being the chef or being both at the same time? I think, you know, just as a person, you have to look at different things. And I think going back, all the experience that I had, maybe attributed to my strength, spirituality, did, you know, unity, family, all of this certainly did. But, you know, sometimes you do become overstressed. And in defense of all these people that work and that sort of go to drinking or whatever, is that you have to understand that tension that you were talking about is real, you know, timing this, the past, the, the, the, the, the, the, the, the, I've only have to come and, and then the tuna and then you send the main course. They all have to come at the same time, the same temperature of cooking, you know, once a drear, once a, the vegetables must be hot, all delivered at the same time, this tension. So, there's a lot of adrenaline going in. And so, when you finish, you know, your work at 11, 12 o'clock, what do you do? You know, where do you sort of, let go, you know, you, you go swim, whatever, you go to a bar, you go to meet some friends, and that's when things happen. Trying to, I guess, appease themselves and relax a little bit after all that, yes, turmoil and adrenaline running through you. So, it's a, it's a, it's a position, a job that is kind of conducive that you have to have strength to, to, to stay strong. What would you do to relax? For me, after a day at the restaurant, for me as a woman, yeah, I would go home to the wash, to the ironing. That's so relaxing, I know. But what I do, because, you know, I get asked a lot of things, I have solidity, where do you get your creative juices and whatever. And I do revert to nature. I love the water, sea, I love sailing, swimming, all that, love classical music. So, that always does whether I go to a performance, whether I listen at home, all of these things kind of stimulate me. And, you know, I mean, you hear ever more, all that, how music really sets a rhythm to your own mind and whatever. And I guess I'm not, you know, a big meditation in the sense of a religious meditation like Buddhism or whatever, but that self-control, self coming into yourself and kind of telling yourself, hey, let's do this, let's do that. I work with that. You were mother died in 2021 during COVID. Was it COVID related? No. No. She died of a heart condition. She was 100 in January and died in February. Wow. So, you know, as much as I still to this day, because she always lived with me, I'm grateful I had, you know, I didn't have for all 100 years, but I had until 100th year. Your father died, was it in 1970 or something? 71. Yeah. And so, he didn't live. He didn't live to see how successful you became as a chef, as a restaurant owner, as a TV personality. You have your own cookware line, you're on like home shopping network. He didn't live to see that, but your mother did. You must be so grateful that she lived to see that and to know that the choices that they made worked out so well in the long run. Well, you know, going back to the moment of being an immigrant and coming, there were a few times that, you know, I caught my mother and I thought, you kind of, your parents whispered, they think the kids don't hear, you know, did we do the right thing or maybe we shouldn't, is this going to be okay for the kids? And I always felt, and my brother as well, you know, that we had to, we wanted to show them that the decision was absolutely right. They couldn't have done a better thing and I kept on telling her, but also she was very much part of this success. And again, if you see my shows, she was in the house. My kids were in the house. So this was real. I didn't have a script that show. I don't have script. I had lib, I speak, you know, we create a menu, we create talking points, and then I'm there. So the whole thing, my shows are quite open and real and with some preparation. And my mother was always part. Now, for those of you that still watch the shows, my mother, even after she passed, I just couldn't leave her off the shows. And at the end, we end the show with her singing some songs. And we're going to do the same, it's in honor to honor her because she was such a big part. Yeah. I want to thank you so much for being here this evening. I want to thank you for your recipes, for your TV show, and also just for your strength. Thank you very much. So I appreciate that. Thank you so much. Thank you. Lydia Bastianich spoke with Terry Gross last week at a WHY event, at which Bastianich was honored with the WHY Life Long Learning Award. Her new PBS special, Lydia celebrates America, flavors that define us, premieres May 30th. She also hosts the long running PBS series, Lydia's Kitchen. It returns for its 11th season in October. Her new cookbook will be published in September. Here's Lydia with her late mother, Armenia. Okay, you're going to sing for us. Do you want me to sing? What do you like? Bebeva, my little daughter, your father. Yes. Take a glass. Bebeva, no, no, no, for the mother. Yes. Hi. Salute. Salute. Coming up, Classical Music, Critic Lloyd Schwartz reviews a new recording of soprano Renee Fleming in live performances at the Metropolitan Opera. This is fresh air. For more than 30 years, soprano Renee Fleming has been a major star of the Metropolitan Opera. She's sung nearly 300 performances in six different languages. But while she's made many recordings, few of her live performances have ever been released. Now, Deca has issued a double CD set of Fleming Singing Live at the Met. Our Classical Music, Critic Lloyd Schwartz has a review. Along with Yo-Yo Ma, soprano Renee Fleming may be this country's most beloved Classical musician. She's not just a glamorous opera star with one of the most beautiful voices ever recorded. She was the singer of choice for President Obama's first inaugural ceremony. For the ceremony at the World Trade Center's Ground Zero, just after the 9-11 attack, and even for the Super Bowl. She was awarded the National Medal of Honor and appeared as a guest on Weight-Wait, Don't Tell Me. She's that kind of artist, a diva who is also down to earth. She's also a Grammy-winning recording star, but few of her live performances, which often say more about a performer than manufactured studio recordings have ever been released. Now, she has essentially retired from the opera stage. And in tribute to her long career, Deca Records has released a double-disc set of excerpts from most of her 26 different roles at the Met. Duvorschex opera Rusalka in Czech must have been mounted especially to give Fleming a chance to sing its most famous aria. This opera is the story of a wooden frusalka who falls tragically in love with a human being. Here she is singing to the moon. You could describe Fleming's voice as a combination of gold and silk. She excels in the repertoire that lets her spin out endlessly long lines you wish would go on forever. But she's also terrific in the glittering rulads and trills of earlier composers like Handel and Bellini and the propulsive rhythms of Verdi. Fleming is also one of our most touching and witty Mozart singers. No surprise that she made her Met debut in Mozart's marriage of Figaro, the most humane opera ever written. But maybe Fleming's most sublime performance on these new discs is an aria from an opera she never appeared in. She sang it at the gala celebrating the 125th anniversary of the Metropol in opera with the magnificent Matt Orkestra conducted by James Levine. Here's Renée Fleming singing Marietta's song, an aria of lost love from the opera Detotischtat, the Dead City, by Erik Wolfgang Corngold, a composer probably better known for his many film scores than for his grand operas. Renée Fleming has some impressive co-stars on this album. Italian Mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli, American Mezzo Susan Graham, the late Russian baritone Dmitri Farostowski, an American baritone Samuel Raimi and Nathan Gunn. All the arias and scenes on this recording were performed between 1989 and 2010 and Fleming is in spectacular voice. My only complaint is that no texts or translations are provided. Fleming studio recordings have always captured the loveliness of her singing. But these live recordings prove that out of the studio and on an actual stage she could be just as magical or maybe even more. Lloyd Schwartz is the poet laureate of Somerville Massachusetts. His latest book is Who's On First, New and Selected Poems. He reviewed Renée Fleming, her greatest moments at the Met on the Deca label. On tomorrow's show we'll discuss the Hollywood writer's strike now in its third week. It's already shut down production for most daily shows, including Jimmy Kimmel Live, with impacts on cable and streaming shows looming ahead. We'll talk with New York Times Media reporter John Koblin about the stakes and sticking points in the dispute. I hope you can join us. By the way, to keep up with what's on the show and get highlights of our interviews, follow us on Instagram at NPR Fresh Air. Fresh Air's executive producer is Danny Miller, our technical director and engineer, Rizad Rebenthem. Our interviews and reviews are produced and edited by Amy Salette, Phyllis Myers, Sam Brigger, Lauren Crenzel, Heidi Semon, Theresa Madden, Ann Marie Baldenado, they a challenger, Seth Kelly, and Susan Yacundi. Our digital media producer is Molly Sevy-Nesper, Roberta Shorock directs the show. For Terry Gross and Fresh Air's co-host, Tanya Mosley, I'm Dave Davies.