Renée the Grinch

It’s 11 PM on December 23. Tomorrow my wife and I leave to see family for the holidays. I wasn’t planning to post anything to this blog.

And then something arrived by e-mail that just appalls me. It’s a press release from Universal Classics, Renée Fleming’s record label. It announces some auctions on eBay, to be conducted literally during Christmas, from now until December 26. Some lucky Fleming fans will…but let the press release speak for itself:

Universal Classics announced today that Renée Fleming, opera superstar and two-time Grammy Award winner, will be offering fans two new exciting auctions exclusively at the Universal Music Store on eBay (, the world’s online marketplace. These auctions will provide Ms. Fleming’s fans with special access to both unique memorabilia and Ms. Fleming’s stirring vocal performances.

A lucky fan will bid on and have the opportunity to win two orchestra-seating tickets to Ms. Fleming’s performance at the “Live From Lincoln Center New Year’s Eve Gala Concert” with the New York Philharmonic at Lincoln Center in New York City on December 31, 2003, as well as a chance to meet Ms. Fleming backstage after the show. Dinner, accommodations for two nights, champagne, and a signed copy of Ms. Fleming’s latest release, By Request, are also included.

One hundred limited Collector’s Edition CDs of By Request, each personally signed by Ms. Fleming, will also be available for auction.

I find this all offensive. It’s Christmas! We’re supposed to think of others, not ourselves. But here’s Renée Fleming, conducting this eBay auction, with fans buying CDs and tickets to her gala at what might well be dramatically inflated prices — and the money apparently goes right into her pocket (and, of course, into Universal’s). I think it ought to go to charity. I read the press release over and over, not quite able to believe that the money wasn’t being given to some worthy cause. But if it is, Universal Classics doesn’t say one word about it.

Enough. Merry Christmas, everybody. Let’s all promise to be more generous than Renée Fleming seems to be, at least as she comes off in this ill-timed press release.

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