SINGAPOREAN conductor Wang Ya Hui is not easily star-struck.
But when she finished conducting a concert in Taipei in March headlined by Renee Fleming, she couldn't help herself - she asked the American soprano to autograph her programme.
Wang, 39, says that Four Last Songs by Richard Strauss is her all-time favourite work, and after listening to many versions of it, she ended up buying a recording sung by Fleming.
'And she sang Four Last Songs during the Taipei concert. She asked if I'd conducted it before and when I said no, she said I was a natural vocal conductor,' she says, beaming at the memory.
The admiration was mutual.
Fleming, 46, was so impressed by her work that she remarked before she went onstage that she could not get one of the Tchaikovsky pieces Wang had conducted earlier out of her head.
The American, who has won two Grammys and even sung in Elvish for the soundtracks of The Lord Of The Rings movies, went so far as to tell her manager to book Wang for a future collaboration.
That will take place on Dec 8, at the Baltimore Opera Gala Concert in Baltimore in north-eastern United States.
Wang will lead the Baltimore Opera Orchestra as a guest conductor, while Fleming will perform a series of operatic arias such as Czech composer Dvorak Rusalka's Song To The Moon and Italian operatic composer Giacomo Puccini's O Mio Babbino Caro.
Showing Life! a photograph of herself and Fleming at a dinner after the Taipei concert, Wang says: 'I'm really happy this came up. I thought it was going to be another five years before we worked together again.'
Wang, who is single, boasts an impressive resume herself. The music director and conductor of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory Orchestra was the first Singaporean to enter the famed Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia as a conductor in 1986.
Only 17 then, she won the only spot open for conductors at the school and bagged a full scholarship in the process. She has also clinched the top prize in three of the world's most prestigious conducting competitions, namely the Tokyo Competition in 1994, the Dimitri Mitropoulos Competition in Athens in 1996 and the Nicolai Malko Competition in Copenhagen in 1998.
She has performed as a guest conductor with renowned orchestras like the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and was music director of the Akron Symphony Orchestra in Ohio and the Evergreen Symphony Orchestra in Taipei.
After 20 years abroad, she decided to return to Singapore in July last year.
She says that it's because of the Yong Siew Toh Conservatory.
'It's a large commitment to culture to have such a place. It was clear to me that Singapore intended to put us on the cultural world map so as a Singaporean, I came back.'
She adds: 'The students at the conservatory are another attraction for me. Their level is very high - they're at the level of American conservatories.'
Asked if she is stressed by having to appear on Fleming's home ground without the assurance of extended rehearsals with the busy soprano superstar, she shrugs.
'She has such a busy schedule. The week we perform together, she's also singing in Carnegie Hall in New York,' she notes.
'But I'm not stressing. Now that I'm older and more experienced, I feel it's enough if you've done your preparation.'
'I'm really happy this came up. I thought it was going to be another five years before we worked together again'
Conductor Wang Ya Hui on working with Renee Fleming again