Friday, February 29, 2008

Excuse me while I go off on a long rant about cross-over, Charlotte Church, Kiri te Kanawa, and other things...

I briefly mentioned Dame Kiri te Kanawa's small tantrum and "attack" of "opera fakes." Well now the opera fakes are fighting back!!!!! Some of it made me laugh. "Katherine (Jenkins) is looking forward to singing without a microphone in future?" "A mezzo's voice doesn't develop until she's in her early 30's?" Oh, and that's just the start! My personal favorite is: “Appreciating opera is a bit like appreciating a fine wine, sometimes you have to start with something a little light and fruity and eventually you get to your big fat burgundy.” Big...fat...burgundy? *puts hand on hip* Excuse me, who could you possibly be referring to?
They also call the crossover, popera, whatever you want to call it an "introduction" to classical music or opera. It's not. It's a substitution. Unfortunately, it is too often a substitution for opera. Do you know how many people have come up to me and said, "Oh you like opera. So, that's like Paul Potts, Charlotte Church, and Josh Groban, right?" I resisted the urge to tear out my hair. NO, THAT'S NOT WHAT IT'S LIKE.
“I can tell you now, Kiri and Pavarotti and those international singers, if it wasn’t for their compilation CDs they’d be lucky to sell in the hundreds. Now that’s the truth.”
That's another GREAT quote by "Gray Bartlett, who put Westenra on the musical map." He went on to add that Dame Kiri, THE DAME KIRI, might be jealous of the young artist's success. About the quote, who do these people think they are? Pavarotti and Kiri not singing records because the records aren't cross over? On what planet is that true? And Dame Kiri being jealous? DAME KIRI OWNS YOU. She does, really, she secretly runs the world. Why would she have any reason to be jealous of Hayley somethingorother.
I'm sorry if I seem mean or "snobbish" but these people should be jealous of KIRI, not the other way around. Just because Kiri had the determination and heart to go through years of training and those other singers evidently didn't doesn't make her a snob. This article and the "career highlights" or "mini-bio" that come at the end of the article are obviously biased and put Dame Kiri in a very unflattering light.

Dame Kiri owns the world. She rules the world. She is the world. Duh. She's amazing and everyone knows it. Her words were blunt and probably hurtful, but they were studded with truth. They may not be fake SINGERS but they are certainly fake OPERA singers. Listen to Charlotte Church's or Hayley Westenra's "O Mio Babbino Caro" and then listen to Kiri te Kanawa's and I dare you to tell me I'm wrong. They're not in the same league. They never will be. THAT'S WHY Dame Kiri was an OPERA star. She was not a popera star. These people need to get a grip and remember why exactly they are singing in halls and not in opera houses.

Happy Listening!!! =)

Oh my gosh, I'm so mean.


Anonymous said...

Right on! Dame Kiri rules and always will!

pystol said...

Brava! It's a joy to see someone 'put down' those silly people who imagine Dame Kiri is jealous of someone as bland and uninteresting as Westenra. It's unfair that news reports suggest that Dame Kiri specifically targeted Westenra - it was the interviewer who suggested 'fake singers' like Westenra generated an interest in real opera. Westenra is probably the worst example - she just steals opera arias to promote herself. Westenra is a opera aria whore - a bland and boring one. God save me from the dimbos who like to point their brainless fingers at Dame Kiri - "see, she uses microphones". We shouldn't expect much from people who imagine these 'fake singers' are singing opera in the same league as Diva Dame Kiri.

Gerth said...

Great rant! Katherine Jenkins is so funny, she spends half the time calling herself an opera singer and the other half denying that she does. She does actually appear to be a fairly screwed up person.

I know that there are significant numbers of people who have come to opera via real opera singers crossing-over to other genres, eg people who liked the Three Tenors, then bought an aria compilation than got into opera. But I don't know one single opera lover who has arrived at opera by listening to a classically-semi-trained singer singing pop songs.

Just recently I had cause to listen to some hits from the late Sixties from people like Englebert Humperdink and Solomon King. I don't see any difference between them and these "popera" singers, who have crossed over from nowhere and sing pop songs in a middle-of-the-road easy listening style. And the annals of pop music are littered with pop singers interpreting or excerpting from the classical repertoire without ever calling themselves classical musicians.

Gert said...

My name is Gert...

Robert said...

Hmmmmm... Dame Kiri has said in the past that she had come to see Pokarekare Ana as her signature song. That song is now famous world wide but not for Kiri's version. Recently, the singing of the Anthems and Abide With Me at the New Zealand Mermorial service was done by Westenra. Once the job would have automatically have gone to Dame Kiri.

That Westenra is probably the "worst example" is a very ignorant comment by pystol. Westenra has hardly sung any arias, and is the least "popera" of just about all of the so-called popera singers. There is good reason to believe that she only sung them after having her arm twisted up her back by the record company who wanted to classify her as classical.

Curiously, an instrumenalist friend who I had listen to Westenra's O Mio... described it as "excellent". Others -- including an experienced opera singer have rated it highly. The instrumentalist was surprised that Westenra's arias were on a par with a 'professional' singers in his opinion. Unusual for someone of her age.

Westenra does much to wide a range of material to be described as bland and boring. It may not be everyone's cup of tea -- it's not my favourite type of music, but at what she does she is world class. Every bit as good in her area as Dame Kiri is in opera. Dame Kiri's essays into crossover are, on the other hand, useless.

You may as well say Dame Kiri is a folk music whore who steals Maori folk music and other songs to promote herself -- and a weak and insipid one.

Robert said...

Can I just say to Gert that Decca decided it would lump a number of what would have once been called "easy listening" singers into the Classical listings. It was Decca who did this not the singers. I have read a lot about this. In a BBC interview Westenra was asked if she was surprised to be classified as classical and said that, yes she was, since most of what she did wasn't "strictly classical".

Westenra has never claimed to be an opera singer, but expressed irritation about being called such in that same BBC interview that you can easily find via Google. There is a stupid biography on AOL or somewhere that says she was, but she has never said so.

It was done for marketing reasons. Westenra's first album was supposed to have pulled Decca out of the mire.

It is true that the presence of the crossovers on compilation disks such as the "Best of Classical" series, insures they sell. It is true that the success of popular albums subsidises traditional classical recordings. It is the same in literature. Publishing houses often publish prestigious literay works at a loss, and couldn't do so if it wasn't for sales of popular material.

I don't go along with this notion of the crossover singers leading people to opera. Why should they, anyway? There has always been crossover and always will.

I see that Nana Mouskouri has now been added to the "classical" ranks.

This should have the purists fulminating.

I have more sympathy with the purists views in some respects than they realise. The marketing people have pulled some fasties; but the purists response to this is tacticly inept and counter-productive. These singers sell in the millions and are much better know than the opera singers; and have fiercly loyal fan bases. Westenra has in the last few days significantly increased her score on the Classicalx (site promoting crossover singers) and has ranked 5th overall for some time, just below Bocelli and ahead of Jenkins, Marsh, Potts, Grigolo, Terfel, G4, etc.

That the opera community hates the crossover kids irrationally, is plain. That Dame Kiri feels furious that Westenra has pinched her signature and is getting jobs that she feels she is entitled to, may well make her less than well disposed towards Westenra. She has said in the past that Westenra wouldn't last and snubbed her on the one occasion they met.

Yet Dame Kiri has dueted with Kathy Jenkins and had young popera star Will Martin support her in her latest New Zealand concert.

It is difficult to fathom her thinking.

Anonymous said...

Check out what Dame Malvina Major (a compatriot and contemporary of Dame Kiri) had to say about it:

Robert said...

Dame Kiri has now given all sorts of explanations about how she was mistinterpreted and misquoted and how much she actually likes Hayley's records, that no one knows what she meant.

As far as your own rant is concerned, no one has ever said that teenagers like Church and Westenra were in the same league as a world-class opera singer like Kiri when it came to singing opera in the conventional style. So it is hard to see what your problem is. This is simply stating the obvious. According to a bio of Westenra she had the option to study opera/lieder when about 12 but decided against it.

Surely she and others know exactly why they are not singing in opera halls. It's because they cut a deal with the devils of fame and fortune and decided to go that way instead. Westenra's bio is interesting because she had been in 40 odd productions by the time she was 11 and then busked on the street to make money. Jenkins and other popsters have put in some work too. Sissel is another one, for example. It's true that the interviewer raised Westenra's name, but I don't think she's done an aria for two or three years.

But Kiri's comments encompassed the likes of Elizabeth Marvelly,Will Martin and many other so called 'popover' singers who don't call themselves opera singers.

I grant you that I don't understand Jenkins comments or Lesely Garrets. They seem to be trying to be concililary, but are making little sense.

Gray Bartlett claims to have put just about everyone on the map, but didn't. He has claimed to have discovered Westenra, Martin, and Liz Marvelly, but this is nonsense.

His comment refers to the series of disks called "Best of Classical For XXXX" that are put out each year. They feature a mixture of "serious" classical material like Pavaroti, Dame Kiri, etc along with the likes of Russell Watson, Paul Potts, invariably a Westenra song, and so on. There is no doubt that this series sells better for having the crossover singers on it.

Perhaps you are not aware that there has been a drastic decline in the sales of "classical" albums in recent years and this whole business is a way to boost sales of "classical". Of course the purists are saying that it is an artificial way of doing it, and they may well -- they do -- have a point.

But a decline in sales doesn't mean that fewer people are actually listening to classical music. And the whole business may well be transitory anyway. I have suspected for a long time that many of the crossover singers involved will gradually move out of the "classical" area back into their more natural habitats.

Since then the likes of Paul Potts, Natasha Marsh, and Lesley Garret have confused the issue somewhat. With Paul Potts it is difficult to see the end of the equation for him -- back to selling mobile phones?

Jenkins I thought was moving more toward the traditional pop area, but in her comments she seems to be leaving her options open. That Westenra steals arias to promote herself is simply and incredibly stupid comment. She's very famous in the UK, Japan, and just about every where but the US, but hardly anyone knows her for arias of which she's sung about two. And "bland and Boring" is in the eyes of the beholder. Her first album is the highest selling "classical" album of the decade in the UK and she has won two Japanese Grammys, featured on the Merchant of Venice soundtrack and a number of other quite Highbrow projects. She played Maria opposite Vitorio Grigolo's Tony in the latest musical version of West Side Story -- it was Te Kanawa and Carreras in the last major production. And at 20 has a CV almost as long as Dame Kiri's in iMDb. A list of all her awards and nominations (Classical Brits, etc) would take a couple of pages.

Call her what you like; her success cannot be denied and if she is detested by the opera community (the local opera community hated her since the time she was about 12 or 13 and called her and another successful young soprana [Yulia Townsend] the "terrible twins"), this is reason enough for Dame Kiri to have a big green monster on her shoulder.

That Te Kanawa loftily claimed that she had come to see Pokarekare Ana as her signature tune, and it is now seen as Westenra's, would be reason alone for Te Kanawa to be annoyed. If you were the Great Dame and had your signature tune pinched in this way by an "incompetent" upstart who is not in your world, you'd be pissed too, wouldn't you?

For example the Askmen site featuring famous women describes Westenra thus:
"Hayley Westenra accomplished more in the four-year stretch between 2003 and 2007 than most of her contemporaries will in their entire careers. Her amazing voice has ensured her a place within the pantheon of great singers, and her drive and determination is virtually impossible to ignore."

Dame Kiri doesn't rate a mention on the site.

More Googling would surely just come up with more of the same. Dame Kiri is famous within opera circles and greatly admired by the likes of pystol, but this has little to do with the real world -- the big wide world out there that the opera community needs to get more in touch with.

Anonymous said...

We can only hope that a fully trained opera singer is never compared to a girly voiced singer ever again. Westenra has more in common with the average boy soprano than with any trained female opera singer.

Robert said...

Yes, typical. Rational discussion with the opera nuts is impossible. Just like on YouTube or other boards they have nothing to say but absurdly inaccurate insults and opinions they think will provoke. What you think is going to be gained by this is difficult to say. Perhaps It is the fortress mentality that some speak of the classical purists having, I suppose.

This is the last time that I’ll look at this blog, but there are some facts that you are going to have to accept sooner or later.

Your opinions are just your opinions and of no consequence outside of you own little circle. The public think you are crazy.

The conceit that classical vocalism is a higher form than any other can’t be rationally or objectively justified.

So you have no authority to tell anyone:

1. What is or is not good singing.
2. How classical music – arias etc – should or should not be sung.
3. What is or is not Art.
4. What is or is not “Classical Music”.
5. Who can or cannot be properly classified as classical singers.
6. Who can or cannot be properly classified as opera singers.

Your desperation to discredit singers like Jenkins, Westenra, etc is clear evidence to everyone with half a brain that you are challenged and threatened by them.

Most people prefer the popera style of singing to opera.

Dame Kiri is a brainless, jealous, and spiteful old hag, who has been absurdly overrated for years. Her voice is weak and insipid, and her rendition of crossover songs not on a par with various teenagers one can think of. Most people who say they like opera and Kiri do so because they feel it is the done thing, not because they really like her singing.

There have been some great reviews of her latest effort on a local TV show – “looked like a human skull and proved she couldn’t do crossover.” ... “no knowledge of the heart and soul of what she was singing”, etc.

Check them out, they are very good for a laugh.

Enjoy yourselves in fantasy land. Just go on about how much more intelligent you all are to those riff raff who don’t enjoy opera and how excruciatingly bad all the multimillion selling non opera singers are LOL!

CaroNome said...

Well, this isn't what I was expecting.

Gert said...

Robert's rant is funny. "The public"think...

Do they really? Strange, because I am part of the public and I don't.

Difference between Kiri and Katherine. Kiri sings the notes the composer write; Katherine doesn't. Not really a matter of opinion.

More people like popera than opera. So what. More people still like rap, country-and-western etc. More people like soccer to rugby. The last fact doesn't therefore prove that soccer is rugby.

natalia said...

Hi Caronome! Yes I do agree that some of the stuff that the crossover fans say are side-splitting. You got those quotes off youtube right? Because I read them too, and couldn't imagine how ignorant these people could be.

"A mezzo's voice doesn't fully develop until her 30s" - that goes for sopranos, contraltos, tenors, baritones, basses and every other vocal type. It made me laugh. That and "looking forward to singing without a microphone in the future". If you were classically trained from the start, even 20-year-olds don't need microphones to be heard in a decent-sized hall. Just compare Dame Kiri's early recordings (in her 20s and early 30s) to these crossover recordings. The difference is obvious. She sang the Countess in "Marriage of Figaro" at 27, before her voice has fully matured, I'm sure. And the 1973 Glyndebourne production showed her voice to be simply beyond words. She didn't need a mic. And she wasn't 30 yet. What then, makes them think that 'not having a mature voice' is an excuse for having to use a microphone?

I've got nothing against popera and crossover, and I do enjoy some of them, but to compare them to opera singers is absurd, and the reasons given are even more absurd. No young whippersnapper can sing an experienced opera and concert veteran like Dame Kiri off the stage - not even the most talented young singers stand a chance against mature voices.