“Let’s get off that subject, move on. I’m doing something classical, not whizz-bang. Whizz-bang disappears. It goes ‘whizz’ and then ‘bang’.” Kiri Te Kanawa
Boyle’s law states that for a fixed amount of an ideal gas kept at a fixed temperature, pressure and volume are inversely proportional.
Both the temperature and the volume started to rise during the recent Radio Times interview with Dame Kiri Te Kanawa*. The Kiwi-born Kiri was quizzed about Scottish-born Susan Boyle’s talent quest version of I Dreamed A Dream* from Les Misérables, which she also sings.
Perhaps she shouldn’t have been so misérable but it is easy to understand her chagrin as a consummate, trained professional being mentioned in the same breath as a self-taught amateur.
It was as if the Queen-at least HRH played by Helen Mirren-had been asked to comment on the royal qualities of Betty Driver as the nonagenarian barmaid Betty Williams in Coronation Street.
Dame Kiri, who is holding a competition on British station Radio 2 with qualified judges to discover new operatic talent, said that she loathed the frenzy which surrounds popular reality TV shows such as Britain’s Got Talent.
The show’s producers are certainly adept at creating a viewing feeding frenzy. The 2009 Susan Boyle item* was carefully stage managed down to the last bucket of mock astonishment from the stage crew and judges and cleverly manipulated and amplified in both the old and new media*.
Different uploads of the same item have had a total of well over 150,000,000 views on YouTube so far and climbing, compared with 204,104 views for the Te Kanawa rendition*.
Of course, the two have to be seen through quite different lenses-the professional and the amateur. Kiri developed her remarkable talents with the help of voice training by Sister Mary Leo. She has built up a wide ranging and multilingual performance repertoire from the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Strauss, Giuseppe Verdi, George Frideric Handel and Giacomo Puccini.
Susan’s commendable DIY amateur efforts, with a hair brush standing in for a mike and her raw talent and passion for singing, have been on a different trajectory outside the discipline of the opera or show stage, but many obviously enjoy the heart-warming results, albeit in small doses.
Kiri apparently doesn’t think much of Hayley Westenra either-nor of Andrea Bocelli* At an earlier interview she didn’t quite label the popular blind tenor Bantam of the Opera but she came pretty close.
Before she was well known and not long after she had been an occasional busker at the Arts Centre in Christchurch Hayley sang one of Andrea’s well-known recordings at our SmartNet 2000 event in Christchurch. This was more kiwioke than karoeke, with Hayley singing to a soundtrack, but it was a knock out, especially in the context within which it was sung.
The theme song of the five annual two-day SmartNet workshops and Working SmartNet expos, held in the Christchurch Convention Centre between 1997 and 2001, was the theme from “2001 A Space Odyssey” -Thus Spake Zarathustra. It played behind the opening video sequence and theme for the year. In 2000, as the theme finished and before the official opening began, MC Jim Hopkins jumped off the stage, to be followed by the video cameras in the same kind of premeditated spontaneity as in the Susan Boyle item.
Jim then interviewed some young students who were helping to run SmartNet about their career plans after they finished university. Virtually all of them talked about heading of overseas. Jim’s premeditated punchline, as Hayley Westenra came out from the wings singing the number made popular by Bocelli, was “if New Zealand companies don’t become more innovative, pick up on the skills of new graduates and use new technology, it will be Time to Say Goodbye to too many of our young people.”
Since then, the export of young and growing poppies has continued apace with just a small dent in the last two years because of the global recession.
A decade later Kiri and Susan are level pegging in Stuff’s Who would win in a fight? poll. It is absolutely great for amateurs to suddenly be given a ready made live, television and on-line audience and maybe to even develop a new career of sorts. Good luck to them, but no one would seriously imagine that a democratic vote is an arbiter of musical standards.
Meanwhile, despite media reports to the contrary, Dame Kiri is not retiring. As the Radio Times interview demonstrated she’s neither the shy nor the retiring type and at age 66 she still has a lot to offer both via her own concert if not opera performances and via her work to nurture genuine new operatic talent.
It’s not time to say goodbye yet.
#Lyall Lukey 23 May 2010
Susan Boyle – Singer – Britains Got Talent 2009 93,102,839 views
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WdxRmcgsKDQ&feature=related Hayley Westenra and Andrea Bocelli 7,483,066 views
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fZ90HZ_TDxI Time to say goodbye Hayley Westenra, SmartNet 2000
https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/?s=Susan+Boyle 2009 blog post
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YngNR6y3URY Lift off spoke Zarathustra