Monday, February 3, 2014

Taminophile Loves Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
Image ganked without compunction
from a site that lists no attribution
While there seemed to be some sort of popular entertainment the evening of Feb. 2, your intrepid reporter entertained himself with videos of the sublime Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. A major star of the 80s and 90s, when your Taminophile himself was an aspiring singer, Dame Kiri has now retired from the opera stage, continuing to sing concerts and devoting herself to educating young singers through her own foundation.

Her singing has always been meltingly beautiful. The following clips demonstrate that claim amply. Unfortunately, critics sometimes called her singing "merely beautiful." I hope the clips below will also show the fallacy of the common belief that she was cold and uninvolved on stage. While her style of performing differed greatly from that of performers like Maria Callas, I believe these clips show to her to be fully involved in her characters and in communicating with the audience.

This 2001 Monte Carlo performance of Vanessa (cond. Lawrence Foster) was a revelation. Here was the intelligent singer we knew, showing much more passion than expected. Likely because the character demanded it, and the director brought it out in her:

The morning after seeing a current great Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier at the Met a few years ago, I found myself watching various performances of the final trio. This is the only one that had me in tears. (With the great Tatiana Troyanos and equally great Judith Blegen, cond. James Levine, Metropolitan Opera, 1982)

I never knew Dama Kiri was such a charming Mimi. Si, mi chiamano Mimi, Victorian State Opera, Melbourne, 1989, cond. John Hopkins:

A 1978 La Boheme Act IV finale at Paris Opera with Placido Domingo as Rodolfo, Wilhelmina Fernandez (think of the movie Diva) as Musetta, Tom Krause as Marcello. Have tissues at the ready.

Otello, Act IV, at Covent Garden, 1983, under Sir Colin Davis:

The Ave Maria that follows it:

A 1988 Donna Elvira (Don Giovanni) at ROH under Sir Colin Davis (simply adore the hat!):

There's also a perfectly charming complete gala performance of Die Fledermaus at ROH on YouTube. (Look for the delightful Hinge & Bracket performing during the Act II party!)

And this quality 1980s era concert audio recording of E strano...Ah fors e lui...sempre libera (if I have to tell you what that's from, we need to re-evaluate our friendship), again from ROH, on YouTube.

1 comment:

John Yohalem said...

She had such a flawless voice and such a glorious presence when she first came on the scene (mid-70s?) that for a time she was scorned as merely a "stimm'" diva. But she very wisely kept to appropriate parts -- her great ones were the Countess, Donna Elvira, Fiordiligi, Amelia Grimaldi, Desdemona, Arabella, the Marschallin, the Gräfin. (Pamina was too young for her, though she was adorable in it.) Violetta was a mistake -- she did not have the dramatic technique and did not project the right vulnerability or pathos, though she was easily those things as Desdemona. She understood this immediately, completed the run with honor and never returned to it. A singer who projected the aristocratic. I never heard her as Mimi or Vanessa (alas). In recital she was clearly more of a voice than a storyteller or a poet/troubadour, but in things like Mozart concert arias (under Abbado!), she was sublime. And she was far from without acting chops (I've never seen a Violetta more convincingly dying) or vocal subtlety (I've never heard a more touching "Giusto ciel!" as during her duet with Ferrando in Cosi). Her beauty and aristocratic bearing may have worked against her -- she did not CLAIM sympathy, being too noble to wallow in despair. That's not a quality our generation(s) admire.