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Classical Notes

Classical Notes: February 25, 2008 Archive

"Popera" Backlash

Posted at 3:06 PM on February 25, 2008 by Gillian Martin (25 Comments)

In a recent article in The Telegraph, Dame Kiri te Kanawa minced no words on the subject of "popera" singers--those opera-lite crossover artists like Hayley Westenra who sell millions of CDs.

"They are all fake singers, they sing with microphones," she said. About Hayley Westenra in particular, a fellow New Zealander, Dame Kiri said, "Have you heard Hayley? She's not in my world. She has never been in it at all."

A blogger named Steve Huff succinctly explains the different worlds Dame Kiri is talking about:

What bothers me most of the time is that opera is a visceral experience; a lot of what passes for "popera" lacks that gut-punch. If you don't think opera-singing requires figurative cojones, let's see how well you would do cloaked in 30-40 pounds of costume, three layers of makeup and a very uncomfortable wig, navigating a tilted or turning stage under shifting lights for the better part of three hours while still singing page upon page of music in a language other than your native tongue, at a volume that would normally be reserved for great anger or cheering at a ball game.

To hear the difference, check these videos of Dame Kiri and Hayley Westenra singing the same aria. (And don't let Dame Kiri's dress influence your decision.)

I agree with Dame Kiri and Steve Huff--but the fact remains that many people prefer the sound of popera, and those people may not be interested in seeing an actual opera.

What do you think?

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