Monday, October 04, 2004

The Dame complains:
Kiri Te Kanawa in San Francisco

During her recital tonight at Davies Hall, Kiri Te Kanawa
told the crowd that "you don't make a Dame of the British
Empire wait in line for three hours." But that's exactly
what they did to her at the American Consulate in London,
as she cued up with everybody else waiting outside on
Grosvernor Square while applying for a visa, said Kiri.

After landing in U.S. soil, she said that being an
exotic Maori, between various connecting flights she
was searched 8 times, had her baggage trashed at X-ray
scanners, and was finger printed three times.

"They asked for my index finger," she said, "but I gave
them an impression of that other finger." The audience
applauded in sympathy. She found the experience so
aggravating that she said she wouldn't be doing an U.S.
recital tour any time soon. So to her American fans, her
current tour is a temporary farewell to the 60-year old
diva, one of the 80's greatest opera stars.

Other than visa requirements, it might be wise also for
Kiri to stay home for a while, judging by the condition
of her voice. Te Kanawa still has a very polished and
classy stage presence, but the voice I heard last night
was in a bit of technical disrepair, most serious being
the wobbly intonation problems that appear when she
applies volume to the tone.

For sure, there were some nice moments to be had
through the course of the evening, but her first selection,
Cleopatra's "Piangero, la sorte mia," was perhaps the
most ill-advised. Both the recit and aria were rendered
in an excessively mannered way, with "ma poi morta,"
the bravura middle section, completely lacking in properly
articulated coloratura.

She did better with the Strauss songs, but even those
were a shadow of her former glory, as compared to the
excellent recording of these included in that Four Last
Songs CD with Andrew Davis. I had high hopes for her
three songs from Les Nuits d'ete. But there too, she
disappointed. The climactic, ecstatic declamation of
"J'arrive du paradis, j'arrive..." in 'Le spectre de la rose"
came out rather dry toned.

Dame Kiri's only uncompromised pieces in the program
were the two Wolf-Ferrari miniatures, Rispetti nos. 1 and 3.
She ended the program with two Puccini songs, "Morire"
and "Sole e amore," which carried recognizable tunes from
Boheme and Butterfly. Her two encores were a Maori song,
and Chi bel sogno di Doretta.


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