Kiri Te Kanawa in Recital

Dunedin Town Hall, Dunedin

16/10/2010 - 16/10/2010

Otago Festival of the Arts 2010

Production Details

On the final Saturday of the Festival Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will present her first ever solo recital in Dunedin. This is truly a one-off opportunity for Otago audiences to experience first hand the beauty, power and majesty of New Zealand’s most famous opera diva.

Dame Kiri’s long and dazzling international career, which has spanned decades, really took off in 1965 when she won the Mobil Song Quest in Dunedin. This year the British Recording Industry honoured her with the Classical Life Time Achievement “Brit” award. 

Dame Kiri continues to fill concert halls to more than capacity around the world and the Festival is delighted that she has included Dunedin on her international circuit, which this year includes America, Finland, many parts of the UK, Germany and Spain.

Without the distraction of a full symphony orchestra Otago audiences will be able to enjoy the intimacy of this wonderful voice. Dame Kiri will be performing with her preferred piano accompanist – Dunedin’s Terence Dennis. She says, “Terence is world class – I acknowledge and admire his advice, and his musical integrity is second to none. We work together with great satisfaction.”

Dame Kiri’s Recital repertoire will include Mozart, Strauss, Gustavino and Puccini.

This concert will be a unique event.

Dunedin Town Hall
Saturday 16 October
8pkm | 2 hours 


Enters the spirit of any song

Review by Helen Watson White 17th Oct 2010

The final night of the Otago Festival of the Arts at a packed Town Hall was as festive as the Last Night of the Proms, but with an appropriate measure of dignity. The Town Hall itself might be judged one of the stars of the Festival, as the jewel in the crown of Dunedin’s musical life, praised for its acoustic by artists from all over the world. And it was rocked by these two.

Just the diva and her pianist — but not just any pianist: Professor Terence Dennis, for many years an inspired and inspiring teacher in the University’s Department of Music, is highly regarded in the international music community, both as an accompanist and as a pianist in his own right. He serves on the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation which, along with the Academia Solti-Te Kanawa in Italy, trains emerging opera singers.

Several highly talented singers have been mentored by Dennis and their voice teachers in the Otago Department – and sung in the Town Hall themselves – on their way to careers in the UK and Europe. Once there, Dame Kiri has given them invaluable personal as well as professional support.

The Town Hall holds memories for both these performers: for Dennis, of his many partnerships with resident professionals and distinguished visiting artists, and for Dame Kiri, of her winning the Mobil Song Quest in 1965 (with local mezzo Patricia Payne a close runner-up), and of a concert in 1970 before the royal family, with the NZSO and a 250-voice choir. 

Tonight it was just these two, but what a partnership! The recital and concert genres, which demand a high degree of collaboration between soloist and accompanist, are now favoured by Te Kanawa after decades of mainly opera performance. She is still famous for her opera roles, however, this year appearing for perhaps the last time as the Marschallin in a German Der Rosenkavalier, and giving a comedic cameo in Daughter of the Regiment at the Metropolitan Opera in New York.

The intimacy of the recital genre was remarkably retained even in this cavernous venue, the darkened auditorium focussing all our attention on the two artists – and a rather fine piano – on stage. Their rapport is obvious, a constant wordless communication passing between them, the whole experience marked by courtesy and reciprocity, and charged with the significance of long experience in their two related fields.

It’s always the case that the most professional performers make it all seem easy. There was a lightness about the programme that was not in the content of the songs – for the death of the king’s heir in the very first piece, from Scarlatti’s oratorio King Zedekiah, was seriously sad. Of course the song’s subject determined the tone; but the over-all lightness was in the way they both handled the music, as if it was the most precious thing on earth.

That said, Te Kanawa is famous for her fairy-tale lightness, exquisitely shown in the Vivaldi piece from his opera Arsilda, where a princess says/sings she would be just as happy as a jasmine flower. Although her stately grey-gold gown was suitable to the sober introductory lament and to Cleopatra’s moving reflection from Handel’s Julius Caesar, its shot silver sparkled with the diamonds at her cuffs and wrists whenever she was animated, which was thereafter quite often, in a teasing and a reverent piece by Liszt, based on lyrics of Victor Hugo, and in Richard Strauss’s ‘Morgen’ (Morning) and two lovely flower songs. 

The second half began with four of the ravishing ‘Songs of the Auvergne’, traditional melodies arranged by Canteloube, which featured on the diva’s chart-topping recording I hear played often – and never tire of – on the Concert Programme. Another signature Te Kanawa piece is the wordless ‘Vocalise’ of Sergei Rachmaninoff, which she sang at the Covent Garden Opera tribute on the centenary of Tchaikovsky’s death in 1993.

Less familiar to me were four works by two different Argentinian composers that ended the formal programme: three scintillating flower songs by Guastavino and a magical story of a ‘forgetting tree’ by Ginastera, in which the gestures of the romantic lyrics in the first gave way to real dancing, flirtatious and funny, in the second.

That wasn’t the end of the evening, of course, with four encores sung after, in relaxed celebratory mood. Only one of them was shamelessly sentimental; the many instances of irony and self-deprecation in the whole performance made me realize Kiri can sing what she likes, you can give her that, she’s earned the right to choose after this long in the business. Mostly I was captivated by the completeness in which she entered into the spirit of the song – any song. 

The high point of this gorgeous evening was, for many, not the dizzied heights, where Dennis echoed the flourishing, flowering voice with joyful, sometimes delicate and sometimes florid pianism, but the weighty philosophical piece that ended the first half. It was the final monologue – in English – from Terence McNally’s 1995 play Masterclass, set to music 12 years later by American composer Jake Heggie. It puts the mature opera singer in her place – “The sun will not fall down from the sky if there are no more Traviatas” – but advised aspirant singers to “sing properly and honestly”: “If you do this, I will feel repaid.” 
For more production details, click on the title above. Go to Home page to see other Reviews, recent Comments and Forum postings (under Chat Back), and News. 


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