A paranoid notion that classical music is for
posh middle-aged white folks only and the attendant
idea that it has to be sexed up before ordinary
people can appreciate it.
A diminution of our attention spans; we just want
big tunes, and couldn't care less about the finer
The transformation of natural sound into mere fodder
for a recording technology that can make voices
do what they couldn't possibly do live.
result is mayhem. Crossover once took place on a
peaceful side-road. Now it swirls round a vast Spaghetti
Junction. There are no traffic lights, and a shocking
number of fatal pile-ups
Tenors... and sons
part of the 1990 World Cup jamboree, three top operatic
tenors Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and
José Carreras joined forces for a programme of
operatic chestnuts, Neapolitan tra-la, show tunes
and pop standards which captured the imagination
of male footie fans as well as the female market
for lovable crooners. The recording sold in its
tens of millions, and excited the music business
as to the further possibilities of this sort of
crossover. Since then, the spin-offs have included
the Irish Tenors, the Celtic Tenors, and most recently
the Two Tenors' Duetto, unveiled in Italy this summer
by Sony, featuring the young voices of Salvatore
Licitra and Marcelo Alvarez in a programme of staggering
vulgarity and mediocrity. The album thankfully has
not yet been released in this country.
original Three Tenors still turn out for the occasional
gig - they were in Bath last month marking the re-opening
of the spa. But their throats are tired now, and
those once-great voices have turned hard and wobbly.
biggest seller of them all, clocking up an estimated
45 million album sales worldwide. An Italian tenor
in the Mario Lanza mould, who sings everything in
the same heavy-handed sentimental style. Ambitious
for acceptance by the classical establishment, and
has attempted the occasional unmiked live opera
performance witnesses remarked how little stamina
he possessed. There's a voice there, sure, but no
artistry. A victim of glaucoma, Bocelli has been
blind since the age of 12.
real thing. Son of a Welsh sheep farmer, who looks
like a cross between Meat Loaf and the Hulk, but
whose magnificent natural bass-baritone and likeable
personality make him potentially the world's biggest
male opera star since Pavarotti. Sings regularly
at Covent Garden and the Met, excelling in Mozart
and Wagner, but can also croon Danny Boy and the
Titanic theme-song or duet alongside Shirley Bassey
or Catatonia without inducing cringe. His new crossover
album Bryn (Deutsche Grammophon) will be released
next month, with a BBC1 documentary on his life
scheduled for November.
cheeky chappie from Salford, above, formerly a lathe
operator, whose break from working men's clubs came
when he cheer-led a Manchester United v Spurs match
with the ultimate crossover anthem "Nessun dorma".
Over a pint at the Dog and Duck, he might sound
good; the astonishing, and depressing, thing is
that he seems to be appreciated anywhere else. A
recent television documentary showed fame getting
to him, and the tabloids screamed love-rat after
his marriage bust-up. Big in America, where he competes
in a similar repertory with Josh Groban,- a name
as yet unknown in the UK and Europe. Russell dreams
of breaking into Hollywood. Dream on.
determined soubrette soprano who realised that,
despite mooning the audience in English National
Opera's production of Die Fledermaus, she wasn't
likely to develop a front-rank opera career. Instead
she reinvented herself as "the diva from Doncaster",
a perky down-to-earth Northern lass who could belt
her way through Classic FM hits alongside show tunes
and a bit of anodyne pop. Soon became a big television
name and won a devoted following in twilight homes.
Has made a bomb in the UK, but failed to crack the
European or US market.
1998 a cute and confident 12-year-old girl from
Cardiff signed a £100,000 contract with Sony, announcing
that her ambition was "to sing Madame Butterfly
at La Scala and get a standing ovation". Just look
at Charlotte Church now a superstar on the strength
of her first two albums, who confesses to losing
interest in opera and is attempting to break into
the cooler realms of rock and hip-hop. Fell out
with her manager, quarrelled with her mother over
her unsuitable DJ boyfriend and set the lads' mags
drooling over her Kylie-ish teenage curves.
and smart-talking she made a creditable showing
on Have I Got News for You? she remains liable
to terrible lapses of taste, such as wearing a T-shirt
emblazoned with the legend "Barbie is a crack whore".
Church has just won a court case allowing her to
cash in her £16 million-odd fortune on her 18th
the amps and the reverb, her soprano emerges as
a deeply ordinary instrument as a child star,
Julie Andrews was 10 times more vocally accomplished
and she could no more sing Madame Butterfly than
she could fly. But these days that probably doesn't
matter: her problem is losing the middle-aged crossover
market without establishing any credibility with
teenagers, who think her appallingly naff.
film debut I'll Be There sank without trace, and
sales for her recent American tour were disappointing.
Could the public be losing interest?
checkout lady Jane Gilchrist was a pillar of the
Weston-super-Mare G&S Society. Denise Leigh,
registered blind, sang with brass bands and church
choirs. Until they won the Channel 4 talent show
Operatunity earlier this year and each got the chance
to perform a scene from Rigoletto at the London
Coliseum. Now they're thinking big. EMI will bring
out their joint album in October, and there will
be a documentary on Channel 4 at Christmas. Can
their sweet, small sopranos hack it in the professional
musical world? Or will they be two more of television's
have invested £6 million in this, the world's first
opera band, made up of three guys and two girls
who look as though they should be fronting Blue
Peter. After several appearances at sporting events,
their first album, Amici Forever (BMG), is released
on Monday. The press release claims that Amici are
"set to take audiences around the world by storm
with their spine-chilling performances". Indeed.
of the band, Nicholas Garrett, is a former member
of the Swingle Singers and the band can do the close
harmony thing quite nicely. But why can't they just
sing the music straight, without the wall-of-sound
Amici's arrangements of Mozart's trio "Soave sia
il vento" and Elgar's Nimrod variation register
as severely toxic on all known scales of ear-pollution.
are several ickle-girly songbirds around, but this
16-year-old New Zealander stands out. Much sweeter,
firmer voice and more solid musical ability than
Charlotte Church. Turned down an offer to sing at
the Beckhams' World Cup party. Recently appointed
youngest ever Unicef ambassador. Appears in forthcoming
film of Lloyd Webber's The Phantom of the Opera.
Currently on tour with Aled Jones. Her new album
Pure has shot straight to the top of the classical
charts, and is at No 8 in the pop charts.
pretty girls, Rebecca Knight and Karen England,
spotted while busking outside the Royal Opera House
and signed up by Sony. Specialise in heavenly carolling
of tunes used in the ads for British Airways, Cadbury's
Flake and Supersoft toilet tissue. High spot of
their career to date: a duet version of Madama Butterfly's
"Un bel di" which served as ITV's World Cup 2002
theme tune. Charlotte Church must have been spitting.
So must Renata Scotto (HMV Classics, conducted by
Sony has dropped them now a decision "based on
concern about projecting the act into an international
market". Currently appearing in a touring production
of The Mikado a bit of a comedown, one would have
thought, from the guest sofa on Richard and Judy.
Or perhaps not.
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