in the New York Times.
A Dulcet Tenor's 'Popsical' Debut
By JON PARELES
Strolling the stage of Carnegie Hall on Saturday night with
a wireless microphone, Russell Watson was singing Verdi,
more or less. The aria was "Va, Pensiero" from
"Nabucco"; he was accompanied by the New York
Pops and the Juilliard Choral Union. As it began, Mr. Watson
sang in a breathy croon in English. Then he switched to
Italian and opened up his operatic tenor, turning himself
from George Michael to Ezio Pinza.
Watson, who was making his New York debut, is a 35-year-old
British singer with a boyish grin. His debut album, "The
Voice" (Decca/Universal), has lingered at No. 1 on
the charts among nominally classical releases. The music
ought to be called popsical: classical melodies with pop
trappings, sometimes in pop arrangements. Popsical's drippy
sweetness has been a financial boon for classical labels
that expect hardly anyone to enjoy a whole opera.
Voice, as it's billed, is actually three voices. One is
a gentle, slightly nasal croon, like Mr. Michael or Justin
Timberlake but with less rhythm-and-blues flexibility. Another
is the more muscular pop voice Mr. Watson uses in power
ballads like the theme to "Enterprise," the latest
"Star Trek" series. The clincher is the quasi-operatic
throb he applies to Italian pop songs like "Volare"
and opera showstoppers like Puccini's "Nessun Dorma"
and Leoncavallo's "Vesti La Giubba," complete
with tearful faces.
an overeager golfer, Mr. Watson has a good upswing - a big,
showy crescendo - without much follow-through; he cuts notes
off sharply or lets quieter phrases just peter out. Two
guests revealed Mr. Watson's shortcomings: Hayley Westenra,
with her pure choirgirl soprano, and Lea Salonga, projecting
natural pop emotion.
Watson has a wardrobe to rival 'N Sync. He changed clothes
seven times on Saturday, modeling a black-leather duster
and a series of shiny suits.
tenors have been pop heartthrobs at least since Caruso,
but they used to prove themselves as opera performers, singing
complete works unamplified. Mr. Watson doesn't show that
kind of stamina. He sang only two songs at a time, then
ducked offstage for costume changes while his vocal coach,
William Hayward, conducted metronomic overtures and interludes.
(Even Madonna gets through more songs in one stretch.) When
Mr. Watson did finally sing without amplification, his voice
was already fading out in the 12th row.
any opera repertory beyond the tuneful Italians. In a way,
he continues Britain's long fascination with Italy as an
outpost of unbridled feelings.
Watson seemed most at ease belting songs like "Volare"
and "Funiculì Funiculà," in which
he could smile, ham it up and not worry about nuances.
to Keith S. for sending in this story from tearaway.co.nz
for the purpose of discussion only - Not for re-publication
without prior permission
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