Originally published Thursday April 14th, 2004

At 17, a modest success


Kiwi soprano Hayley Westenra is an international star.


Hayley Westenra hasn't bared an inch of skin to become a chart-topping teen singer.
"I'm not into clothes that are too revealing," says the modest 17-year-old soprano, whose pop-tinged album "Pure" made classical charts this week.

"A little skin is okay as long as it's tastefully done, but I wouldn't really be into the whole Britney thing.

"I don't have any desire to go down that road just yet. I'm quite happy with my image."

Westenra, who's prone to lilting laughter as she speaks in a rapid New Zealand twang, has built a career on her voice, not her body.

A teacher discovered her perfect pitch when Westenra was 6 years old and singing in a school play. Piano, violin and recorder lessons followed, as did performances in musical theater and "busking" on the streets of her hometown of Christchurch with younger sister Sophie.

The coins earned from the sidewalk hustle helped pay for a self-recorded demo at age 12, which led to an album at 14 and a Christmas CD soon after.

"Pure" is her third album and first international release.

Like Josh Groban and Charlotte Church - more classic than classical - Westenra's sweet, soaring melodies include a mix of pop-styled arias and folk; she also does a cover of Kate Bush's hit "Wuthering Heights."

The album has already sat atop New Zealand's chart for 18 weeks (the longest ever by a local performer), and has reached No. 1 in the U.K.

"I've had experiences where I've gone to parties and people are like, 'Oh, you're that classical singer? Wow, I thought you'd be really stuck up,' " says Westenra, who's finishing her last year of high school with a tutor.

In fact, she's down to earth. The singer has a $4.5 million record deal with the Decca Music Group, but she isn't hitting the Prada racks. Instead, she's using the money to support her family, because her father, a gemologist, has had to interrupt his career to travel with her.

She seems somewhat shocked by herself if she splurges on a pair of designer denims. "Before, I would be like, 'No way. I don't need them. I can get jeans for a lot cheaper,' " she says.

"But now it's like, 'Ohhhhhh, I can get one pair.' Then I think of the price - it's like …whoa."

Westenra will make New York her home for the next few months. She'll be busy recording a song for the DVD "Mulan 2," practicing for a PBS "Great Performances" special and a doing a guest spot on NBC's "American Dreams."

"I miss being at home with my friends and having the routine," says Westenra, who also admits that being on the road leaves her no time for dating.

"I just hope I can make it back in time for my school ball this fall."

View Source

Scan from New York Daily News, Entertainment Section

Web article located by the Jon Voslo
Scan thanks to Steve MacDonald

All contents © 2004 Daily News, L.P.


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