trained singers happily crossing over
YORK - Jo Appleby studied opera for years, won coveted
roles in key operas and performed at some of the most
revered venues in classical music.
this year you'll hear her soprano on a semioperatic,
semicheesy version of Unchained Melody with four other
classically trained singers in the group Amici forever,
which bills itself as the "world's first opera
get to sing to a wider audience of people who perhaps
wouldn't hear you otherwise," Appleby says. "I
was happy in what I was doing, but this was just a
different path, an interesting path."
a path chosen by more and more acts with classical
backgrounds. This spring, 17-year-old Hayley Westenra,
whom some have called New Zealand's answer to former
classical cherub Charlotte Church, made her U.S. debut
with Pure, an album of opera, classic songs and airy
ballads with an operatic tilt. Verve Records, which
is primarily a jazz label, is readying the debut of
Joshua Payne, a hunky, high-powered tenor who's classically
trained, with a voice like the multiplatinum pipes
of Josh Groban.
singer Sissel, though not a classically trained performer,
has been touring the country showcasing her musical
mix of classical songs with a smooth, pop feel.
always done all different styles. I always did a little
bit of classical, a little bit of pop and a little
bit of folk," says Sissel, who works with the
London Symphony Orchestra on her latest album, My
have to do different styles. If I were to only do
classical music, it would be boring to me."
show tunes were Westenra's first inspiration, then
operas. She also worked with a choral group called
Canterbury Opera Youth and has received voice lessons
from opera singer Dame Malvina Major.
Pure, the fastest-selling classical debut in Britain's
history, is hardly a pure classical album. Westenra
even remakes the song Wuthering Heights from pop singer
are not so afraid to combine different styles in the
classical area. People are having fun exploring,"
says Westenra, whose album has sold more than 40,000
copies in the United States, stellar sales for a classical
think it kind of appeals to both," she says.
"They do like classical music but they do enjoy
listening to something lighter. It's kind of fun and
interesting, listening to such a mixture."
classical music into a pop-palatable project has boosted
record sales. Whereas a pure classical record is considered
a success if it sells a few thousand copies, classical
crossover records can sell upward of 100,000 albums,
and in Groban's case, in the millions.
23-year-old Groban, who trained vocally for classical
and pop, has been the genre's biggest success story
in years. He made his self-titled debut in 2002 and
sold more than 2 million albums; his latest disc,
Closer, is approaching 4 million.
main challenge on these last two albums is getting
everything that I like to do on the album, opening
my voice up in a classical way, finding music that's
eclectic and working with pop and rock music, but
still making it feel like a complete album from beginning
to end," Groban says.
didn't realize . . . what genre I was in until lots
of other artists were coming out doing the same thing,"
he says. "Classical crossover was not something
that I was even aware of when I was making this album."
not new. Church sold millions of records worldwide
after her 1999 debut, and opera tenor Andrea Bocelli
has reached the huge Oprah audience with his recordings.
Russell Watson, who was not trained as a classical
singer, also had big success with his classically
inspired debut in 2001.
really is kind of a broad spectrum from left to right.
You might have composers or musicians who really at
their core are classical people but are inspired by
popular artists," says Edward Bilous of the Juilliard
School of Music.
there are pop musicians who have dabbled in classical
music. Billy Joel released Fantasies & Delusions,
an album of his own classical compositions, and Elvis
Costello has recorded with soprano Anne Sofie Von
Otter and the Brodsky Quartet.
says classical crossover tends to appeal to an audience
tired of slick pop, but perhaps too intimidated by
"pure" classical music.
classical music does take a little bit more work to
get into than pop music . . . it's more complex,"
he says. "You have to spend time getting into
it. People nowadays are not interested in working
toward their artistic experience. What they're interested
in is being more entertained."
baritone Nick Garrett says entertainment is a major
component for his group, which features Appleby, soprano
Tsakane Valentine, tenor Geoff Sewell and another
baritone, David Habbin.
entertain; it's all about the singing. People who
like classical singing with a little bit of a pop
feel, they're the kind of people we're trying to entertain,"
he says. "It's not really about opera. It's more
about a classical style of singing, not a purely pop
Appleby bristles at the notion that her current work
is less taxing.
more demanding. I sing the same way as I've always
done. In some venues, we use microphones, but that
can be harder work," she says. "We're not
singing in a different way. The feel is different."