supremo: after conquering her native New Zealand,
teenage singer Hayley Westenra became the UK's
fastest-selling debut classical artist
Saturday, July 10, 7.30pm
only 18, Hayley Westenra has been a music industry
star for three years already.
famous by a haunting and operatic version of Kate
Bush's Wuthering Heights, the New Zealander has been
showing off her big, swelling voice at prestigious
venues like the Sydney Opera House, the Albert Hall
and Wembley Arena ever since.
debut international album, Pure, went straight in
at number eight in the UK pop album charts and at
number one in classical charts, making her the fastest-selling
debut classical artist of all time, ahead of Charlotte
Church, Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli and Russell Watson.
album turned gold in the UK in one week and has now
hit double platinum, with sales in excess of £700,000.
week she was excited to be back home, where she provided
the pre-match entertainment at the All Blacks versus
British Lions rugby match in Wellington. Most of the
time she lives in Chiswick.
pretty used to it now," she says of London. "I
have been here for the last three years. I have spent
a lot of time in London. I'm very much at home here.
mum and my dad are going to join me on my Asian tour.
It can be very difficult. I'm on the phone to my family
every couple of days. I do have people I can hang
out with so I don't feel sorry for myself at all.
I'm really enjoying it.
thing is, this is where my work is and I do have to
be here. London makes the most sense."
a teenager, having so much independence and a high
income could equal disaster, but where other young
stars have faltered, Westenra has managed to consistently
keep her sobriety and elegance on the classical music
scene. She even gives the expected line on cue: that
she is too busy to have a boyfriend.
asked why she is not as ostentatious with her cash
as a certain Miss Charlotte Church, she shows her
sweet nature with a pretty convincing sincerity.
is because she made her money at 13. I made the money
at 15," Westenra says. "I'm not really the
sort of person who would go out and go crazy. And
I wouldn't imagine that she is like that either. But
I think being surrounded by Kiwis keeps me grounded."
she had no formal training in music, Westenra grew
up playing the violin and piano.
it was at the age of six, when she appeared in the
school Christmas play, that it became apparent her
voice was in another league.
story goes that she and her sister used to go out
busking in their home city of Christchurch. The pair
quickly drew an enthusiastic crowd. "A woman
asked us if we had recorded anything," she says.
young buskers' fan was a journalist with a local television
station and Hayley soon appeared on air. The appearance
attracted the attention of a New Zealand concert promotion
company, and a deal with Universal Music New Zealand
debut self-titled recording featured a mix of show
music and classical pieces. lt was a clever marketing
ploy, as she did not immediately restrict herself
to one type of music.
don't think there is any harm in popularizing classical
music," she explains positively. "You want
to make the music accessible. People can be snobby
about it really."
album made Hayley the fastest selling local artist
in New Zealand's history. This was soon followed by
the Christmas album My Gift To You.
Zealand opera legend Dame Malvina Major offered Hayley
lessons after hearing her sing. Speaking of the young
star's voice, she says: "It's absolutely musically
true. A lot of young singers have beautiful voices
but they have to be guided into that sort of clarity.
She has it naturally."
surprisingly, Westenra, whose new album, Odyssey,
comes out in September, has yet to meet her home country's
other major opera sensation, Kiri Te Kanawa. However,
that is not to say that she doesn't mix with world
counts the blind Italian tenor Andrea Bocceli as her
bought his album when I was 11 years old. I am a huge
fan," she enthuses. "He's actually dueting
on my album. It was quite surreal singing with him.
One minute I'm singing along to his album in my bedroom,
then I'm singing with him in front of a few thousand
the pop world, the Bedingfield siblings, Daniel and
Natasha, are another Kiwi success story. Westenra
knows both of them, and first met Natasha in the loos
at the Silver Clef awards in London last month.
a dress by a little-known Brick Lane designer, the
lithe 18-year-old turned heads at the ceremony. Westenra
always attends public events wearing clothes which
are stylish and elegant.
she says that deciding what to wear is not as effortless
as it looks.
always a major decision," she says in the manner
of any other 18-year-old girl. "I make a few
frantic phone calls to other performers going, What
are you wearing?' But it's always a struggle. If it's
a major event, they'll get a stylist. But that costs
me money. If it's for a photoshoot, the publication
pays for a stylist. But I like having control over
what I wear. It would be easy to get a stylist it
can be quite useful but it's hard to buy dresses I
like that represent me."
course, Westenra does have a lot of advisers who work
to keep her image in check. But as every teenager
knows, whether famous or not, the people who are always
there to support you are your parents.
important to have someone who knows what they're talking
about, who's on your side. I have got a great lawyer,
I have got a good manager and two fantastic parents.
They're great. As I'm getting older things are less
and less controlled by them. I still run everything
Hayley Westenra perform music from her new album and
some Maori songs at Kenwood on Saturday. Tickets are
from £18 to £26 (£16 to £23
concessions). Visit the web site www.picniconcerts.com
to book tickets, or call Ticketmaster on 0870 333