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‘Odyssey’ brings teen singer to Boston

By Robert Nesti

New Zealand teen Hayley Westenra burst onto the international music scene three years ago with “Pure,” a CD that placed in the Top 10 of both British classical and pop charts - and made her a sensation in Japan, where her version of “Amazing Grace” became a No. 1 single.

Now 18, the ethereal-voiced singer is back with a new CD, “Odyssey,” and the choice opening spot with crossover group Il Divo on a tour that comes to the Wang Theatre tonight.

Like this British quartet of singers (the brainchild of Simon Cowell of “American Idol”), Westenra fits neatly in this new music genre that merges classical styles with pop - and which has its roots in the concerts of the Three Tenors and tenor Andrea Bocelli.

It was, in fact, Bocelli who was a huge influence on Westenra when she first started singing in the streets in her hometown of Christchurch at age 11.

 “He introduced me to the idea that you can combine classical and pop,” the singer explained from New Zealand. “I used to sing a lot of his music and I never really thought too hard of the style I wanted to create for myself. I just sang songs I liked the sound of, and they fell into the classical-crossover genre.”

Comparisons to another crossover artist, Charlotte Church, are inevitable. But unlike that diva-ish British singer, Westenra is more likely to be found in her hotel room after a performance than socializing.

“I’ve missed out on a lot of partying, but I don’t really miss it,” she said. “I have no cravings for that lifestyle. I’m keen to being disciplined. The first few years of your career, when you are setting yourself up as an artist, you have to put your heart and soul into it.”

Nor is dating an option: “It’s hard when you’re traveling so much, and you’re not in one place for a decent amount of time. You meet someone, and you have to say, well, I’m off tomorrow to, say, Boston, and I won’t be back for six months. That kind of kills it.”

Hayley Westenra and Il Divo perform at the Wang Theatre tonight at 7:30. Tickets: $49.50-$75; www. wangcenter.org or 800-447-7400.

credits : news item advised by jon vosloo
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