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Westenra makes Hay
The world's most successful female "popera" singer, Hayley Westenra, is in Newcastle next month. Entertainment Editor Gordon Barr spoke to her.

In the week when three male "popera" acts are in the UK album top 10, it's worth noting a female giving them a run for their money.

New Zealander Hayley Westenra may only be 18 years old but she already has two top-selling albums under her belt.

Four years ago, at just 14, she supported Russell Watson when he played Newcastle's Arena. On April 4 she's back at the venue, this time as support to dreamy quartet Il Divo.

On the back of the tour, she releases a special edition of her second album Odyssey, featuring three new tracks, on April 10. Both the original, and her debut, Pure, have been million-sellers.

It is set to make a second dent in the album charts where this week Andrea Bocelli, Russell Watson and Vittori Grigolo are all in the top 10.

Amazingly non-diva-like given her success at such a young age, Hayley is taking it all in her stride. "Thanks to Il Divo, all the shows are sold out, some really huge crowds," she smiles.

"I've had such a blast so far."

Having worked with the likes of Watson, Bocelli and Jose Carreras, you could forgive the teenager if she was somewhat full of herself - but she isn't.

"It's just a matter of staying in touch with your people back home, your roots really. I call my family at least every two days and talk to them for at least an hour. That grounds me every time," she said.

"If the people working for you or with you are pampering you or kissing your feet of whatever, you get in trouble."

But what of working with the world's biggest operatic males?

"Initially I'm star-struck, like when I got invited to perform with Andrea on his New Zealand-Australian tour - which probably would have to be one of the highlights of my life," she says.

"Even now I am still in awe of his voice and his presence. As soon as I start singing with him, though, we are immediately equals. I'm just focusing on my performance and we're just working as a team, really. You just have to believe in yourself, in terms of basically you deserve to be up there alongside them.

"How did I get here? It stills goes through my mind occasionally.

"I'd love to perform with the Three Tenors (Pavarotti, Carreras, Domingo), all three of them at once. I don't think they have reunited for a while. The thought of performing with them would be amazing."

Following up the huge success of Pure with the equally successful Odyssey was no mean feat for the singer.

"I just had to make sure I was really making an album for myself, one I would be happy with at the end of the day.

"I'm sure I really achieved that and I found some fantastic songs for the album and that was my main concern - finding songs that would stand the test of time, that I really connected with, most importantly, and lyrically especially.

"After my album Pure, I guess others thought, because of my age, all I wanted to sing about was fairies and dolphins. It was a mission finding songs with lyrics that had substance that I gelled with and felt that I could really express something with."

Being a successful singer around the world at 18 does have its drawbacks, though. Whereas most teenagers are out partying all the time, Hayley needs to take extra care of herself.

"I only get back home to New Zealand about once a year for about a month. Even then it's hard catching up with friends again because they are split across the country and there is so much catching up to do with family and there is always work to be done," she says.

"At this point in my life I'm pretty kind of career-focused, I think you have to be. I can't really afford to take huge chunks of time out of my schedule just to party. I don't feel completely deprived."

Source: IcTeeside
Credits : Allen (aka Alien)
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