|Le Nozze di Figaro|
|Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart|
|Le Nozze di Figaro Synopsis|
|Le Nozze di Figaro Libretto|
|Previous scene:||Non piu andrai|
|Next scene:||Vieni cara Susanna|
Kiri Te Kanawa, Soprano (*1944)
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: LE NOZZE DI FIGARO
Cavatina (Lamento): "Porgi amor, qualche ristoro..."
Conducted by André Previn
My personal opinion: Singer and author Heinrich Mannstein (1806-1872) wrote in "The great Italian school of singing" (1848), most important for a singer is the "beauty of sound"; a simple rule that we should consider naturally in relation to other requirements. The sound alone is not enough, also a less beautiful voice can sing expressive. It is well-known that Verdi wanted for Lady MacBeth "a harsh, stifled and hollow voice" (described so in a 1848 letter to his librettist Cammarano), and he rejected soprano Eugenia Tadolini to sing the sinister Lady. He wrote: "Tadolini sings to perfection, and I would like the Lady not to sing this way. Tadolini has an angelic quality, I would like the Lady's voice to be diabolical". Conclusion: What good is an angelic voice, if the expression is pale?
This suggests we should be suspicious every time the talk is of a "beautiful voice". It's a predicate too often used for sopranos like Renée Fleming or Kiri Te Kanawa. It's symptomatic for our modern time to get uncritically by using comfortable superlatives such as "Best Ever" or "The Ultimate". These slogans are as meaningless as advertising promises which exuberantly announce the greatness of tenors like Andrea Bocelli or Paul Potts.
Also the biography "Kiri Te Kanawa: Her Unsung Story" by Jenkins and d'Antal mainly deals with the "glamour", the "exoticism" and "dramatic life story" of "this well-loved personality". Although a typical product from the ranks of the yellow press, the authors also do not conceal some unpleasant aspects in the career of Dame Kiri, for instance the disastrous MANON LESCAUT under Sinopoli at Covent Garden. Between the lines we can find the sobering fact that there is not much to tell about the importance of Kiri Te Kanawa in the world of opera. The "creamy smooth tone" of her voice was praised at all times - but it was also the weakpoint of the New Zealand born soprano, namely because many critics have not heard much more than a "creamy tone". Andrew Porter complained about "the distinctive passivity of Dame Kiri's singing", and Alan Blythe used the most naughty word of praise one can imagine - the word "nice"...
Kiri Te Kanawa, who retired some years ago, was a typical modern diva, exposed on countless magazine covers in glamorous designer gowns - just as the ladies Fleming, Gheorghiu and Netrebko. And always we could read the word "beauty". Even "The New York Times" headlined: "For Dame Kiri, the beauty is the voice itself", written at the time when also Renée Fleming was launched as "The Beautiful Voice". The sopranos became celebrities of the "Opera High Society" - persons, who are "known for their well-knownness" (D. J. Boorstin).
Indeed, Kiri Te Kanawa's singing many times was intoxicatingly beautiful, her voice a "rich, dark tinted lyric soprano with a luminous brilliant upper register", decided a German critic - and almost we are close to assume, this beautiful singing is near to perfection, especially in Mozart. Not without reasons the Countess in LE NOZZE DI FIGARO was one of her most acclaimed roles. But then we hear Dame Kiri in Strauss, in Puccini and Verdi; hear her in Canteloube's CHANTS D'AUVERGNE and with songs by Liszt, Ravel and Obradors; with cantatas of Bach and Handel; also with popular evergreens by Gershwin, Kern and Porter - and in Bernstein's recording of his own WEST SIDE STORY. Somehow the result is always the same: An uniformity and monotony. She sings the sentence "In dämmrigen Grüften" from the first of Strauss' FOUR LAST SONGS with the same treatment of words as she does in Berlioz' "Villanelle" from LES NUITS D'ÉTÉ or in the dramatic farewell song "Le manoir de Rosemonde" by Duparc. In all this the difference of expression is minimal, if it exists at all. The German vocal pedagogue Franziska Martienssen Lohman wrote in her instructive book "Der wissende Sänger" that the art song is the high school of expression. In the "nice" sounding vocals of Kiri te Kanawa we almost never experience an accentuated expression with shape and contrasts. She delights our ears with many of her recordings, but after playing not much left in our memory. Maybe it's idle again to mention once more Maria Callas, but she truly had the ability to illuminate the sense of a word only with the coloring of her voice. Without doubt the clarity of Kiri Te Kanawa's singing was of velvety beauty, but hardly we can call it "effective" or "characterful", descriptions used by the Australian critic Charles Osborne with respect to Callas.
Porgi, amor, qualche ristoro
al mio duolo, a' miei sospir.
O mi rendi il mio tesoro,
o mi lascia almen morir.
O love, bring some relief
To my sorrow, to my sighs;
O give me back my loved one
Or in mercy let me die.