Marian Poole, Piano Teacher and Music Critic.

Kiri Te Kanawa with the NZSO at the Dunedin Town Hall, 4 April 2007

Kiri drew a capacity audience to hear Mozart concert arias, Strauss Lieder and Mahler's 4th Symphony. While they gave her a standing ovation, it was the NZSO's brilliance which won the night.

After the orchestra's sharp, spirited Overture to quot;Marriage of Figaroquot; and an overwhelming welcome from the audience, Kiri took her own time to warm to the evening. Mozart's "Vado, ma dove?" was constrained and slightly husky. "Chi sa qual sia" revealed her technical virtuosity if not her performance generosity. "Nehmt meinen Danok, ihr holden Gonner!" revealed a warming voice perhaps through a more relaxed stage presence, but lacked the projection and characterization that could be expected of other opera virtuosi.

Strauss's song "Morgen" was beautifully sung and played with spine chilling delicacy and became one of the highlights of the evening. "Zueignung", with words about being grateful for all the ambiguities of devotion, was delivered at great speed, and, as if to belittle its sentiment, was over in an flash.

The NZSO gave Mahler's 4th Symphony perhaps the most inspired playing of the evening. It is a shame that the program notes dwelt excessively on the maudlin nature of Mahler's other works thereby misrepresenting this one. In the first and second movements, there sounds a village band, light footed and club-footed dancers, off-pitch strings, wonderful melodic lines, particularly for the oboe and an overall feeling of rustic warmth and happiness. The third movement "Ruhevoll", a handsome ballad which becomes majestic was again performed orchestra with spine chillingly brilliance. In the Fourth movement, a dead child sings of the joys of heaven, fresh vegetables, cavorting lambs and incomparable music. Here it was a pity not to have seen a more convincing portrayal of the child's message of hope and comfort from Kiri.

While it was wonderful to see and hear Kiri Te Kanawa live on our stage, her presentation was merely pleasant and ultimately somewhat underwhelming. The NZSO on the other hand, seemed to have reached a higher ground.