Review of Dunedin Youth Orchestra

Kiri Te Kanawa Dunedin Town Hall, 1 June

What shone in the evening’s recital was the rapport between Diva Dame Kiri and her favourite accompanist Professor Terence Dennis. While the first half of the concerts traversed the opera greats from Kiri’s magnificent career it also revealed a voice no longer at its best despite or because of a pesky cough. The technique remains. Dexterity of delivery, clear fluidity and high notes were still there but the clarity seemed lost or at best appeared spasmodically. Such is the lot of age. But at 70 years Kiri showed in the second half of the concert that lightness of heart, spontaneity and dramatic intuition are not lost. It was also in the second half that the empathetic relationship between accompanist and diva showed its true value. Where Kiri’s voice failed to reach the recorded glory of her signature Songs of the Auvergne, Dennis’ accompaniment in Romance excelled.

Special highlights of an exceptionally regained showcase of Kiri’s spectacular career include the charming Sole e Amore from Manon Lescaut, Granados’ La Maya y el Ruissenor, truly inspired interpretations of Poulenc’s Hotel and Les Chemins de L’Amour, and refreshingly lithe and sensitive interpretations of Danny Boy and Scarborough Fair. But the final piece in the programme capped the night. Heggie’s Final Monologue from Masterclass, which reflects and illuminates Kiri’s contemporary contribution to the future of her art, was at once a ruthlessly honest and wittily disarming collection of pointed platitudes between pupil and teacher. As a closing comment on her career it reveals that Kiri has not entirely lost her sense of humour to the hubris of celebrity. Encores included another telling signature. My friend Georgia who meets a messy end with gin in hand and E Hine E reveal a Diva comfortable on many stages and ultimately comfortable with herself.

Wonderful, Bravo

Marian Poole