"Popera" Backlash

In a recent article in The Telegraph, Dame Kiri te Kanawa minced no words on the subject of “popera” singers–those opera-lite crossover artists like Hayley Westenra who sell millions of CDs.

“They are all fake singers, they sing with microphones,” she said. About Hayley Westenra in particular, a fellow New Zealander, Dame Kiri said, “Have you heard Hayley? She’s not in my world. She has never been in it at all.”

A blogger named Steve Huff succinctly explains the different worlds Dame Kiri is talking about:

What bothers me most of the time is that opera is a visceral experience; a lot of what passes for “popera” lacks that gut-punch. If you don’t think opera-singing requires figurative cojones, let’s see how well you would do cloaked in 30-40 pounds of costume, three layers of makeup and a very uncomfortable wig, navigating a tilted or turning stage under shifting lights for the better part of three hours while still singing page upon page of music in a language other than your native tongue, at a volume that would normally be reserved for great anger or cheering at a ball game.

To hear the difference, check these videos of Dame Kiri and Hayley Westenra singing the same aria. (And don’t let Dame Kiri’s dress influence your decision.)

I agree with Dame Kiri and Steve Huff–but the fact remains that many people prefer the sound of popera, and those people may not be interested in seeing an actual opera.

What do you think?