Media previews/reviews and fan reviews of Il Divo's concert in Washington DC (especially those mentioning Hayley!), should be posted in this thread, together with any follow-up comments.
Please stay on topic to this concert; off topic matters can be discussed in a more suitable thread or board. If something in here prompted it, you can either quote an extract from it in the new post, or easily add a clickable link back to here where it started.
Posts that start or drift seriously off topic may be edited or moved by the forum staff. Let's try to make it easy for people to follow what's happening on this important tour for Hayley.
As a role model for young girls, New Zealand's 18-year-old Hayley Westenra is setting a good example
Date published: 2/3/2006 By MICHAEL ZITZ
In an era in which parents decry foul-mouthed, drug-using, overtly sexual celebrities as role models for their children, Hayley Westenra stands out like a shining jewel in a barrel of rotten fruit.
Westenra, an 18-year-old singing sensation from New Zealand, is a throwback to a gentler, kinder, more refined era. But at the same time, the "popera" star is a normal teen to whom today's kids can relate.
Westenra, who opens for Il Divo tonight at 7 at Constitution Hall in Washington, is bright, personable and likable, in addition to being gifted.
Her career began at age 14, and she's already performed in front of the queen of England, President George Bush and British Prime Minister Tony Blair. She's one of the youngest artists to perform at Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, Royal Albert Hall and Wembley Arena. She is also one of the youngest ambassadors for UNICEF.
"It can be kind of overwhelming" for a teenager, she admitted.
Her debut album, "Pure," has sold 2 million copies around the world, and her sophomore release, "Odyssey," which came out in October, seems poised to do even better.
During a Wednesday telephone interview with The Free Lance-Star, Westenra said she knew she wanted to be a singer when she was 11 and heard Celine Dion singing "My Heart Will Go On" on the radio.
"She poured her heart and soul into that song," Westenra said.
She started getting involved in school musicals, and her gifts as a vocalist were immediately evident.
"I definitely had my heart set on singing, but I didn't know what form it would take--what style," she said.
She crosses genre lines, performing classical songs in a way that can move grown men to tears, and pop songs in a way that can connect emotionally with girls her own age.
The New York Times has said she has "the voice of an angel."
"Odyssey," on the Decca Records label, features a startling rendition of Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now," along with a duet, "Dell'amore non sis a," with classical icon Andrea Bocelli.
"I find singing really kind of completes me," she said. "I find it very fulfilling."
Few 18-year-olds could even imagine getting up on stage at Constitution Hall, but Westenra isn't that different from other girls her age, she said.
"My life is about trying new things and having fun," she said. "A mixture of things.
"Everyone finds singing uplifting--even if you don't have the greatest voice, you can still get a lot of pleasure from singing. It's a release--really an outlet for your emotions. You can channel a lot of energy through singing. You can reach out to people and hopefully bring them some pleasure. It's nice to know you can do that."
Growing up, she listened to pop music like any other teenager, but the first album she bought was by Bocelli.
A children's music group had exposed her to classical music.
"Classical music suited my voice," she said. "It's not that I disliked pop music. My voice just bloomed into it."
She also performs some Celtic music and folk music.
"I try to listen to as much music as I can," Westenra said. "And I choose songs to perform regardless of style. I choose them because they're great songs--for whatever reason. I'm big on melodies and lyrics I can relate to. I have to really connect with the lyrics to sell the song."
She said performing songs from different genres "really keeps me balanced. I love that variety, as long as you don't spread yourself too thinly. I get to take the audience on a real musical journey. And it keeps me on my toes."
She said American audiences are "a lot more vocal" than the "more reserved" audiences in Japan and Britain, and she enjoys that.
She said a lot of girls who are fans in New Zealand "have grown up with me and look up to me I think it's kind of nice that I can inspire them. I get a lot of letters from them."
There's been quite a debate going on about 'our Hayley' in the Il Divo forum over the last few hours! I decided not to join in it this time but I will repost extracts from all the ones posted (good and bad - warts and all !) to save you trawling through another HUGE Il Divo thread over there. Nothing awful has been said so I'm sure the "Divas" over there won't mind. Any inappropriate comments by members of this forum about any of the Il Divo fans will be edited out by forum staff.
"MARYELLEN: Posted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 2:10 pm
i should also poit out things that they might want to fix though. the girl who opened for them had a nice voice, but her band and presentation were just 'cheesy'. maybe they meant it that way...it increased their appeal when they finally appeared. they could lose the girl.
Jacqueline49: Posted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 8:14 pm
Regarding Hayley Westenra, have never seen her but know of her...I think she was quite an obscure act to choose as support for a group of this calibre, am quite perplexed by it actually.. there are so many others that would have been more suitable. And I really think having an orchestra behind the act can cause problems with the balance of sound, saw it so many times on Australian Idol..shame. Like putting 2 speakers close together and trying to sing over it, especially big band numbers. I have also noticed maybe one or two mentions about her performance on here, maybe this gig was too big for her and she feels the pressure to perform well, who knows. I will judge that for myself at the Sydney concerts. Very specific about the sound when I go to a concert, voices above the band always and great resonance...such as at Merida.
TwinDivas: Posted: Sat Feb 04, 2006 9:01 pm
From the DC TwinDiva: I totally disagree with the comment about bagging the opening singer, Hayley Westenra. She has a brilliant voice and is a lovely girl and rising musical star. She's young and not widely known yet, and this tour is a great way to give her exposure. I am sure she would not be touring with the group if they thought her talent or performance detracted from the show, and Il Divo are far too classy to purposely send her out to perform with one arm tied behind her back in order to make them look better. It's an "opening act" for us to get to know her and doesn't require or need the polish of more seasoned performers. Granted, she's not wholly animated and expressive, but give the girl a break -- it will come! Il Divo's set (stairway) took up most of the stage area which left little room for her and the band. There was a makeshift red curtain drawn around Il Divo's set so the audience couldn't see it ahead of time, and what was left of the stage had to accommodate the opening act. The microphone problems began during her performance but she didn't panic, she carried on. She tried to engage the audience a few times and was met with moderate enthusiasm, at best. She reminds me of songbirds Charlotte Church and Sarah Brightman. Hayley will come into her own very soon, and I, for one, was thrilled to see this delightful young woman on the Il Divo tour. She is refreshing and beautiful and unassuming... with a voice that transports you to wonderful imaginative places. This girl has an amazing voice. By all means, she's a keeper!
Brittles: Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 12:31 am
So we go and sit down a little while later Hayley Westenra comes out for her show. She did a pretty good job. I was hoping she would sing "Wuthering Heights" but she didn't. Bummer. Anyways she sang for about 35 mins and then they started getting the stage ready fo "The Boys"
little_queen_b: Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 2:21 am
I'm sorry Jacqueline, I too have never seen Hayley Westenra live, and i cant even say that i'm a huge fan....but I have to disagree with you on her being an 'obscure' act She is far from it....she's sold over 2 million albums worldwide, has the biggest selling NZ album of all time, she has won 2 Japanese grammy's and she has performed in front of presidents, prime ministers and royalty. She has duetted with Andrea Bocelli, José Carreras, Bryn Terfel and Russell Watson. and also found this on her site: • Hayley's debut international album PURE went straight in at No.8 in the UK pop album charts and No.1 in Classical Charts. Making her the fastest-selling debut classical artist of all time, ahead of Charlotte Church, Pavarotti, Bocelli and Russell Watson. The album turned GOLD in the UK in one week and has hit DOUBLE PLATINUM with sales in excess of 800K. so to say this gig was 'too big' I think is an insult to her.
gwen: Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 2:24 am
I thought that Hayley was a very good singer. She may not have the best stage presence it, it will come with expereince, but she was easy to listen too. A very sweet girl.
Jacqueline49: Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 2:43 am
I stand corrected bojana...I meant in Australia; if you don't move in certain musical areas you can't know of them. If I went to NZ and knew the music over there I would have had a different comment. I was merely trying to point out that obscure in the sense of me not hearing any of her music before, so how could I know how famous she was. I meant no offence and in no way meant it to be an insult either. For example, to give you an idea of how slow the PR is over here, I had never even heard of Il Divo until late last year..and I may have had the same thing to say about them had I not heard their music. In Australia they tend to push the local talent more...and the electronic media are a bit slow sometimes. I thank you for your comments.
little_queen_b: Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 2:47 am
no worries....oh and i'm in Oz as well!
Jacqueline49: Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:02 am
All boils down to musical taste and what you know, doesn't it bojana...I believe your PR is better down there. I watch alot of current affairs shows but I must have missed alot apparently for not knowing who she was...
spotsygirl: Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:03 am
If I might offer an opinion on Hayley... I think she's a very young girl with a gorgeous voice and I think she did well. Opening for IL DIVO will give her much needed experience...American audiences are tough and I think she did well..Now, having said that, I must also add (this is just my humble opinion and NOT a criticism so please ladies, don't rush to kill me here ....she had a very small area of the stage to work in so I think the area look cluttered a bit..she appeared nervous and didn't really interact with the audience like a seasoned performer would have. I think she had a huge disadvantage with the sound system and microphone problems but I think she handled that pretty well. She of course had no control over that but she certainly handled it much better than I would have I also think that we were all so excited to be seeing the boys' that no matter who would have opened for them would have been facing an uphill battle. We wanted our boys' and nobody but them would make us happy...and boy oh boy did they make us happy!!!
sweetlilybear: Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 3:22 am
Actually....i dont blame Hayley for being nervous.....she was fronting an audience composed of a high percentage of mad Il Divo fans who were fairly frothing at the mouth to see the boys come on stage.... No matter who was up first, it would have been a hard gig to face... I live in Sydney and I was well aware of Il Divo from early last year and i knew of Hayley as well....There was plenty of PR going on early last year when Il Divo showcased at Warringah Mall in March. I think all the mad Divo fans probably scared poor Hayley...(lol...and thats a tongue in cheek comment before all the humourless t/a's jump on me)."
So there you have it... so far!!! Personally, I find it fascinating to read the views of "neutrals" about Hayley and it's really nice to see Hayley defended by Il Divo fans when another has unduly criticized her. They're a nice bunch over there - if a little "overenthusiastic" in some cases!
Predictably, Il Divo is getting mixed newspaper reviews, insofar as the Boston Globe critic complimented their voices whilst the Washington Post critic, whose longstanding disdain for classical crossover knows no bounds, was scathing. Neither critic mentioned Hayley, which doesn't surprise me since openers are rarely acknowledged. That she wasn't actually announced prior to taking the small stage area left over for her probably didn't help matters. But given the terrible propensity for critics to pre-judge crossover music, maybe it's best she stay off their radar for now and let word-of-mouth do its thing. Clearly, she's enchanting a fair percentage of Il Divo divotees who, as we've seen, are quite articulate and fully capable of sharing their opinions across the globe.
Predictably, Il Divo is getting mixed newspaper reviews, insofar as the Boston Globe critic complimented their voices whilst the Washington Post critic, whose longstanding disdain for classical crossover knows no bounds, was scathing...
Hi Steve, thanks for that "heads-up" on the Il Divo reviews. I know it's arguably off topic for this board ((no mention of Hayley) but I think in this case there are good reasons for linking to them and quoting from them, too. I can't access the Boston Globe review but the Washington Post one is here and I'm going to quote it in full because... it is SO reminiscent of the anti-crossover rants that we sometimes see directed against Hayley.
It does look like Mr. Ginsberg is another of those hard bitten core-classical/opera critics who does not understand what Classical Crossover is all about. Even if a few people (not me) do agree with him about Il Divo, his total dismissal of them and their genre indicates to me that he is incapable of writing a fair and balanced review of anything in the classical crossover genre. It is interesting that the singer he was least scathing about was the American. Perhaps he (more likely his Editor) knew that he could not get away with this kind of ill thought out diatribe if directed in full force against one of his fellow Countrymen. We are fortunate that he did not turn his attention to Hayley...
However, his final comment: "Il Divo? Quattro formaggi [Four Cheeses]." did make me chuckle for a moment. But overall, that review was disgraceful.
"Music Il Divo: Simon Says Opera, but the Ear Says Awful
By Daniel Ginsberg Special to The Washington Post Sunday, February 5, 2006; Page D02
Il Divo, the vocal quartet whose new album, "Ancora," sailed to the top of the pop charts last week, says it sings popular songs in a classically inspired operatic manner.
The group's sold-out concert Friday at DAR Constitution Hall showed the group quick to hijack the accouterments of opera but possessing none of the tonal splendor and precision essential to the art. The concert was a schlocky, cloying and highly contrived display with an unvaried sound and stage act that could make any music lover turn away in embarrassment.
This collection of pretenders is the creation of the insulting "American Idol" judge Simon Cowell, an impresario whose previous credits include promoting WWF superstars and such insipid "reality" shows as the short-lived "Cupid." Seeing the success of proto-opera crossover singer Andrea Bocelli, Cowell schemed up the idea of gathering a bunch of handsome and youthful mini-Bocellis. To the blind Italian singer's lonely lovelorn stage persona, Il Divo puts on a "We are so suave, we just love you" act that unabashedly feeds cartoonlike and debasing national stereotypes.
The quartet played to the audience with blatantly choreographed smiles and backslaps. The American tenor David Miller came off as clean cut and earnest, while the French pop singer Sebastien Izambard slathered on his mysterious je ne sais quoi quality. Spanish baritone Carlos Marin, who seemed so in love with his deep voice that he would hug and caress it all day if he could, was the comely Mediterranean Man. And then there was good-looking, long-haired Swiss tenor Urs Buhler.
Besides the tuxedos, about the only things that called opera to mind were the fake-marble columns and stage, an attempt to evoke classical elegance and symmetry. A traditional orchestra off to one side of the stage struggled to be heard against the thwacks and warbles of the electric guitar and drum-laden band on the other side. Cowell's clangorous gang seemed to think that performing music in a romance language actually makes it more artful.
The quartet sang numbers like "All by Myself" and "Feelings" with amplification (an opera no-no), showing little breath support, vocal purity or character. In the mid-ranges, the singers' voices were grainy and lusterless and sounded merely loud at the upper reaches. Miller was the only one who at times even mustered a little golden tone. The musical scoring was monotonous, with each singer predictably taking a couple lines on his own before they all sang a grand climax at full throttle.
The swooning audience lapped up every minute of all this. Young and old alike swarmed the stage for autographs and handshakes in the closing sets, and one member of the audience threw purple thong underwear at the performers.
The concert highlighted the dangers of the whole idea of crossover music, the well-intentioned genre meant to bring listeners into the classical music realm and vice versa. After these two hours, a newcomer would still find an opera performance completely foreign. Il Divo took the substance of a rich, beautiful genre and turned it inside out, leaving you with a bitter aftertaste.
There are two more mentions of Hayley in the Il Divo Forum - Washington DC thread - both nice ones. From what's been written here and earlier, it seems that
- Hayley had microphone problems and dealt with them like a true professional (Il Divo had similar mic problems but they could share, of course)
- The concert hall was half empty when Hayley came on stage. This is a great pity, I hope people weren't allowed to wander in while Hayley was actually singing.
"Meltdown120: Posted: Sun Feb 05, 2006 4:13 am
I must say that I found some of the attendees a little annoying. Two men behind me made a couple rude comments about Hayley Westenra’s performance. I would have turned around and gave them a licking, but two middle aged men against one 16 year-old girl is not fair game. I thought Hayley did a fantastic job considering the many sound problems throughout her piece. Her voice was great, but various electronic equipment refused to cooperate. She still gave her all, and I felt that she was a very talented opening act
khrisllena: Sun Feb 05, 2006 5:14 pm
Well when Hayley came on the concert hall was still half empty and i knew that it was sold out cuz one of the stage crew guy told me. well anyway, i thought she was just amazing for someone who's not use to something like that. "
There is a very nice post by Allan on Hayley's official forum. I hope Allan won't mind if I quote it here.
My wife and I saw the concert in Washington on the 3rd. We went to see Il Divo, who, by the way, have an incredible mix of traditional operatic and popular songs We have been fans of Il Divo for a year or so. We have also seen the Ten Tenors, from Australia, and were impressed as well.
We were not expecting an opening act, however, we found Hayley's music stimulating and captivating and her voice incredible. In fact, I was so impressed that I came to this sight to see if I could let Hayley know how much we enjoyed her music. I will definitely be buying her Odyssey album, if not Pure as well. I was also surprised to see how much success Hayley has had in her native country as well as England and Japan.
Please tell her how much we enjoyed her in DC. Maybe some folks might try Il Divo again, or listen to the Ten Tenors, who have a great show, combining operatic and popular songs along with a reparté making their show extremely entertaining.
Mr Ginsberg of the Washington Post acknowledges that Il Divo's new album, "Ancora," sailed to the top of the pop charts last week.
I guess that acknowledgment will enable the writer to subsequently pretend that his review was well balanced. It is really a huge contradiction of the remainder of his review. I can only conclude that, in making it, he shot himself in the journalistic foot with which the remainder of his anti-crossover diatribe was, presumably, written.
Freedom of speech is one thing. Blatant condemnation of a vocal quartet with the immense following that Il Divo enjoy, simply based of the writer's insular musical tastes, is quite another.
He further acknowledged that "The swooning audience lapped up every minute of all this. Young and old alike swarmed the stage for autographs and handshakes in the closing sets....." I suspect this audience reaction was not atypical of others that we shall see around the world. That is an estimated total in excess of a quarter of a million people - all of whom, according to My Ginsberg, have got it wrong.
It occurs to me that it could just be the other way round.
Hmmm steve. Did they buy their equipment from Walmart??
No, Walmart's would've been much better.
I just glanced at the latest reports on Il Divo's forum re the Toronto gig and, you guessed it, the sound was defective there too. I think one of the singers' (Carlos?) mic cut out in the middle of a song or something.
Maybe the ghosts of opera-past are vehemently opposed to the use of mics and are supernaturally sabotaging the tour!