Her famous voice still in admirable shape, Kiri charms audience at the Broward Center

By David Fleshler

It may be difficult for many opera fans to accept the fact that Kiri Te Kanawa has just turned 66. The glamorous soprano, who performed Tuesday night at the Broward Center, was one of the top opera stars of the 1970s and 80s, and while she rarely sings opera today, her Fort Lauderdale recital showed that the deluxe voice that made her famous is largely intact.

Unlike, say, Pavarotti, who spent his last years singing greatest-hits concerts in soccer stadiums, Te Kanawa clearly isn’t interested in attempting to relive past glories. The program for her recital at the Broward Center contained no works by Mozart, Strauss or Puccini, no arias from the roles for which she was best known.

Instead she gave a lieder recital that — if weighted toward the light side — made intelligent use of her current vocal estate, not as a pale reflection of year past. She sang in French, German, Italian, Spanish and English, with the recital also including three rarely heard songs by Liszt

Although her voice isn’t what it was at its peak, it retains much of its effortless, gleaming power. In the aria PiangerĂ² la sorte mia, from Handel’s Julius Caesar, her singing of the word “piangerĂ², (“I shall lament,”) and the phrase that followed filled the hall with soft, luminous tones of sadness and loss. And Liszt’s Oh! Quand je dors, came off with a luxurious tone, as her voice brought out the darkly sensuous music.

She had trouble with the lower register, glossing over the rapid singing of Vivaldi’s Io son quel gelsomino from the opera Arsilda Regina di Ponto. A wobble showed up at the beginning of the recital, which diminished as the evening went on, though her wide vibrato sometimes sacrificed a more focused expression. Her intonation and technique, however, were virtually perfect.

English songs, including O Waly, Waly and Oliver Cromwell, both arranged by Benjamin Britten, displayed her excellent diction. Another highlight were the shepherd songs by the French composer Joseph Canteloube, where Te Kanawa was clearly enjoying herself, in works that ranged from piquant calls of a cuckoo to a wistful lament of a shepherdess waiting for a lover her never arrives.

Although Te Kanawa is not quite the superstar of a quarter-century ago, it was still surprising to see big blocks of empty seats at the Broward Center. But her fans were clearly in evidence, from the warm applause and bravos in the auditorium to the excited talk among audience members at intermission. She was ably accompanied on the piano by Brian Zeger.

As an encore, she gave the audience what it clearly wanted – judging from the applause that greeted the opening notes – with a meltingly beautiful performance of Puccini’s O mio babbino caro.

Posted in Performances, Uncategorized

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Wed Mar 10, 2010
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