Practice with the Budapest Concert Orchestra had gone well, and Dame Kiri was looking forward to opening the Beiteddine festival on Saturday. Large-scale outdoor concerts, she said, are an important way to attract a wider audience to classical music.
“This is a concert, not opera. It’s an event; it’s where you are. Beiteddine is surrounded by mountains, under a beautiful sky. At our open-air concerts, we’ve found that people are more casual. They bring their children and a picnic.”
It’s 29 years since Dame Kiri made her Covent Garden debut as Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. Since then, she’s managed to please a large public and the critics, too.
“I listen to Wagner at home on record,” she said, “but for me, live, it’s far too long.
“I want to play golf and tennis and go fishing. Five hours live is too much.”
Dame Kiri will not, it seems, be singing any of the Maori songs from her native New Zealand that she recently recorded on CD for EMI. “One day I’ll sing them in performance,” she promised.
But the program is a varied one. It includes Tu Che La Vanita from Verdi’s Don Carlos, and Marietta’s Lute Song from Korngold’s Die Tote Stadt as well as Somewhere, from West Side Story and With One Look from Sunset Boulevard.
“We have an excellent orchestra that can play all these different styles,” said conductor Robin Stapleton. “That’s half the work done.”
Dame Kiri has been loved everywhere she’s played and Lebanon will surely be no exception. “I come from a small country too,” she said, “and it’s right in the middle of the ocean and with some funny weather. This festival has gone through many trials and tribulations. It’s a tribute to your country that you’ve done so well. What matters is not how small a country is, but how strong is its heart.”
Kiri Te Kanawa at Beiteddine will perform with the Budapest Concert Orchestra conducted by Robin Stapleton on Saturday, July 1 at 9.00pm—The Daily Star (Lebanon)
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