I know we’re supposed to suspend critical judgement at charity gigs, but a chance sight of Sarah Brightman attacking Nessun Dorma at the Shanghai corner of Al Gore’s Live Earth made me want to save something more endangered than a little old planet.
Transposing Puccini’s tenor aria for non-operatic soprano was a tacky idea. It substituted warble for vibrato, evoking the gooey feeling you get when coffee cream has been poured mistakenly into a cup of tea. Ms Brightman cannot manage anything emotionally more complex than the loves me/loves me not music of middle-period Lloyd Webber and was left gulping for air where she should have been vocally in mid-line. The orchestration must have been arranged at a local copy shop and the Chinese audience, as seen on TV, were presumably supposed to know no better.
True, Shanghai was the hardest nut to crack in Al’s bowl. Neither the Chinese government nor the national media were much interested in signing up to good eco behaviour and the show consisted mostly of local pop stars. Ms Brightman was there to add cosmopolitan glamour but all she brought was a soiled aria, a second-hand plastic rose. Even Ms Streisand, in her opera album, never sunk so low when aiming so high.