Artists I'd like to kick

Artists I'd like to kick


norman lebrecht

May 26, 2010

Several respondents to yesterday’s post called for a clean-up campaign of record labels that put out non-classical material under a classical banner. I share their view.

When I go to a vegetarian restaurant, I don’t want to find chicken livers in my lasagna. They may be perfectly good livers, yielded by the happiest and most willing chicks, but if the sign outside says vegetarian that’s what it ought to be – and, if it ain’t, there are laws that deal with people who pass one thing off as another. It’s no different from selling fake Rolexes. The classical industry ought to wise up to that fact while it still has a business to look after.

End of sermon. Quite a few people, led by Carole Cameron, called for a list of so-called artists we’d like to have kicked of classical labels. The estimable Carole proposed:

1 Conductor/composer Howard Goodall, a British TV classical chef

2 Faryl Smith (a singer, apparently)

3 Anything off a TV talent show….

Others added

4 André Rieu, the chart-topping schmaltz violinist

5 ex-popster Jon Lord and

6 everyone who’s taking part in a Mercedes-Benz summer fest.


Here, for your consideration, are the ten I’d most like to see kicked off.

1 Russell Watson, the amplified aria belter

2 Myleene Klass, the Satie-playing fashion model 

3 Il Divo… need I say more?

4 André Rieu, Viennese sediment for life’s departure lounge

5 Paul Potts (well he’s virtually vanished already)

6 Popstar to Opera Star winner Darius Campbell

7 Sting on Deutsche Grammphon

8 Bryn Terfel sings Lloyd Webber

9 Renee Fleming in smooch mode

10 That egregious bunch called Blake.

Let them take their fake smiles and flash their wares elsewhere. Feel free to vote for kick-offs and add your own selections in the space below.



  • carole cameron says:

    Now you’ve really got me – [The Kinks] going: My vote is for no. 9. Renee is gorgeous, pace Michelle Pfeiffer, but in opera she sings in Flemish.
    Last night caught the advert for Renee slumming it – oh dear me. I know Decca are looking for a new audience, I hope they find it, but this is not going to take the classical one with them.
    On a lighter note, from Music Week of 29/5:
    “A world class singer who is a million miles away from the latest trend for Hooked on Classics-meets-page 3 crossover fodder. I love the grandeur she brought to 3 Lions” ZZT president Clive Black talking about Olivia Safe “a singer who mixes opera with electronica”
    apparently without irony. She goes on the list

  • Harmony Twichell says:

    Carole also suggested two more mainstream artists – Lang Lang and Angela Gheorghiu. How come they have conveniently been omitted now?

  • Fran Wilson says:

    Agree wholeheartedly!!! Especially Myleene Klass, Russell ‘The Voice’ Watson, Alfie Boe (“from Car Mechanic to Carmen”) and all those other “cod” opera ‘singers’from tv talent shows and Classic FM – for being able to sing ‘Nessun Dorma’ does not man one an ‘opera singer’!!
    I reserve my particular vitriol for Lang Lang, the smiling poster boy, popstar of the piano. Ugh!!

  • Faye Courtney says:

    You forgot Dame Katherine Jenkins – shame on you!

  • Gary Carpenter says:

    I assume that the name ‘Blake’ is supposed to confer credibility by implying a link with William. But I’m sure it’s really classic rhyming slang i.e. Sexton Blake = fake.

  • Christopher Purdy says:

    You got that right Norman. Smooch mode indeed! Pronounce some WORDS! Still, I have to confess I’m a bit partial to Sting. I never said I was perfect.

  • Derek Warby says:

    I have to put in a word for poor old Sting, who I though added something very human to the Dowland lute songs (not that there’s anything non-human about them in other circumstances), but that’s a personal preference. I also have to admit a glancing liking for some of Jon Lord’s ‘classical’ compositions.
    Other ‘artists’ who too often appear under the ‘classical’ banner who I would like to see banished forever (from the whole of existence, not just ‘classical’ lists) include:
    Andrea Bocelli (I call him ‘The Bocellism’)
    Sarah Brightman
    Andrea Giordano (mercifully little heard from her in a while!)
    Karl Jenkins (he should have stuck with Soft Machine)
    Katherine Jenkins
    Vanessa Mae
    Maksim Mrvica
    Yann Tiersen

  • gary Carpenter says:

    If I may, I’d like to make a small observation in respect of ‘proper’ opera singers like Bryn Terfel, Alfie Boe, Renee Fleming et al. They are part of the very long tradition that has Caruso singing Neopolitan songs, Ezio Pinza singing and appearing in ‘South Pacific’, Tito Gobbi in ‘The Legend Of The Glass Mountain’, Chaliapin in Pabst’s ‘Don Quixote’, Anna Moffo in ‘The Adventurers’ and Jean De Reszke’s giving his name to a cigarette – the list is virtually endless. Opera stars have always raked it in where they can. Very, very occasionally (Thomas Quasthoff springs to mind) the ‘crossover’ can be entirely convincing, but it’s not the point; the cash is – and was! It’s just not a recent phenomenon.

  • Sree says:

    Il Divo never claimed to be classical. They dont even pretend to cater to the classical audience. They cant be kicked of a list they never were on nor wanted to be on
    A deeper understanding of what defines classical needs to be discussed here…
    NL replies: They are on the Sony Classical label and feature in the Billboard classical charts. If they weren’t, there would be no problem.

  • William Lang says:

    You’re absolutely right. Classical music NEEDS to be more elitist. That’ll make everything better.
    In fact, we should get rid of:
    Lang Lang – not a classical musician anymore. too popular.
    Yo-Yo Ma – playing world music now… ugh…
    Renee Fleming – Sure, she sings with the Met, but come on, people know who she is!
    Gustavo Dudamel – I’ve been reading that he actually isn’t very good at all lately. And with the hair… Obvious pop-star.
    London Symphony Orchestra – too many soundtracks. too popular.
    Pavoratti – I’ve seen him “singing” with James Brown and Bryan Adams… need i say more?
    And anyone else that doesn’t play classical music “our way.”
    or… we could all just get over ourselves.

  • Jo says:

    Well Done William Lang
    Also to add to your list of imposters. Andre Rieu Only the biggest selling male artist in the world Far too popular. Wouldn’t you like him on your side !!

  • Bill says:

    David Garrett should be on this list – he is a cross over artist who does the same as Andre Rieu, just that he can move his fingers a little faster. Unfortunately people here in Germany and as I hear now also in the USA think of him as a classical artist -which he sometimes tries being again by playing a completely out of tune Mendelssohn violin concerto…

  • Leony says:

    @William Lang: You rock (and roll) 🙂 Love your comment. The only one that make sense. Do you think these other ‘elitist’ individuals will understand it? I find their comments really pathetic, to be honest.

  • Yi-Peng Li says:

    Please could I ask something about the list of classical crossover abominations you’ve shamed on this post? You were mentioning Terfel singing the Lloyd-Webber showstoppers. There isn’t a full-length Terfel album of Lloyd-Webber show tunes like the Rodgers & Hammerstein and Lerner & Loewe offerings he’s done in the past. He’s only done two Lloyd-Webber tracks as part of his Broadway duet album with Renee Fleming, and he’s also sung the Boublil & Schonberg showstopper Stars from Les Mis. So there isn’t any extensive Lloyd-Webber offering from Terfel.
    BTS, it hurts to think that people could market Lloyd-Webber shows and the other Broadway/West End musicals as classical, along with film scores too.
    NL replies: You’re quite right: Terfel has only ever sung isolated show-tune tracks, never a full album.

  • William Lang says:

    @ yi-peng li,
    what is broadway but updated opera? is there an orchestra? is there singing? if you want to complain about technology being involved (mics) well, ask yourself what composers in the romantic era would do today if they were born 30 years ago. would they take advantage of the new techniques, as they did when they were alive? i would guess that they would.
    film scores = tone poems/leitmotifs.