Oh no, Rolando! He's gone and done it again.

Oh no, Rolando! He's gone and done it again.


norman lebrecht

December 07, 2011

He’s singing in the Royal Variety Performance, which goes out on ITV on December 14, but with whom?

Netrebko, perhaps? Natalie Dessay? Diana Damrau? Claire Rutter, our current Tosca?

No, it’s Hayley Wannabe Westenra, one of those popera singers whom the tabloid press can’t tell apart from proper artists.

Now I don’t care what Villazon gets up to on his nights off, but every time he opens his mouth with a Westenra or a Katherine Jenkins miked up at his side, he demeans and degrades the art he cherishes by giving fake divas an unearned credit. In other words, he becomes complicit in a widespread fraud that markets paste as gems. For shame.

Singing duet: Rolando Villazon and Hayley Westenra sang for the audience


  • Colin McCarthy says:

    Hmmm, I wouldn’t prejudge it Norman. They are both excellent singers in fact and the result of their collaboration might be entirely listenable….let’s wait and see?

  • Emil Archambault says:

    I think you have to distinguish Katherine Jenkins from other crossover artists.

    Hayley Westenra, Sissel Kyrkebo, Il Divo, Josh Groban do not pretend to sing opera. In my opinion, that’s perfectly fine.

    However, Andrea Bocelli and Katherine Jenkins pretend to be “opera singers” when they clearly are not. That is what is revolting and disgusting: that is the root of the confusion.

    Calling Hayley Westenra a “classically-trained singer” is fine; calling Katherine Jenkins an “opera singer” is a shame.

    • Wraith says:

      Bocelli has a lyric tenor voice…which is good for light opera and musicals. If he interests just one kid in opera, in this day of funds cutting for school musicals (never mind trying to convince a school board to keep band, choir and madrigals), then I’ll buy every CD and concert the man produces. Yes, his voice has technical problems. Yes, he could be receptive to more (better?) training in breath control and support. But I can’t argue with those he’s inspiring to sing along with more than… um…Lady Gaga, shall we say?

    • Tstar says:

      Here here, it’s the reference of her being an Opera singer (which she make herself) that bugs me, I ride horses, does that make me a jockey? I run, does that make me an olympian? you get the point!
      The others sing songs from opera, very different! I for one love Josh Groban’s voice and can quite happily listen to his album!
      It does’t help that for some strange reason, Saccharine Jenkins has a manner that has me reaching for a baseball bat! (This I know, is an issue I need to deal with!)

  • Jenge says:

    Norman, I think you should consider a career change, sensational doesn’t work if you do not have your facts straight. Hayley Westenra has the purest voice I know to date. And she certainly is no fake after 10 successfull years in the music industry.

  • @Colin McCarthy: “entirely listenable”? I doubt it. It’s an insult to real singers. The product of clever marketting, unfortunately miss W is part of the rot that is eroding the careers of real artists. If I can tell you the number of great singers out there who are struggling to find work, and Mis W who is a RANK AMATEUR raking in the dollars… It’s a shame that Villazon is doing this for the money – who could blame him? Domingo has sung with Jenkins. I try no to hold it against him….

    • Colin McCarthy says:

      Well Mr Combrink life is unfair and it is undoubtedly true that many great singers are struggling to find work. However it is entirely over the top to describe Hayley Westenra as a “rank amateur”. She is of course a highly successful professional singer widely admired for her purity of tone. Your accusation of money-grabbing is rather undermined by the fact that the Royal Variety Performance is a charity event and, incidentally, the fact that Hayley Westenra is apparently UNICEF’s youngest ever ambassador.
      Anyway this is all a little beside the point, I haven’t yet actually heard the result of her collaboration with Rolando Villazon and, unless you were in the audience, I suspect you haven’t either. All I ask is that we do not rush to prejudge it?

  • Scott Rose says:

    As a non-heterosexual, I feel unequipped to comprehend why he would want to be so close to a gorgeous woman like her.

  • David Mackie says:

    Rolando? Geez, I thought it was Rowan Atkinson performing as Placido de Blackadder.

  • Jill Loughlin says:

    And yet nobody complained when Kiri Te Kanawa diminished a long musical theatre tradition with her overdone renditions of West Side Story and South Pacific. I would suggest that these proud Kiwi women (Kiri and Hayley) would be supportive of each other for the way they both love to connect the music with the people in these live events. Perhaps it is the pretentiousness of critics that is killing good music?

  • ghillie forrest says:

    It’s a variety show, not an opera recital. A variety of artists are presumably invited. If a couple from different genres team up to pleasant effect, why not?

    I have never heard of Hayley Westenra claiming any operatic cred. What she has is an exceptional voice for a strand of popular music — much better than a lot of the other pop stuff around, to my ear — and she is as entitled to a career, if it is operated honestly, as any opera singer.

  • Harold Braun says:

    As someone who for 35 years has been working in the musical staff of a large opera house i can nothing but repeat what Andre Previn recently said about Bocelli in an interview, This man may be nice,but he can`t sing.I`m not talking about singing good or bad.He just can`t sing,period.And the same goes for Paul Potts who is even worse and more embarrassing.