The most successful classical artist of the 21st century?

The most successful classical artist of the 21st century?


norman lebrecht

July 03, 2022

The Welsh singer Katherine Jenkins is living the dream.

In her newest c.v. reprinted yesterday by the Times magazine, Jenkins claims sales of ‘more than 2.6 million copies’  of 14 albums and purports to be ‘the most successful classical artist of the 21st century.’

Can that be true?

Describing herself as a ‘classical’ singer is slightly far-fetched: she performs popular TV themes, movie hits, church hymns, opera arias and anything else the crowd might fancy.

As for ‘success’, André Rieu has sold more albums and concert tickets than any living classical artist.

Andrea Bocelli has multiple millions on his sales chart.

Lang Lang is famous in China, Jenkins only in the UK.

Cecilia Bartoli has sold more arias than any opera singer on record since Maria Callas.

Daniel Barenboim has sweeping political influence.

Jonas Kaufmann is the hottest ticket in opera.

So how does Jenkins get away with it ?


  • John Kelly says:

    Well, it’s PR. Some people will believe anything – for example – Trump won the recent Presidential election by “a landslide” but it was rigged and stolen from him. When you stand for nothing, you are likely to believe anything……….

    • N/A says:

      John That is INSANE. Rigged and stolen? That was literally disproven. Flipping heck

      • Maria says:

        We’re talking about the very successful Katherine Jenkins heee, like her or not, and not Trump. He is just old and ancient history.

      • Tired of Fools says:

        Crawl back in your hole John Kelly. The world has enough idiots we don’t need to hear you parroting lies.

  • Ferenc says:

    Maybe she doesn´t know any of your list…

  • Helen says:

    I suppose The Sun is the most successful newspaper in the UK.

    But will people be remembering its journalistic achievements in 10/20/30 or more years time?

  • Paul Dawson says:

    My criterion of musical success is artistic achievement, rather than financial achievement.

    • Maria says:

      In her own way, she is she has brought a lot of pleasure to so many who would have no idea about classical music, or know who Marilyn Horne or Janet Baker, or Rene Fleming are, let alone their wonderful singing and artistic achievement.

  • gareth says:

    Technically, the abovementioned others began their artistic careers in the 20th Century. Jenkins is technically more of a “21st Century artist”, in that her public career started in 2004.

  • Henry williams says:

    She has a nice face.
    It always helped me when i went for interviews

  • Zandonai says:

    I don’t really consider André Rieu and Andrea Bocelli “classical” artists.
    Bocelli to me always sounds like a pop singer trying to sing opera, but better than Michael Bolton lol.

    • Henry williams says:

      Rieu is popular because the audience can sing and dance to the music. As if they are at a

    • SNORRI says:

      You’re way too diplomatic here! Rieu is a purveyor of schlock, a tasteless panderer and a total goofball. Bocelli is, at best, a decent crooner.

    • Maria says:

      Funny how Pavarotti rated him., and unlike any pop singer, sings without a microphone and with a large orchestra.

    • Maria says:

      Try telling the Viennese that Andre Rieu isn’t a classical artist.

  • A.L. says:

    Bottom of the barrel. That’s what sells. By this criteria, that trash is one of the most successful Xover impostors of the 21st C or any other.

  • Miv Tucker says:

    “Lang Lang is famous in China, Jenkins only in the UK.”
    Not sure I understand the logic: Lang Lang IS Chinese, surely?

    • AlbericM says:

      I believe his point is intended to be that the UK has a population of 67 million, while China’s population is 1.3 billion. There are probably more people who have bought a Lang Lang recording in China than the entire population of the UK.

  • Lachlan says:

    Different issue but related, is Fischer-Dieskau still the most recorded artist in history to date?

  • music lover says:

    Neither Jenkins,nor Rieu or Bocelli is a classical artist.Period.

  • Ned Keane says:

    Why does it matter? People like her singing, and pay for tickets and CDs. PR companies write guff because it’s their job.
    Meanwhile the snobbery and exclusivity of classical music is kept burning bright on this site.
    If you don’t like her, ignore her.

    • Una says:

      Exactly! No need to listen.

    • Helen says:

      Silly but predictable response. You sing classical pieces, you get compared with others who do the same. That’s how it works.

      If she can’t deliver, that’s down to her, it’s not snobbery.

    • Elizabeth Peck says:

      I understand you view on exclusivity & snobbery…however I personally think Ms Jenkins is vastly overrated. She’s mediocre at best & has an over-inflated view of her “talent”. Many many singers in the UK are far better than her. Whilst your advice is correct, she is difficult to ignore….

  • James Weiss says:

    Calling Jenkins a “classical artist” is akin to calling Meghan Markle an “actress.” That dog won’t hunt.

  • Zandonai says:

    I think Lang Lang is in danger of becoming a classical pop artist.

  • cymru cymraeg says:

    Jenkins “Welsh singer” – an oxymoron.

    Not Welsh, can’t speak a word of it.
    Singer? With non existent technique, no existent musicality & a horrible voice.

    After our great voices Gwynne Howell, (Sir) Geraint Evans, Bryn Terfel and of course the wonderful talented Harry Secombe, Gwyneth Jones, Magaret Price, WTF are we doing grand standing from our land of song, this stupid ignorant girl with no talent ?

  • Dame Alfreda says:

    The passive massive who do not know any better don’t listen to her, they look at her!

  • Green Frog says:

    Never forget – she studied for 4 years at the Royal Academy of Music.