Taking her final bows. (10/02/07)
She also famously sang from London's St. Paul's Cathedral in 1981 at the wedding of one Prince Charles and Lady Diana an event that was viewed by an estimated 600 million people worldwide. The following year, this native New Zealander was named a Dame of the British Empire by HM Queen Elizabeth II.
A fairly recent publicity shot of Kiri Te Kanawa.
Making the $15 tickets even more surprising was the fact that this is Dame Kiri's farewell tour. That's not to say that she's going to disappear from the stage after this tour. Rather, as she has been saying in interviews, it's more of a farewell to locations she's not sure she'll get back to again (Opera fans in New York, Paris, Sydney, etc. need not worry for now). She's also focusing more time on her foundation promoting singers and musicians from New Zealand.
Dame Kiri performed at the immense Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall in Costa Mesa, which is maybe a 15-20 minute drive from our home in Orange. Typically for an 8:00 p.m. show, we'll leave the house at 6:30, have a quick dinner at a fast casual place nearby (along the lines of Daphne's, Baja Fresh, or Rubio's) and be seated at the concert hall by 7:45 p.m.
The recital was at the Renée and Henry Segerstrom Concert Hall.
This time it took us nearly an hour to get there due to police activity. Apparently some idiot with two arrest warrants and a record longer than his right arm stole an SUV and led police on a 20-minute vehicle pursuit. It ended in a shootout at the foot of the very freeway exit you take to get to the concert hall (no police casualties thankfully, but the driver of the stolen SUV was toast).
The SUV thief drove down this embankment. (Photo courtesy of The Orange County Register)
With two freeway exits sealed off, and the snarled traffic that ensued, we barely had time to grab some food at the McDonald's drive-thru. I know, nice meal before the opera! Amazingly, we got to the theatre with 15 minutes to spare. Even though the show was sold out, I was surprised to see open seats. Makes me wonder how many were running late due to the blocked exits and the resulting traffic jam.
The aftermath. (Photo courtesy of The Orange County Register)
Our seats were interesting. We expected that the $15 price tag would put us in the very last row. But when you have talent like this in your backyard, it doesn't matter just as long as you're inside the doors. As it turned out, we were seated very close to her. So close, in fact, that we were actually behind her, in the chorale terrace dress circle.
Yes, we saw the back of her head the entire night. But given the choice of paying $15 to see her from behind, or paying 10 times that amount to see her from the front, I was satisfied. And I had no problem hearing.
Our seats, circled here in a photo taken another night.
She opened the 21-piece recital with some late Mozart pieces. At age 63, her magnificent voice is, as they say, in fine fettle. After Mozart, she treated us to a repertoire of songs by Strauss, Duparc, Poulenc, Britten, and then threw in a Copland number for extra measure. One of my favorites was Poulenc's Les chemins de l'amour (Valse Chantée), which I've loved for years.
I enjoyed her second act better than the first, if only for the fact that she engaged with the audience more, telling stories between her songs. Poised and dignified, Dame Kiri didn't act out the songs, but used her voice to tell each story. The one exception came during her first encore, singing Ginastera's Canción al arbol del olvido while rolling her shoulders flirtatiously. It really delighted the audience.
Another recent headshot of Dame Kiri.
And lest I forget, her accompanist, Julian Reynolds, was also amazing. Many times during the show I found myself listening to her, but watching him. Then again, when all you see is the back of her head, you look for other things to watch.
For her second and final encore, she closed with Puccini's O mio babbino caro, which is not only one of the most well known operatic arias, it's also one she's best known for. It was breathtaking.
Our lovely view. (10/02/07)
I don't care if we were behind her. We witnessed a true living legend. And like the time I saw Luciano Pavarotti, I know some day we'll look back and be thankful for having the opportunity of attending her recital. Thanks Dame Kiri for sharing your instrument with us.