If you have a strong constitution you can watch her talking about the Proms (an event she has never performed for in the Royal Albert Hall)
It seems the PR people of Katherine Jenkins have been quick to tell the Daily Mail that she has been awarded an OBE in the queen’s new year’s honours ‘for her work breaking down barriers to propagate classical music, charity fundraising and the support she shows for Britain’s Armed Forces’ if propagating classical music is singing the same four arias in a career lasting a decade that doesn’t appear to be a very intensive schedule for the Welsh star. The playlist that she garbled through at the music festival of Raymond Blanc’s Les Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in 2012 is a good indication the kind of trash counts as dissemination of classical music to bankers and others that would pay £450 for gourmet food and amateur screeching.
As you know I don’t really care for any “honours” given out by an unelected head of state of an empire that has long since died out. Those awards are usually a pat on the back for all of those that suck up to the political establishment.
But what makes me uncomfortable is that a manufactured nobody that can barely stay in tune and sing straight to a microphone, again is called an opera singer by the Daily Mail and fêted with a spread in The Daily Express (I presume they had a page left spare from their latest reporting on the death of Diana, Princess of Wales).
For a large part of the population…especially the middle Englanders that the DM targets, an OBE offers a legitimacy to someone of such limited accomplishment and study in her chosen field like Katherine Jenkins. It makes a mockery of many hard working artists that sing their heart out and are equated to a classical crooner of no real distinction. All she represents is the get rich quick culture that hooks on distasteful sentimentality, the wilful shit peddling of the record companies and taking advantage of an ignorant public.
Over on Twitter we have been making up suitable takes on what OBE should stand for when it refers to our dear Katherine, here’s a selection so far:
Odious Barbie Entertainer
Ordinary Blonde Entertainer
Oddly Bland Entertainer
Overtly Brazen Entertainer
Off-key Banality Enumerator
It is this time of the year when eager press releases accompanied by expertly Photoshopped images start coming out of the Beeb’s press office. They concern the now regular Proms in the Park format that is happening concurrently with the actual last night at the Royal Albert Hall. Over time they have stretched the meaning of classical to breaking point by inviting musical stars and entertainers. This year a pair of old timers return, Miss Jenkins and Mr Boe. They endemically crop up as the star attraction at one of those arena classical pap nights and it still makes me wonder if the Proms brand means anything for the BBC.
They keep promoting it as the premier classical summer festival (this year with an execrable campaign using the RAH as a glorified egg cup, see below) and then they contradict their own promotion by inviting popera stars to head those outdoor events.
It is a very contradictory statement by the Proms bosses and it opens them up to questions of good management of a valuable brand that is slowly losing its hardwon reputation and meaning. There is always a discussion of what the programming of the season has to contain and how it should embrace the real world outside the classical bubble. By inviting Boe and Jenkins the BBC organisers are essentially making a statement of non trust to the very genre they promote. In the past they had no issues selling out the Hyde Park event with either Angela Gheorghiu, Bryn Terfel and Placido Domingo headlining. Now it seems they depend year after year on popular entertainers as if admitting defeat that bona fide classical stars can’t sell out the large outdoor venues.
Ultimately isn’t the Proms brand about promoting and disseminating classical music to the widest possible audience, why do they feel the need to call on to people without the training or essential credentials? Boe and Jenkins will claim to have performed for the Proms without ever having to step on the platform of the Royal Albert Hall, a veritable own goal by the Proms bosses.
When singers like Joyce DiDonato, who is singing for the RAH last night, do so much to bring a new audience to classical music and opera, an organisation of the size and influence of the BBC is seen as cowardly and predictable.
In the spirit of end of year lists, I thought I’d pull together a list of the five most read posts on this blog. If you’ve landed on this page from Google or a third party it may be a good introduction to what George’s Musings/OperaCreep was all about.
1. My little investigative report telling the story of a fantasist that survived on his wits and telling interminable lies, attracted a lot of interest and made it the most read item on the blog by a wide margin.
2. A little post on the queen of the UK popera scene, Katherine Jenkins was very popular. It seems her fans and foes like to search for articles about her latest foray in light entertainment.
3. Was very lucky to be at the world première by Birmingham Opera of Stockhausen’s Mittwoch Aus Light. It was an extraordinary, near indescribable evening. The whole proposition of a Cultural Olympiad seemed just a polite empty gesture by the government. But I am delighted the Olympic cash made this ambitious production possible. During such a deep recession and with an anti-arts government it was the most pleasant surprise of the year!
4. The collaboration with Claire Pendleton was a source of jollity and insight. Was delighted to work with her and it seems a lot of people were happy to read them.
5. Alice Coote’s return to sing Winterreise at the Wigmore Hall was undeniably one of the early highlights of musical London in 2012. This performance cemented her reputation as one of the foremost mezzos singing today. It seems a lot of people wanted to read about it, which gladdens my heart! Now I wish the Wigmore would release the recording very soon.
Update: The CD and download is available from 8 April 2013, here’s the link to the Amazon UK page.
Ah it’s nearing Christmas…the time when the turkeys go to die and desperate acts hit our TV screens.
This year a little prematurely it seems, Katherine Jenkins will be adding her glamorous, vacant persona to living rooms across the land with the aid of her blonde locks and pretty dresses. Not one to take a back seat, I thought it’d be fun to email the quoted in the press release ITV’s own Controller of Entertainment John Kaye Cooper. As he was the person who commissioned the programme he’d better know that a large swathe of his potential audience will be switching off their sets.
Mr Kaye Cooper,
I am writing this short email to voice my dismay at presenting this programme on the rather feeble talents of Katherine Jenkins. Someone frequently presented as an opera singer but has never actually studied voice at conservatoire level or even performed in an opera house.
You were quoted by ITV’s press office:
‘Every year ITV1 are delighted to offer our viewers a wide range of music and entertainment specials. Last year we had Michael Buble, and Beyonce, and this year the 100th Royal Variety Performance, Rod Stewart’s Christmas, and also in December this glamorous special showcasing Katherine’s acclaimed dance skills and award winning vocal talent, with a highly popular line up of star guests – a musical treat not to be missed’
I will just make the point that she has won no awards or competitions (the usual way with classical/opera singers is to enter singing competitions such as The Ferrier Awards etc) all she has ever won is two Classical Brits which are conferred by the record execs making money on her very svelte and under-developed talent.
This country is full of wonderful opera singers that have spent the time to work hard at their craft and to pursue a career that is difficult and very competitive. Unfortunately Miss Jenkins and her ilk would not know any of that, as all she has to do is show up with a microphone and pretend to sing some sub standard rendition of Habanera. I can imagine ITV is desperate for viewing figures but presenting this dross is an insult to a lot of people who flock to opera performances around the country, from Aberdeen to Southampton.
I do not expect a response but I presume you don’t mind hearing the voice of one potential viewer that will keep their TV off on that evening.
The response was the usual ‘We can’t all like the same things’
Thank you for your email – at least you have got it off your chest!
The world would be a funny old place if we all liked the same performers, the same type of music, the same type of TV programmes, which is why we do our best to ensure that we provide a broad range of music based specials across the year.
You criticise my description of Katherine Jenkins as ‘ award-winning’. The two Brit awards she has received at the Classic Brit Awards are voted upon by a cross- section of music producers, musicians, record industry executives, journalists from magazines like The Gramaphone, and listeners to Classic FM, depending on the award.
The programme Steppin’ Out with Katherine Jenkins, demonstrates her talents as a singer, but more importantly her recently honed skills as a dancer from her appearances in Dancing with the Stars in the USA – hence the title!
You mention the word opera in your email many times. I have looked at my quote and the press release several times, and we definitely don’t ever mention the word, indeed the programme doesn’t have any opera in the entire 75 mins. So, not unnaturally, I begin to wonder why you wrote to me in the first place or was it just to have a rant about Katherine.
As I said at the start, you have got it off your chest now, so I hope you are feeling better
John Kaye Cooper
To which I responded as follows:
Mr Kaye Cooper,
Thank you very much for using the usual simplistic logic to defend this vulgar entertainment genre. “We all like different things”. Of course that logic brings you to a dead end when it comes to judging how Bizet’s Carmen should be performed. When Miss Jenkins opens her mouth what is missing is half of the notes that the composer wrote, that is not a matter of opinion but fact. The fact the average person will not pick a vocal score of Carmen to compare doesn’t mean such crass misrepresentation of Bizet’s work should be allowed to go on unnoticed. Unfortunately he is not around any more to sue.
And I will bring to your attention that the Classic Brits have no connection to Gramophone Magazine, which has never reviewed her recordings as they are not classical releases (according to her label, which is how they escape proper scrutiny on their technical deficiencies). They also have their own awards in which Miss Jenkins has never been nominated.
And of course thank you very much for patronising me with your concluding statement. Also apologies for adding a g to your snappy title…Steppin’ it is.
All the best
It clearly is a waste of time opening such conversations but my annoyance got the better of me. I wonder how many fawning emails they’ll get about the ample talents of the popera talent on board this programme. Mind you the cause is not helped by Placido Domingo singing with JK during the recent Variety Performance. But we all know that opera is better left to the pros.
But at the very least this programme will be the quintessential unintentionally funny TV programme of the week.
Last week Le Manoir aux Quat’Saisons in Oxfordshire was the host of a much glittering occasion that had three main guests: Katherine Jenkins, Russell Watson and Elaine Page. On my persistent enquiries on Twitter the repertoire was not quite leaked near the time to see exactly what KJ and RW played for this rare acoustic concert. Le Manoir’s twitter staffers were very good at deflecting criticism especially when I expressed my disappointment that such low brow acts were booked for their rich and eminent clientele. After all, on those three nights it cost £450 for the concert but included a Laurent-Perrier Champagne and canapé reception prior to the concerts followed by a five course meal with accompanying wines, coffee and petits fours after the performance , as explained to an emailed response. Interestingly this was also a rare occasion that both of them sang an acoustic set with a piano…aka what all recitalists normally do.
But what did the patrons of this illustrious establishment listened to? (list appended as communicated by them)
4 October 2012 – Katherine Jenkins
Habanera – Georges Bizet
Les Filles de Cadiz – Léo Delibes
Pie Jesu – Gabriel Fauré
Hallelujah – Leonard Norman Cohen
Music of the night – Andrew Lloyd Webber
Angel – Sarah McLachlan
I dreamed a dream – Claude-Michel Schönberg
A nightingale sang in Berkeley Square – Manning Sherwin
Parla piu piano (love theme from the Godfather) – Nino Rota
I could have danced all night – Music by Frederick Loewe, Lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner
Plus an encore
5 October 2012 – Russell Watson
‘O sole mio
18th variation on a theme of Paganini
Vesti la giubba
Parla piu piano
Piano Solo: Waltz in C# minor Chopin
So it was the predictable mix of off-key opera arias and the mainstay repertoire of popular entertainers. Glad to see that KJ still only has one aria proper in her armoury…and both share the Godfather theme.
It’s a list that puzzles in its thrown together nature but it also betrays that they know their audience well and give them what they want…the famous bits from their CDs.
It seems that in the past Le Manoir had been host to Montserrat Caballé which goes to prove some of their seasons have aimed much higher. Thank heavens for the Wigmore Hall who allows access to the greatest classical recitalists all year round. If you know anyone that went to those two concerts maybe drag them to a recital so they can see what the real thing is like. At least they had the benefit of delicious food!
PS I had no reason to ask for Elaine Page’s set as she is a singer that I respect for her dedication to musical theatre. And surely not one to be a stranger to an intimate recital or two.
Having had a few intense exchanges on Twitter about the subject of so called classical crossover artists. With a particular focus on Jackie Evancho (an eleven year old performer who found overnight fame via America’s Got Talent). It got me thinking what the use of that related branch to operatic and classical performance is.
The start of the habit
Arguably the start of classical crossover dates back to the 50s and the success of Mario Lanza, when his fledgling film career was augmented by large scale sales of records containing Neapolitan song and tenor arias. His signing of a recording contract with the RCA Gold Seal label, which at the time was recording with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Boston Pops and in the early 60s would have Leontyne Price as an exclusive artist. This started the trend for classical labels to sign MOR/ not classically trained artists to their roster in order to appeal to a much wider audience and to be part of the billboard charts.
Contributing to the “noise”
As a new listener to the orchestral/operatic genres a decade ago found that all the crossover artists just added to the general hype and noise that record companies thrive on. For my day to day discovery of new and old music it was adding another layer of complexity as I had to go though the glossy posters and websites and adverts to get to the basics and discover the artists that really meant something to me. As amongst the hype and over promotion we all have to find our own way and to discover artists that speak to us. In those genres it involves a lot of historic recording made 50 or 60 years ago, providing a plush carpet of experience for the immersion into the music to flourish. We all have different ways into discovering it but somehow don’t think crossover is one of those routes.
There seem to be two distinct branches of the classical crossover world as we know it. The string of performers with actual longstanding professional careers that diversify into crossover is one branch, the Three Tenors being an obvious example. But then the record companies have created a whole new group of people that end up recording classical/operatic repertoire without having the training or resources needed. In that category seems to be the vast majority of acts. The random talent show fare, the photogenic non entities. It is this second branch that is the most offensive. While Pavarotti in his twilight years singing Non ti scordar di me is a bit sad but at least he can just about fulfil the artistic requirements. On the other hand having Katherine Jenkins murdering the Habanera is not ok. Personally, the most objectionable aspect of this promotion of mediocrity is how it jars with the very art it’s supposed to be promoting. Opera and classical performance is based around the exaggeration and exaltation of the human capacity to perform within a rigid framework and at the highest level . It requires years of study and dedication in a very competitive field. Yet the record companies are promoting people that can’t sing with the right technique, and depend on being amplified to be heard. Part of the magic of live opera is the amazing capacity of the singers to project into a large house, it is that almost alchemic value that’s entrancing .
The promotion of those singers, that are not the real deal, creates a distortion in the understanding of what that type of performance is truly about. Trying to shoehorn the genre into a pop mould doesn’t make it more accessible, it just robs the art form of it unique characteristics. The people that book to see Katherine Jenkins in Ipswich would be much better off spending their money elsewhere and be exposed to the real thing.
The way forward is live experience
There are so many inexpensive ways to be immersed in the art form e.g. recitals and semi-professional community groups that the very idea that classical crossover artists create a new audience seems all the more feeble. All it takes for this repertoire to have an audience is plain old fashioned curiosity. We are blessed in London with three world class orchestras, two opera houses and a wealth of venues for all tastes and wallets. All of us that find the genre fulfilling we have to take the matter in our hands, drag friends and relatives to those venues, make them experience the real thing live and see what impact it makes. I am immensely proud of parents that bring their children to live performances, something I wish my parents had done 20 years ago. The other day it was wonderful watching a mother and son taking in the magic that was Sylvie Guillem live. As long as there are people that devote their lives to performance at the highest level I believe there will be audiences to appreciate them. Now if someone can rid us off the execrable classical crossover genre our lives would even richer and the record companies would spend their promo money in more worthwhile causes.