Kiri Te Kanawa

You have to give Dame Kiri Te Kanawa a lot of credit. She attempted the impossible -- to convert the vast open spaces of the Greek Theater into an intimate recital hall. And she almost succeeded.

You have to give Dame Kiri Te Kanawa a lot of credit. She attempted the impossible — to convert the vast open spaces of the Greek Theater into an intimate recital hall. And she almost succeeded.

In a program that included a tasteful array of operatic arias and Broadway show tunes, the elegant soprano from New Zealand did her best to draw the audience into her music.

She sang with finesse, and managed to avoid the temptation to belt for the back rows.

Whether she was imploring the vicious Baron Scarpia in Puccini’s aria, “Visi d’arte” from “Tosca”; affecting the playful coquette in George Gershwin’s “Embraceable You”; or reaching for the stars in a fantastic rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” from “The Sound of Music,” Te Kanawa was the embodiment of style under pressure.

She had to have known that the under-rehearsed 80-piece orchestra playing behind her was less than cohesive; that conductor Stephen Barlow was clearly not up to producing music on a grand scale (except when the score called for triple fortissimo); and that her own voice was being transposed into a series of electronic pulses.

Even so, throughout a concert which interspersed Te Kanawa’s singing with innocuous orchestral interludes, the superstar soprano delighted her audience.

This was also one of Te Kanawa’s most imaginative recitals. She opened with Catalani’s aria “Ebben? Ne Andro Lontana,” which was featured in the film “Diva”; included Erich Korngold’s beautiful “Marietta’s Lied” from “Die Tote Stadt; then closed thefirst half with Bernard Hermann’s “Aria from Salaambo”– music that film lovers will recall accompanies the ill-fated opera scene in “Citizen Kane.”

At the conclusion of the recital, in response to a series of enthusiastic ovations, Dame Kiri offered no less than five encores — including a playful version of “I Want to Be a Prima-Dona-Dona-Dona” and a sumptuous interpretation of “Can’t Help Lovin’ that Man of Mine” from “Porgy and Bess.”

It’s true, there’s nothing like a Dame.

Kiri Te Kanawa

(Greek Theater; 6,200 seats; $ 77 top)

Production: Produced by IMG Artists. Conductor, Stephen Barlow. Opened and reviewed July 17, 1993.

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