I tend to agree with most of the reviews, with perhaps some small ambivalence with the views of Kate and ofthekosmos. I see that the reviewer Operaman! is now wearing a white hat of benevolence, in sharp contrast with his review of the video "Kiri at Christmas" (VHS), wherein he makes a blanket assertion denying merit in anything Kiri has done or will do. " . . . her bland presentation and mediocrity re all things musical." His version of Kiri is not the person I've listened to and watched for many years -- the Kiri I know. Not satisfied with that denunciation, all manner of irrelevancies are cited. She had a lapse of memory years ago at the Met -- as if that has not happened to the best of opera stars. None of the irrelevancies had anything to do with her singing in this performance, which is the only thing a review should consider. After reading his 'review' -- diatribe? -- I find it amusing that the he takes refuge with the thought that those who disagree with him are "so biased in their admiration for Kiri that it gets in the way of a critical review of her recording." Come again, who's biased?
Marketing phenomenon? No mystery here. If you have a product that people want, they'll beat a path to your door.
I'm four months shy of my 86th birth date, have lived through the Great Depression and survived WW2 and Korea. But now in the words of a 1930's ditty, "I don't get around much any more." That doesn't matter: I have my Kiri collection to keep me company. Eight operas, six recitals, three bios and some miscellany on DVD; her earlier ones I had converted from VHS format. In addition there are over thirty CDs, the earliest one, "The Young Kiri" dating from her pre-opera days. So you can see I know a bit about the woman and her work.
I'm not a newcomer to opera. In the year 1944, on furlough from flying missions over Germany, I saw my first opera in London.-- "Rosalinde". In their understandable foolishness, the British had renamed Die Fledermaus to Rosalinde. Couldn't very well have the so Teutonic title emblazoned on billboards throughout London. But as I discovered later, "The Bat" was in every essential the original Strauss opera. I fell in love with the medium, and later bought countless records, but could not afford the prices of live opera. One memorable event of opera, however, lives in memory. Many years ago the reigning queen of American opera, Lily Pons gave a free concert at Grant Park in Chicago -- I lived most of my early years in Chicago. I've forgotten most of the arias Lily Pons sang that evening but one title is still sharp in memory. O Mio Babbino Caro. As everyone knows, it is Kiri's trademark.
Invariably, my mornings begin with breakfast with Kiri. I may awake cranky and out of sorts, as the aged are prone to do; however the face, the voice, the sheer presence of Kiri will always set the world aright.
Late last year Kiri gave a recital in Nashville. I did not learn about it until the day before the performance. Perhaps the Gods of Opera smiled down on me -- the ticket I bought blindly turned out to be a seat on the very first row. I don't know how that happened, the recital was a sellout; yes, this center of country music does have a hard core of opera lovers. My seat was perhaps fifteen or twenty feet from the stage. Kiri was magnificent. Lovely as ever and so tall, so composed and stately. Her dress, manner, voice and delivery exquisite. Alas, she sang but one of my favorites -- Depuis le Jour -- but she more than made up for the lapse with her trademark encore, O Mio Babbino Caro. Nashville opera lovers are not usually very demonstrative, but from the wild reaction you'd have thought this was a country music performance! This was the only time I have seen Kiri live and I'll carry the memory to the end of my days.
Did this performance tell me if Kiri is in decline? No. Mind you, Kiri was sixty years of age last year --amazing! -- so a 'decline' is very possible. But if anything, she did sound better than any of my CDs or DVDs. Of course, the excellent acoustics in the hall and Kiri's so manifest presence did make any judgement impossible. It does not matter, so long as I have my DVDs and CDs -- frozen in time -- Kiri will never decline, will never age, will never die.