Cross Over, Beethoven - Newsweek
While pop stars go classical, classical stars go pop. Their records are
selling,but are they any good ?
When Michael Bolton came out with a CD of arias in January, it took a
monumental effort not to ruch to judgment. Then he went on "The Nanny" to
In the episode, Tran Drescher arrives at his CD launch party and tells him.
"I just loooove your voice. It's so soulful and raspy." A raspy tenor !
first sign of trouble. The second is when Bolton approaches an enormous
microphone - real
opera singers don't need them. Then Bolton launches into a warped, strained
Puccini's "Nessun Dorma." Drescher spends the song scratching herself
because her dress makes her itch - that's supposed to be the joke. But the
real joke is
that Bolton's CD was No.1 on the Billboard classical charts for six weeks,
and is now holding
steady at No.2.
Britain's favorite violin prodigy, 19-year-old Vanessa-Mae, is Bolton's
equally bizarre converse - a talented classical musician who's gone pop.
Celebrity came at
15, after a video that featured her playing a techno-pop version of Bach's
Toccata and Fugue in a wet T shirt. She just worked with Celine Dion's
producer on "Storm," a
new pseudo-pop album due out in June, with includes a techno jam on
Vivaldi's "The Four
Seasons." In a new video, she's all about pouty lips and phonily ecstatic
thrusts, a sex kitten sawing away on an electric violin and flying through
the air in a skimpy
dress, singing Donna Summer's "I Feel Love." "If a small minority thinks I'm
classical music, they're totally wrong," she says. "When you are brave
enough to do something
new, people are always threadened by it." Her first pop album, "The violin
(1995), sold about 300.000 copies in the United States and 3.2 million
Within two weeks ot its release, her all-classical "Classical Album 1"
(1996) sold a
half-million copies world, becoming classical music's fastest-selling solo
Can wet T shirts and "Nanny" tie-ins rescue classical music? The answer's
still far from clear. The new "crossover" trend has produced some genuinely
good music - and a lot that's just awful. But there is little doubt it's
here to stay. After years
of blissfully ignoring the market, and then panicking as sales plummeted,
classical labels have finaly given in to the need to mix entertainment with
Crossover now accounts for almost all of classical music's best selling
records. A modestly successful crossover album will sell 150.000 to 200.000
copies, while the most successful classical albums sell
50.000 to 75.000 copies. Clearly the classical industry had to do something.
It is failing to
find new listeners while its core audience is aging and shrinking.