Two by Te Kanawa

Kiri Te Kanawa is now 72, and her glorious voice isn’t what it was, but the New Zealand singer was one of the best of our time (or so I think, not being a classical music expert). Here are two of my favorite pieces by Dame Kiri. The first is on a CD I have, which I recommend highly.


The songs are by Marie-Joseph Canteloube, (1879-1957), a French composer and song collector. Cantelouber spent 30 years compiling and arranging his most famous group of songs, Chants d’Auvergne, a collection of folk songs from the rugged but beautiful Auvergne region of France. This one, the pastoral song Bailèro, is a favorite, and was performed by Te Kanawa with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra (Carl Davis, conductor) in London in 1989. The language is Occitan, and these are the lyrics, in which a lovestruck woman calls to a shepherd across a river:

Pastrè dè délaï l’aïo,
As gaïré dè buon tèms?
Dio lou baïlèro lèrô,
Lèrô lèrô lèrô lèrô baïlèro lô.

Pastré lou prat faï flour,
Li cal gorda toun troupel.
Dio lou baïlèro lèrô,
Lèrô lèrô lèrô lèrô baïlèro lô.

Pastré couci foraï,
En obal io lou bel riou!
Dio lou baïlèro lèrô,
Lèrô lèrô lèrô lèrô baïlèro lô.

The video is pretty crappy, but the sound is okay.

The English translation:

Shepherd across the river,
You’re hardly having a good time,
Sing baïlèro lèrô
No, I’m not,
And you, too, can sing baïlèro

Shepherd, the meadows are in bloom.
You should graze your flock on this side,
Sing baïlèro lèrô
The grass is greener in the meadows on this side,
Baïlèro lèrô

Shepherd, the water divides us,
And I can’t cross it,
Sing baïlèro lèrô
Then I’ll come down and find you,
Baïlèro lèrô

And another favorite of mine, the short aria “Chi il bel sogno di Doretta” (“The beautiful dream of Doretta”) from Puccini’s opera “La Rondine”. This is a live recording made in at outdoor concert in Wellington, New Zealand, in 1990. Behind Te Kanawa is the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra. That’s one hell of a high note at 1:47.



  1. GBJames
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

    Here’s one of my favorites from her work. Mozart’s “Laudate Dominum”.

    PCC[e], forgive me, for I am about to commit the sin of posting a video. I may spend time in purgatory for it, but at least I’ll be listening to this while I do.

    • GBJames
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:27 am | Permalink

      Erf… and sub.

    • Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:41 am | Permalink

      Ceiling Cat, fleas be upon Him, has forgiven you in light of your desire to promulgate nice sounds.

  2. Posted July 6, 2016 at 7:53 am | Permalink

    “Shepherd, the meadows are in bloom.
    You should graze your flock on this side,
    Sing baïlèro lèrô
    The grass is greener in the meadows on this side,
    Baïlèro lèrô”

    Oh, my!

  3. colnago80
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    Kiri sings a little Mozart.

  4. MarkMyWords
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    Te Kanawa, was in her prime, one of the truly great sopranos of her time. But of all the sopranos I have personally heard in my opera fanatic years, the singer whose performances still causes a lump in my throat remembering her is Beverly Sills. A coloratura with unequaled ability to meet the demands of bel canto ornamentation, and Ceiling Cat could she act and bring her roles to life!

    Here’s a clip of the mad scene from her 1970 recording of Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor:

    And to show her acting ability is clip from the video of the New York City Opera performing Roberto Devereux at Wolf Trap Farm, the scene where Elizabeth confronts Devereux for being unfaithful to her and condemns him to death.

    Sorry for the length of both clips, but they are well worth while listening to.

    • MarkMyWords
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 8:47 am | Permalink

      Dammit! I forgot how to reference YouTube clips without actually posting the video. I also throw myself at the feet of the merciful Ceiling Cat!

      • Dale Franzwa
        Posted July 6, 2016 at 10:24 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for the clips and comments.

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 8:34 pm | Permalink


        You remove the ‘http://’ from the start of the quoted URL. Then WordPress automagically reinserts it in the posted comment.

        If you *don’t* remove it then WP imbeds the video.


  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    Holy mackerel.
    One of my treasured recordings is of her singing Bailèro. I have kept it, oh, 20 years(?) and still play it regularly. I first came across it when it appeared in an episode of the old t.v. show Northern Exposure. I was not paying attention, but when it began the world sort of stopped for me and I had to have it. I knew nothing about what it meant, ere now, and so I robustly thank you.

  6. Merilee
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 9:48 am | Permalink

    Glorious!! I have the CD in question and many others from the lovely part-Maori lady. The La Rondine aria, sung by Leontyne Price, was my aha moment for opera, when I was 15 and my mother was playing the record on what she called the “Victrola”:-). Da earth, she moved.

    I must say that la langue auvergnais is not a no-brainer to translate…

    • Dale Franzwa
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 10:34 pm | Permalink

      Think I’ve either seen her in operas or heard her in opera recordings. We have a wonderful classical music station out of LA, KUSC-FM, that broadcasts operas and opera recordings on Saturday mornings, the Opera Show With Duff Murphy (9am to noon, Pacific time zone). You can get their live broadcasts on the Internet if interested.

  7. naomifein
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 10:00 am | Permalink

    She had a glorious voice, unusual and without much vibrato. I heard her live a number of times. She was (probably still is) a bit goofy in solo recitals. Once at Carnegie Hall, she forgot the words to whatever she was singing and began to giggle. And then we all joined her n giggling and that big giggle went on for quite a while. I think the pianist reminded her of the words.
    And Songs of the Auvergne is one of my favorite albums, too.

    • Merilee
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

      I like her personality. Seen her live several times. Last time, maybe 8 years ago, her voice was kind of going and she sang sort of cabaret songs. Now I think she mainly plays golf. Must be hard to lose thst wonderful “instrument.”

  8. Posted July 6, 2016 at 10:11 am | Permalink

    Yes, the Cantaloube is lovely. I didn’t know it, so thanks a lot.

    One of my favorites by her is the wonderful Mozart aria “Dove sono?” from Le Nozze di Figaro (after whom my last cat was named). I won’t post a link. It’s enough to google “dove sono kanawa” and you’ll hit on it.

  9. Posted July 6, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    It seems to me like something has gone wrong with that translation. For example, in the last verse:

    “Pastré couci foraï,” becomes “Shepherd, the water divides us,”

    “En obal io lou bel riou!” becomes “And I can’t cross it,”

    “Dio lou baïlèro lèrô,” becomes “Sing baïlèro lèrô”

    That all seems reasonable, but then…

    “Lèrô lèrô lèrô lèrô baïlèro lô.” becomes “Then I’ll come down and find you, Baïlèro lèrô.”

    A similar thing occurs in the other verses, so that the phrase “Lèrô lèrô lèrô lèrô” seems to mean many different things, but never the same word repeated four times in a row.

  10. Diana MacPherson
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    She has a CD of Maori songs that is quite nice. Her Pokarekare Ana is quite lovely.

    • Heather Hastie
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      I love her version of that too.

      The 1990 concert PCC(E) referred to was one of a series of concerts and other events all the country that year – it was our 150th birthday as a country.

  11. Posted July 6, 2016 at 11:57 am | Permalink

    “baïlèro”, eh?

    Not to be confused with bolero …

    • Merilee
      Posted July 6, 2016 at 1:42 pm | Permalink

      Most def NOT to be confused with Bolero🙀

      • infiniteimprobabilit
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        Not sure what the lyrics are to Bolero (and it might be a little hard to sing)


  12. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 2:02 pm | Permalink

    “Bailero” has long been one of my favorite ever pieces of modern vocal music.

    I was a bit disconcerted to find it had found a place (along with many other wonderful pieces of contemporary pieces of classical music) on the official “book soundtrack” album of the novel “50 Shades of Grey” as compiled by the author E. L. James but there’s no accounting….

    A lovely purely instrumental version of the Bailero found its way into William Walton’s soundtrack for Laurence Olivier’s film of Henry V. Here is a video of the Henry V suite, timed to start at 12:58, the appropriate place.

  13. keith cook + / -
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 6:13 pm | Permalink

    I enjoyed that breakfast interlude with Dame Kiri, thanks. I find myself lending my ears to opera pieces more these days where once it used to be intolerable, being a jazz, blues, country, rock snob…

  14. Ben
    Posted July 6, 2016 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Thanks for the links, and all the others posted. I agree Kiri Te Kanawa was one of the great ones, and the Chants d’Auvergne are always a glory to hear when well performed.

  15. Posted July 7, 2016 at 12:24 am | Permalink

    her voice is amazing

    tons of her music here

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