« Previous | Culture Monster Home | Next »

Review: Josh Groban, Kiri Te Kanawa at Hollywood Bowl opening night

June 20, 2009 |  2:34 pm


It was a chocolate and champagne sort of night at the Hollywood Bowl.

The festive mood at Friday's season-opening concert proved extra-conducive for enjoying those consumables from one's picnic basket, while, in a more fanciful sense, those flavors wafted on the air as cocoa-voiced Josh Groban and effervescent soprano Kiri Te Kanawa performed separate sets as new inductees into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame.

As a double bill, these talents might have seemed an odd combination -- the 28-year-old boy-man who sends his female fan base swooning with a repertoire that is a bit pop, a bit classical and a bit world music, yet not really any of them, and the celebrated, ever-radiant 65-year-old opera star who's gone largely missing for more than a decade now.

Yet diversity is one of the qualities embraced by the Hall of Fame, which showcases performers who "embody the spirit of the Bowl," as Thomas Wilkins, the evening's conductor and genial emcee, explained.

Proof of that precept promptly materialized as the hall's first inductees, country singer Garth Brooks and composer-conductor John Williams manned a stage-side lectern to introduce this 10th anniversary Hall of Fame concert.

Josh When, more than two hours later, Groban and Te Kanawa twined voices for a surprise duet on Cole Porter’s “True Love,” they proved remarkably complementary, with Te Kanawa skimming like a bird just above Groban’s deep waters.

Their fans, on the other hand, were grin-inducingly eclectic. Pre-performance, one Grobanite was the talk of adjoining boxes of concert-goers after she walked by proudly baring the singer’s portrait, tattooed on her upper arm. Later, when Te Kanawa arrived on stage, a shout of “Aotearoa” – the Maori phrase that characterizes her New Zealand homeland as the land of the “long white cloud” – rang out in greeting from one exuberant spectator. 

During his five-song, post-intermission performance, hometown boy Groban faced a hillside rainbow of glow sticks and was bathed in a continuous strobe effect from camera flashes. He moved athletically from keyboard to drum kit before planting himself at a standing mike, backed, as Te Kanawa earlier had been, by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.

The capacity audience of nearly 18,000 whooped for the Groban staple “February Song,” a bittersweet ballad about a young man in search of himself, and “Pearls,” a mournful-resilient tribute to the people of Somalia, performed with Angelique Kidjo, the Beninese singer who’s been his tour mate. A still louder response greeted Groban’s set-capping performance of “Anthem,” from the rock musical “Chess.” He headlined a concert version of the show last year in London; Friday, he was backed by young singers from his alma mater, the Los Angeles County High School for the Arts.

Kiri In the first half, Te Kanawa elicited anticipatory applause as, in the middle of her five-song set, she sent aloft the first phrase of “O mio babbino caro,” the Puccini aria for which the world has recognized her ever since her rendition of it was used in the 1985 film “A Room With a View.” Through the rest of the song, the purity and languor in her voice seemed to float gently down upon the audience like feathers released from some heavenly pillow-cloud. That downy quality also was evident in a graceful pairing with pal and fellow star Frederica von Stade in the fond, playful “Ah guarda, sorella” duet from Mozart’s “Cosi fan Tutte.”
Prior Hall of Fame inductees Trisha Yearwood and Roger Daltrey made brief, 10th anniversary appearances. The country singer struggled to fit her voice to a cross-genre song choice, the standard “I’ll Be Seeing You”; Daltrey half-roared, half-spoke a pair of songs that he once delivered so smoothly in the Who’s “Tommy.”

Te Kanawa and Groban, conversely, made singing seem effortless – though, as any singer knows, that is absolutely not the case. Proper technique requires physical stamina and years of training. Both Te Kanawa and Groban are enthusiastic supporters of music outreach and training, another reason for their presence at this fundraising concert for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s educational Music Matters program. The evening raised nearly $1 million, according to a post-performance news release.   

-- Daryl H. Miller

Photos, from top: Josh Groban and Kiri Te Kanawa, Groban with Thomas Wilkins, Te Kanawa. Credit: Anne Cusack / Los Angeles Times


John Williams and Garth Brooks


Roger Daltrey


Trisha Yearwood

Comments () | Archives (7)

Thank you so much for ths glowing review, which made the glow from last evening last a bit longer. Kiri was capturing my heart before Josh was born and to see them together was incredibly breathtaking. I loved that the video about Groban covered his commitment to cause, to Nelson Mandela, to children worldwide. Hometown boy makes good! And we are very proud of him.

Roger is a superiorally beautiful human being. Snuggly, angelic, gorgeous, charismatic!

This was truly a magical night. I was there for Josh, who didn't let me down at all , but Kiri was a true suprise for me . She was beautiful.
I was very glad to be there on such a special night.
With Garth Brooks and Trish Yearwood.Wow. A the finale with John Williams conducting to Star Wars and fireworks, over the top wonderful.

Rock on Josh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Great Josh!! You rock! :))

John Williams and Josh in the same place...my dream that will never come true. Josh, when will you perform in Italy? I 'd bring you a bottle of good wine from collio, I swear!!

Thanks for the article !

I Love that song Josh, u rocked and I wish I coulda been there!!! Love U

We were enchanted with this entire concert! I had been terribly disappointed that I had not seen Kiri in her farewell concerts locally here in SoCal a year and a half ago. This chance to finally see her was sweet. Though I am not a frenetic Groban fan, he also did a fine job and I am glad to see him. My favorite from him was Charlie Chaplin's theme song, "Smile," which was very poignant and truly special. Don't forget to mention the unannounced visit to the Bowl stage from Dame Edna Everage. Her comedy schtick almost stole the show! But the icing on the cake was to see John Williams, the composer himself, conduct his own music, the "Star Wars" medley, with fireworks. I never expected to see him again, and yet there he was on Friday. This is one of the most memorable concerts in my life, and I have seen many.

Enjoy seeing John Williams conduct. You guys are lucky to have such a Grand Master of music in your midst.

But when is he going to write more film music? One in four years is not enough. One each year is not enough.


Recommended on Facebook

In Case You Missed It...


Explore the arts: See our interactive venue graphics


Tweets and retweets from L.A. Times staff writers.