(09 July 2005) New Zealand singing sensation, Hayley Westenra, presents Live From New Zealand (Decca Music (USA) B0004199-09, 2005), a DVD recorded at the Westpac St James Theatre in Wellington, New Zealand in August 2004. This beautifully produced DVD showcases Hayley's amazing talents.
With the dramatic flair of a traditional haka greeting by the Te Orowai Maori dance group, Hayley opens her concert with a traditional Maori song, "Pokarekare Ana (Come Back to Me)," which is her signature song about a loved one going off to sea. She sings in the Polynesian language to absolute perfection. Her angelic voice, backed by orchestra and choir in "River of Dreams," delights with her pure and soaring vocals. Her tone is exquisite and unfaltering.
"In Trutina" from Carl Orff's "Carmina Burana" is sung with perfection and immaculate clarity one would expect from a seasoned operatic soloist. One tends to forget that Hayley is a mere seventeen year old when performing in this concert in 2004. "Across the Universe in Time" opens with gentle guitar riffs and a costume change for Hayley. She emotes passion in her vocals and exhibits a simple elegance in her style. Her younger sister, Sophie, provides accompanying vocals. Obviously, talent and beauty abounds in the Westenra family.
Enya's "May It Be" from Lord of the Rings is flawlessly performed. A background of various New Zealand landscapes dramatize the sensational vocals that lift the listener to a new level. Hayley has tremendous richness in her singing and one is blown away by her vocal maturity and expansive talent. With another costume change that continues an elegant theme, "Beat of Your Heart" brings about a more contemporary feel in the music. Hayley appears comfortable singing anything from classical to current music.
Her aria, "Cantilena," from Villa-Lobos' "Bachianas Brasileiras No.5" showcases her amazing singing ability. She is accompanied by a cellist, and the combined vocals and instrumentals complement one another's virtuoso talents. Utterly fantastic! Showing her diversity and versatility, Hayley sings "Who Painted the Moon Black?" Backed by both band and orchestra, she sets the mood with her rock/pop interpretation.
Baritone Teddy Tahu Rhodes sings the duet "How Many Stars" from Bombay Dreams with Hayley. Their rendition is delightful and full of resonant and rich tones. Hayley can easily star in a West End or Broadway production with her multitude of vocal talents. A spiritual medley follows, mixing the traditional "Ave Maria" with interpretive English lyrics.
Hayley touches on Country music with "Down to the River." She continues to amaze with her singing versatility to all types of music. She sings comfortably in country, opera, rock/pop, musical theatre and religious genres. "Amazing Grace" is performed in a stunning manner. Accompanied by a male quartet, Musical Island Boys, Hayley's magnificent and soaring voice makes a lasting impression. "Benedictus," from The Armed Man:A Mass for Peace by Karl Jenkins was simply spectacular. Chills run up and down your spine with Hayley's vocal perfection and the beauty of the orchestra.
"Mary, Did You Know"" and Joni Mitchell's "Both Sides Now" begin the final sequence of songs from this incredible concert. Hayley's lush tones continue to excite the listener. Her version of "Never Say Goodbye," a modern vocal arrangement of Ravel's "Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte," is superb. Her effortless voice brings about a feeling of joyous contentment and a flowing ecstacy.
Hayley certainly puts her own touch to Kate Bush's "Wuthering Heights" bringing the song to new heights. She most definitely gives Kate Bush a run for the money on this one. "Hine e Hine (Girl O Girl)" concludes her concert and Hayley absolutely shines. Teddy Tahu Rhodes again joins her to perfect this duet.
Bonus features on the DVD include interviews with Hayley. Her lovely and genuine personality is highlighted in this feature. Her parents' comments are also included. One learns tht Hayley and her sister were buskers, gaining experience in front of an audience on the streets of many famous cities worldwide. Also, Hayley's vocal talent was discovered in primary school and her teacher found her voice pitch perfect. She performed in her first stage production at the age of seven in Annie. She is a well-rounded performer and has studied ballet, piano and violin. The interview goes on to discuss Dame Malvina Major, who influenced her music and grounded Hayley in her singing as well as discussing her favorite singers, musical influences and other personal tidbits.
Other bonus features include a video of "Pokarekare Ana," a concert performance of "I Dreamed a Dream" from Les Miserables, a New Zealand tourism documentary, a fabulous photo gallery and a memorabilia slide show.
What more can be said about Hayley Westenra. She gives a stellar performance and you get more than you paid for. She is beautiful to watch, astonishing to listen to, and one can only
imagine a very bright future for this extraordinary talent.
The US audience is certain to be humbled by her glorious voice. She is in no doubt a shining star with a gift for all of us to relish.