Rape dominates Dame’s moment
ABRITISH TV critic may have readers believe New Zealand diva Dame Kiri Te Kanawa murdered the voice of Dame Nellie Melba in the latest episode of popular period soap Downton Abbey.
But Dame Kiri’s portrayal of the Australian opera singer in an ‘‘upstairs’’ scene in the fictional English mansion has been overshadowed by a violent rape scene ‘‘downstairs’’ involving male and female servant characters.
The Press Association reports that ITV, which warned viewers about upsetting scenes before the programme aired in Britain on Monday night, said it had received ‘‘around 60 complaints’’.
Communications regulator Ofcom has also been contacted by viewers but would not give out a figure.
The only complaints from the Daily Telegraph’s opera critic Rupert Christiansen, however, were of Dame Kiri’s singing and acting, and Nellie Melba’s treatment by Downton’s scriptwriters.
He wrote that recordings of the Australian soprano demonstrate singing far more secure and shapely than Dame Kiri’s. Sharp unsteady intonation, heavy vibrato and tastelessly swooping portamento’’ spoiled her performances in the episode.
Christiansen accused Dame Kiri of delivering her few lines of dialogue in ‘‘stiffly parroted and nervous fashion’’ that reminded him that ‘‘even in her glorious vocal prime she had never been much of an actress’’.
And ‘‘her flatly modern mid-Atlantic accent was nothing like Melba’s cultivated diction’’.
The writers also got it wrong, according to Christiansen, by treating Dame Nellie more like a ‘‘visiting tradesperson’’. By 1922, when Downton Abbey is set, she had enjoyed 30 years of being received as a social equal by European monarchs and aristocrats.
Downton Abbey: Coming soon, Seven, Prime7. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa