Rape dom­i­nates Dame’s mo­ment

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

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

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