BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: Entertainment  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Wednesday, 22 May, 2002, 10:57 GMT 11:57 UK
Opera Babes narrow classical divide
Opera Babes Karen England and Rebecca Knight
Karen England (left) and Rebecca Knight were discovered busking

When the Opera Babes sing at this year's Classical Brit Awards at London's Royal Albert Hall, it will be with the knowledge that they have come a long way in a short space of time.

Though not among the nominees for the awards on 23 May, Rebecca Knight, 32, and Karen England, 28, have, in just over a year, achieved a commendable amount.

Back then, they were singing operatic arias among the many other buskers in London's Covent Garden Piazza.

But then, the Opera Babes were "discovered".

Since, they have sung at 2001's FA Cup Final, at Buckingham Palace and signed a six-figure album deal.


Singers and musicians like us are trying very hard to maintain as much quality as they can

Rebecca Knight of the Opera Babes

The rise of Knight and England lies in their "crossover" appeal, a term and contemporary phenomenon often derided by classical purists yet a hit with much of the public.

Knight and England are young and good-looking and their style is to adapt classical pieces into a more "palatable" form.

For the Classical Brits they will perform a piece based on Puccini's Madame Butterfly and another based on Grieg's Piano Concerto.

And says Knight: "There are lots of mezzo-soprano duets in classical music but many of them are not palatable enough for people to relate to.

"But we have tried to maintain the classical integrity while making these things more appealing to a wider audience."

Passion

Knight is fully aware that, along with Russell Watson, Charlotte Church, Bond, even the Classical Brits themselves, they are ruffling the feathers of some traditionalists.

Operatic singer Charlotte Church
Charlotte Church has became a national singing star

But she is also adamant that these dissenters are being short-sighted about the quality and demand for their style of presentation.

"Any genre of music is only as good as its pieces but singers and musicians like us are trying very hard to maintain as much quality as they can," Knight says. "And there is definitely a place for it so I think it is here to stay."

A recent Opera Babes tour of UK secondary schools also showed that acts like theirs can serve a valuable purpose in passing the passion for classical music from generation to generation.

"We thought the children were going to eat us alive," exclaims Knight.

"And they did snigger at first but by the second song they were gripped and said they were amazed and had never considered listening to classical music before.

"It was the same when we were busking in Covent Garden. Young people used to say they couldn't believe we were singing opera because they imagined we should be fat with horns on our heads."

Wild

Knight makes no apologises for the Opera Babes' raunchy image. She fully admits their "packaging" has helped them on the way.

But their roots lie firmly in the world of straight opera.


To have a homeless guy come up and give you 1 doesn't really happen to the rest of the population

Rebecca Knight on why busking is special

From an early age, England had her heart set on an operatic career, studying music at Leeds University and London's Guildhall of Music and Drama.

Meanwhile, Knight, as the "wild child" of opera singer Gillian Knight, fought against the urge to sing. She tried acting, writing, even gardening, before she finally gave in.

Knight and England became friends four-and-a-half years ago when touring with a production of The Magic Flute.

After months on the tour bus, they decided to busk in London, primarily to earn money for singing lessons and be in the capital to audition for big productions.

Knight says her mother was among their regular fans: "She was really proud of me and used to drop 5 in the basket at lunch time when she was working at the Royal Opera House."

Treasured

Overall however, it was not a profitable experience. When the weather was bad they hardly made enough for their bus fare home.

But even with their first album Beyond Imagination just released and a performance at the Queen's Jubilee classical concert lined up for June, Knight says busking is hard to beat.

"We really loved doing it and miss it," she says. "To have a homeless guy come up and give you 1 doesn't really happen to the rest of the population.

"A lot of touching things like that happened. Money and fame can't match that sort of experience."

See also:

24 Apr 02 | Entertainment
24 Apr 02 | Entertainment
29 Apr 02 | Entertainment
18 Apr 01 | Entertainment
20 Feb 02 | Wales
Internet links:


The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more Entertainment stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Entertainment stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes