Kiri Te Kanawa is being sued in an Australian court this week for breach of contract, following her withdrawal from a 2005 concert tour opposite veteran Australian pop singer John Farnham. It seems she was uncomfortable with the possibility that enflamed female fans might throw panties at the stage while Farnham was singing.
Leading Edge Events, the Australian promoters who brought the lawsuit, had planned three large outdoor performances in Sydney and Melbourne under the heading "Two Great Voices." Ticket sales were strong (Sydney's Daily Telegraph reports that corporate tables in the VIP area were going for A$9,500 apiece), and the project promised to be lucrative for all involved.
The diva evidently had second thoughts when she saw a John Farnham concert.
While he never achieved the wide recognition overseas that his compatriot crooner Olivia Newton-John once enjoyed, the 57-year-old singer has been very popular in Australia for decades, with a following evidently not unlike that of Tom Jones — including middle-aged women in the audience who toss their knickers at him.
According to testimony in a Sydney courtroom yesterday (reported by the Australian Associated Press), Te Kanawa knew little about Farnham when the tour was being planned and asked for a DVD of a live performance — which she watched and found "absolutely horrendous." Leading Edge co-proprietor Frank Williams reassured her that the company would allow no undergarments to be thrown at the stage during her duets with Farnham, the court was told, but this was not enough to mollify her. She pulled out of the concerts in March of 2004, claiming concern over artistic control and payment — and leaving the promoters with the loss of more than $A380,000 in advance expenditures alone.
Leading Edge is now suing the soprano and her former manager, Nick Grace, for A$600,000, plus 25% of potential profits from the venture.
Further testimony stated that Te Kanawa (who was not in the court yesterday) clearly told Grace about her objections, but that the manager never conveyed them to Leading Edge. "The plaintiff was led into error," attorney Richard Evans told the court, "in thinking if someone's pants ended up on the stage, that was not enough to dissuade Dame Kiri from performing with John Farnham."
The soprano has filed her own suit against Grace in the matter.
Te Kanawa, who turns 63 in March, retired from opera in 2004 but still sings in concert occasionally.