In New Zealand, Kiri Te Kanawa is more than a national treasure. She’s practically Kiwi royalty, if such a thing existed. This makes it all the more amusing to see her interviewed by satirist Jeremy Wells.
In his 2011 documentary The Grand Tour, Wells follows the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra as they tour across Europe. Wells treats the members of the orchestra with the respect they deserve, reacting to their accomplishments with wonder and good-natured ribbing. The culmination of the film is an interview with Dame Te Kanawa – or Claire Rawstron as she was born.
I can’t quite remember why she becomes such a target for Wells, but I seem to remember him trying to secure the interview with her throughout the tour, and it keeps getting delayed. By the time he’s finally granted an audience with her, he’s in fine form, acting all flustered to be in her company. She comes across as a total diva, and tries to step in, steering Wells in the direction she believes he should be taking with his questioning.
As with the best of Sasha Baron Cohen’s early interviews, Wells lets Te Kanawa dig her own hole, and by the end of the interview she is dripping in ego, self-importance and an intolerant attitude to her interviewer.
The establishment isn’t questioned enough in Kiwi culture. New Zealand needs people like Wells; he’s as good as anybody in holding a mirror up to someone like Te Kanawa to show how ridiculous and out of touch she’s become.
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