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Amira Willighagen - from opera star to hit mouse?

For a long time nothing has been written about Amira Willighagen! This is mainly due to the fact that it has become quiet around the now 14 1/2-year-old. Even on the stage where she actually celebrated her greatest successes: youtube. Gone are the days when your videos generated millions of clicks in just a few weeks. If there are a hundred thousand today, spread over a year, that's fine. But often there are only a few thousand. In the first six months after Amira Willighagen's talent show victory, over 100 videos were uploaded to her official YouTube channel - her appearances on HGT, then in television shows, in guest appearances, in television documentaries and radio programs, in family. In the second year between the end of 2014 and the end of 2015 there were only a good 20 videos. In the past six months there were only two. If you are lucky, a new entry may appear on your Facebook profile once a month. The last entry on their homepage is from May of this year. Her schedule (and we're talking about paid gigs for which she is booked) is empty except for two dates in November. Not even Christmas concerts have been scheduled so far.

Sometime a few years ago I wrote here that at some point no one would want to hear Amira Willighagen again. This low point has certainly not yet been reached - but it is not far from it either, so much honesty has to be there. Because outside of her immediate environment and the hard core of her YouTube fan scene, hardly anyone knows the little Dutch woman with the golden voice. No wonder, because Amira Willighagen has not appeared in the charts for a long time. Her third album "With all my Heart", released in March, was only pressed on CD for the South African market. In Germany, for example, it had only been available since July and was only available for download. The absence of the major label Sony is clearly noticeable here. But even their second album, “Merry Christmas” from November 2015, which was still released and marketed under Sony, only entered the Top 100 in Holland (69) and only for one week. Her first album, on the other hand, spent twelve weeks at number 1 on the Dutch album charts.

Did Sony lose interest? One can only speculate about that. But if a label has to provide its protagonist with a qualified singing teacher for the recordings of the second album, that should speak volumes. However, the already existing lack of vocal education took on extreme forms in the following year 2016 after the expulsion of her voice trainer Maike van der Wiel, who wanted to lead her away from opera singing to a repertoire more suitable for children, as Willighagen himself admitted in a documentary in 2017. The result were appearances in which she was vocal, but also above all in terms of her charisma, beyond good and bad. Something like that scares off not only major labels, but also specialist audiences and some fans. Me, for example. I wrote a lot about it in 2015 and 2016 and warned about these exact consequences - I was scolded a lot for it. As a "malicious person" and "jealous hammer". If I were all that, I could now savor it to the full and write: “Now you have the salad.” But it doesn't need to be. Everyone forms his own opinion on it.

The third album didn't even make it into the charts in Amira Willighagen's new adopted home South Africa. It was produced by the Coleske brothers' production company from the one-hit wonder of the same name from the 1990s. And while Amira's mother Frieda Brand complained indignantly about the lack of recognition of Amiras as a “real opera singer” in Holland at the beginning of the year in view of the sudden move to her South African homeland, the new album primarily does not shine with opera singing, but - with shallow pop ballads that nobody hurt, but really don't knock anyone off their feet. That means: Some of them actually hurt, because they are so sappy and banal that you just can't stand it despite a solid vocal performance (you have to acknowledge that much). At least that's how I felt.

This is where the whole tragedy of the fictional character Amira Willighagen becomes obvious: for years the label, management and parents have trimmed it to an opera star - a role that Willighagen played despite desperately repeated performances of her "classics" "O mio Babbino Caro" and "Nessun Dorma" until it did oozed out in your ears, never did justice. Indeed, it couldn't be - because with all this one had forgotten what was essential: Here was a child who was supposed to perform songs that are not intended for adults without reason - after several years of vocal and acting training as well as personal maturity. You wanted the sensation at all costs, you wanted to bask in its reflection - without thinking about the child. And what is still more important: with no success. Obviously the Coleske brothers have also recognized this, who with this third album gently but clearly and unmistakably lead Amira away from the victim subject and towards pop and classical crossover that are supposedly easier to market. Alone - the songs that they wrote for the girl just barely scratched the surface of complete insignificance. Carelessly and downright boringly arranged, produced cheaply. With this arrangement it is hard to believe that the Prague Philharmonic was supposed to have been involved.

Vocally, Amira Willighagen apparently did not survive the years as an opera prodigy without damage. However, I would like to be careful not to make accurate diagnoses from a distance. What is noticeable on live recordings is the scraping and breathing of her voice, especially in the deep chest registers: powerless, dull, without any shine. Her great domain is still the heights. But a professional singer has to be able to do everything, not just one thing. Anyone who primarily associates opera singing with the effortless achievement of great heights and neglects the lower registers (which are often much more difficult, especially for sopranos), is doing something crucial wrong and has not understood what the opera subject is all about. What Amira Willighagen basically lacks - especially for an opera career - is passion. It's been the same problem for years: with frozen facial expressions, she stands almost motionless on stage and sings with her mouth barely open - and that's exactly how you shouldn't do it. As a nine year old she exuded more passion, love for singing and understanding of what she sang. In this respect, the completed switch to pop and classical crossover is certainly correct and in line with their skills. But even here nothing works by itself.

Personally, however, I am grateful for the decline in public presence. Personally, it hurt every time I saw this little girl - puffed up into a grown woman with tons of makeup, high heels, and figure-hugging clothing - more or less indifferent to unresponsive to her well-known program. A development has not been observed for a long time. It never got beyond the well-known “wow” arias from O Mio Babbino Caro to O sole Mio or Funiculi Funicula. Really ambitious titles such as “Una voce poco fa” remained dreams, but they always did well in PR. Of the numerous arias that she painstakingly rehearsed for her albums over months, she never sang most of them again. At some point it is really time to compare your own illusion of the opera star with reality. Apparently that finally happened. Hopefully Amira Willighagen will not be discouraged by this.

I would like to recommend to her the path that Patricia Janeckova has taken. After her talent show victory in 2010 and the obligatory album, it became quiet for her. No more TV and paid PR appearances. Instead, Janeckova has been studying opera singing at the Ostrava Conservatory since 2016 and - I think - has developed phenomenally since then. Performances are carefully planned, always with a focus on what will be conducive to a serious career. Serious classical music competitions instead of third-rate YouTube videos. And a small but fine fan base that understands something of the kind of music that Janeckova is dedicated to.
Amira would have what it takes for a similar development, at least vocally. If the embarrassing PR scam of the past has not already slammed important doors for you.

Posted on Author JaneCategories Culture and ArtTags Amira Willighagen, Charts, Coleske, Corlea Botha, Classical, Maria Callas, Opera Star, Pop, South Africa, With all my Heart