Katherine Jenkins

Katherine Jenkins Biography

"Diva" means "goddess." Pure and simple: Think lovely and luminous, gracious and serene, classic in every sense. Such words might have been coined to describe Katherine Jenkins, the Welsh mezzo-soprano whose talent, passion and model-gorgeous presence make the whole idea of a "diva" sublime once again. It is fitting, somehow, that she makes her U.S. debut with an album called La Diva - the first in her exclusive new agreement with Decca - a collection of popular songs and operatic arias that introduces a singing phenomenon who already rules the charts in her native United Kingdom.

At 24/25, Jenkins is on the brink of a major international career - she can now safely leave behind her days as a music teacher - and it promises to be a unique one. Not long ago, she was happily working as a schoolteacher, when fame and fortune suddenly intervened, in the form of a record-breaking contract with Universal Classics. La Diva is designed to appeal to a vast popular audience, the listeners who continue to embrace Andrea Bocelli, Russell Watson and Hayley Westenra. But Jenkins's ambitions are as high as they are broad. A scholarship student at London's Royal Academy of Music, she has every intention of pursuing a serious career in opera when her voice is ready and the time is right. (She already has her sights set on title role in Carmen.) Her model in this is fellow Welshman Bryn Terfel, the bass-baritone whose wisely managed core-classical success is balanced with his acclaimed forays into popular and folk music.

La Diva showcases Jenkins's rich, lustrous voice in everything from the contemporary hit "Time to Say Goodbye" and the Rodgers & Hammerstein anthem "You'll Never Walk Alone," to beautiful arias and songs by Dvorák, Bizet, Verdi, Mozart and Rodrigo. That's diva territory, for sure, and she navigates it with the artistry and aplomb of, well...a diva.

Katherine Jenkins has been singing since the earliest days of her childhood in Wales, a land and a culture virtually synonymous with singing. At seven, she auditioned for her church choir in the town of Neath, in the south of Wales near Cardiff, and was head chorister by the age of 10. Somewhere in between, in 1988, she became something of a local legend when - in a performance of "O Holy Night" in Swansea's Brangwyn Hall - the intensity of one of her soaring high notes literally shattered a crystal chandelier. Otherwise, her childhood was typical and happy, shadowed only by the death of her beloved father when she was only 15. Like many a Welsh child, Jenkins sang in choirs throughout her childhood and adolescence, but she won a mantel full of awards and prizes and a place in the National Youth Choir, as well as twice representing Wales in (and winning) the competition for BBC Choirgirl of the Year. A scholarship to the Royal Academy of Music was the crowning achievement in her preparation as a singer.

The serious, studious side of Katherine Jenkins barely hints at the glamorous, passionate singer whose audiences have even included the cheering fans at last year's Rugby League Challenge Cup Final in Cardiff, whom she led in an unforgettable rendition of "You'll Never Walk Alone" - a long way from those holiday renditions of "I'm a Little Teapot" that once delighted her family. Jenkins made her international debut at the Sydney Opera House in Australia, she has toured with Hayley Westenra and fellow Welshman Aled Jones, and - just last August - sang in Cardiff at a dinner celebrating the 50th anniversary in show business of another daughter of Wales, Dame Shirley Bassey. In March and April, she will tour the U.S., opening for Irish tenor Ronan Tynan.

North London is now home to Katherine Jenkins, and she shares her life there with singer/songwriter Steve Hart, himself a star from his days in the boy band Worlds Apart. Chart-topping album sales in the U.K. herald her arrival in the U.S., and the beginning of a truly international success. You'd expect nothing less than from a genuine diva. La Diva. Pure and simple.

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