Having released a solo album every year between the ages of twelve and sixteen, Charlotte Church has become the young face of classical music in the early twenty-first century. A self-initiated appearance on a popular local television show featuring talented children thrust Church into the international spotlight from her tiny hometown of Cardiff, Wales, where she was born in 1986. She attended school when home, but had a tutor when on tour performing for such distinguished audiences as Pope John Paul II, President and Mrs. Clinton, and Prince Charles. While she listened to popular singers such as P. Diddy and Gloria Estefan, her own albums included renditions of the Celtic folksongs "Men of Harlech" and "Carrickfergus," Andrew Lloyd Weber's "Pie Jesu," and "Ave Maria." Her personal and professional tastes evolved on each successive album as classical pieces made way for Broadway hits and popular classics.
Charlotte Church's image was defined by the title of her first recording, 1998's Voice of an Angel. Inspired in part by the success of the Three Tenors, or their marketing, record industry executives sought to broaden the audience for classical music. By packaging it in the form of a young performer, they hoped to further refute the genre's image as an inaccessible respite of the elite. While her cherubic image promised salvation through music, it also rescued classical music from poor record sales.
Church's music was nonthreatening to audiences, but critics argued that it was harmful to her still-developing voice. A soprano voice, such as Church's, only achieves full maturity in early adulthood. Some critics claimed that her voice was not technically suitable for the material she performed; others questioned how faithfully and passionately a young girl could sing such works as Stephen Adams's "Holy City."
While the description of Charlotte Church as a CHILD PRODIGY referred to her talent, her status as a CHILD STAR was a reflection of the image spun from it. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart was commissioned to compose his first serious opera, Mithridates, King of Pontus, at the age of fourteen. However, Mozart's father was promoting only his son, while Church's record company began marketing an entire genre of music via one performer, one child. To many, Charlotte Church became the personification of opera.
Many hoped that Church's angelic image would herald a new age for classical music by bringing other musicians to the mainstream in her wake. This long-term goal was complemented by the immediate one of attracting an audience from among the largest CD-buying demographic groups– adults over forty-five and children between ten and nineteen. The fact that at the age of fourteen Charlotte Church was one of the sixty wealthiest people under the age of thirty in the United Kingdom was at least proof of her image's, if not her own, success.
Official Charlotte Church Website. 2003. Available from www.charlottechurch.com.