Yankee Diva Arleen Augér Scores Her Biggest Gig, a Solo at the British Royal Wedding
The choice of an American for such a plum assignment—even one whose father is Canadian and whose mother is of English descent—caused some curled lips in Britain's musical/political establishment. Such benefits, critics said, should rightly go to British, or at least Commonwealth, artists. With characteristic diplomacy, wedding organizers then added a second singer to the program; British soprano Felicity Lott will sing Mozart's Laudate Dominum.
The ruckus was news to Augér. A student of bel canto tenor Ralph Errolle and former member of the Vienna State Opera, she admits she had no idea how her selection came about. Unlike New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, whom Prince Charles greatly admired and requested to sing at his and Princess Diana's 1981 nuptials, Augér is not thought to be one of the happy couple's favorites. Neither Andy nor Fergie is known for refined musical taste, theirs running more toward the Stones, Springsteen, Elton John and disco. The musical details for the wedding were thus left to Westminster Abbey organist and director of music Simon Preston.
According to the Rev. Alan Luff, precentor and sacrist at the Abbey, Preston, in consultation with the bride and groom, "first fixed the repertoire, then had to cast it. He wanted the best, and she is the best."
Augér doesn't give a hoot how it happened. "It's a great honor for me," she says, "and for an American."