Opera diva takes show Down­ton

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - TELEVISION -

DAME Kiri Te Kanawa was so happy to land the role of famed opera singer Dame Nel­lie Melba in Down­ton Abbey she has named her new pet dog af­ter the hit show.

The star ‘‘couldn’t say yes fast enough’’ when she was of­fered the guest spot in the new se­ries.

She plays the real-life Aus­tralian singer who was one of the big­gest singing stars of the early 20th cen­tury.

Dame Kiri stud­ied a diary of Dame Nel­lie’s per­for­mances over 30 years to get into the role and chose suit­able songs for the part which sees her per­form at a party at the fic­tional coun­try house.

The New Zealand singer was ‘‘not sure’’ she re­ally acted in her scenes with the cast, which in­cludes some spo­ken lines as well.

‘‘I was try­ing to stay true to the char­ac­ter be­cause as (show writer) Ju­lian Fel­lowes said ‘she’s the only true char­ac­ter’ that ac­tu­ally lived,’’ she says.

Pro­ducer Gareth Neame say her per­for­mance has gone down a storm: ‘‘It was the sight of all th­ese tough elec­tri­cians and grips and all the peo­ple you see on a film set with tears in their eyes and wip­ing a tear away as they heard you. It was quite a spe­cial day.’’

Dame Kiri ad­mits she was ner­vous be­fore she ar­rived on set.

‘‘It was a long day but I made it longer by stay­ing up most of the night,’’ she says.

‘‘The most in­cred­i­ble thing is I took my two dogs along and Lady Carnar­von didn’t want those any­where near the place but the thing is dur­ing the time I was ex­pect­ing doggy num­ber three and she’s called Abbey as in Down­ton. ‘‘She’s my lit­tle Down­ton prize.’’ The new se­ries, which starts on UK tele­vi­sion later this year, is set in 1922 and sees the char­ac­ters deal­ing with the af­ter­math of the death of Matthew Craw­ley (Dan Stevens).

Down­ton Abbey: Com­ing soon, Seven, Prime7. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

– ROBERT DEX

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