Opera diva takes show Downton
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