Dame Kiri takes fi­nal bow in bril­liant ca­reer

Weekend Herald - - VIEWPOINTS -

When I’m hear­ing beau­ti­ful young fresh voices, I don’t want to put my voice next to theirs. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

The Aus­tralians were the last to see Dame Kiri Te Kanawa per­form. The ac­claimed New Zealand so­prano sang at Bal­larat near Mel­bourne last year.

She knew it would be the fi­nal cur­tain but did not let the world know un­til this week in London when she was hon­oured with the Life­time Achieve­ment ac­co­lade at the Gramo­phone Clas­si­cal Mu­sic Awards — the Os­cars of clas­si­cal mu­sic — to cel­e­brate her re­mark­able life’s work.

Her ex­pla­na­tion was frank. “I don’t want to hear my voice — it is in the past,” she said.

Fame set­tled on her in 1971 with sen­sa­tional per­for­mances as The Count­ess in The Mar­riage of Fi­garo and as The Flower Maiden in Par­si­fal. She went on to per­form at ev­ery ma­jor opera house in the world, and make more than 40 record­ings.

A royal favourite, she sang Han­del’s Let the Bright Seraphim at the wed­ding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981, a per­for­mance seen by an es­ti­mated 600 mil­lion peo­ple — one of the largest TV au­di­ences for a singer in his­tory. In 2006, she sang Happy Birth­day to the Queen at the Com­mon­wealth Games in Aus­tralia.

She has given back to the art which re­warded her richly, cre­at­ing the Kiri Te Kanawa Foun­da­tion to as­sist the very best young New Zealand singers take their gifts to the high­est level through hard work and ded­i­ca­tion.

That task helped with her de­ci­sion to end an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer. “When I’m teach­ing young singers and hear­ing beau­ti­ful young fresh voices, I don’t want to put my voice next to theirs.” The opera star hit the right re­tire­ment note.

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