The last aria: Te Kanawa an­nounces her re­tire­ment

The Guardian - - INTERNATIONAL - Ha­roon Sid­dique

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has an­nounced that she is re­tir­ing from pub­lic per­for­mance af­ter a ca­reer that has spanned al­most five decades.

The world-renowned so­prano, 73, said she had stopped per­form­ing a year ago but had not re­vealed her de­ci­sion un­til now. Te Kanawa told the BBC it had taken her five years “to say the good­bye in my own mind” but wanted to de­cide “when it was go­ing to be the last note”.

Her fi­nal per­for­mance was a con­cert in the Aus­tralian city of Bal­larat last Oc­to­ber: “Be­fore I’d gone on, I said, right, this is it. And that was the end.”

She said she did not miss singing. “I’ve had such an amaz­ing ca­reer. I don’t want to hear my voice – it is in the past. When I’m teach­ing young singers and hear­ing beau­ti­ful young fresh voices, I don’t want to put my voice next to theirs.”

The then-un­known New Zealand-born per­former shot to fame in 1971 af­ter be­ing cast as the count­ess in The Mar­riage of Fi­garo at Covent Garden.

She be­came an in­ter­na­tional house­hold name af­ter singing Han­del’s Let the Bright Seraphim at the wed­ding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in 1981. The per­for­mance was seen by one of the largest TV au­di­ences for a singer in his­tory – an es­ti­mated 600 mil­lion.

Te Kanawa is one of New Zealand’s great­est mu­si­cal ex­ports. She was born Claire Mary Teresa Raw­stron in Gis­borne on the North Is­land and was adopted when a few weeks old by Thomas Te Kanawa, a Māori, and his wife, Nell, who was of Ir­ish ori­gin. Her record­ing of the Nuns’ Cho­rus from Strauss’s Casanova was New Zealand’s first gold record.

She also recorded the theme song for the 1991 Rugby World Cup. World In Union, which reached num­ber four in the UK charts, be­came as syn­ony­mous with the com­pe­ti­tion as Pavarotti’s Nes­sun Dorma had with the foot­ball World Cup a year ear­lier. In 2013, she ap­peared in Down­ton Abbey, play­ing real-life Aus­tralian so­prano Dame Nel­lie Melba.

‘I’ve had such an amaz­ing ca­reer. I don’t want to hear my voice – it’s in the past’

Kiri Te Kanawa at the Royal Opera House in 2014. Her last per­for­mance was in Bal­larat, Aus­tralia, in Oc­to­ber last year Pho­to­graph: Rob­bie Jack

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