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Christmas with Kiri Te Kanawa

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I have been planning to write about this lady for a long time. I have resolved on doing it now, because she sings carols beautifully.

 

Kiri Te Kanawa was born on 5 March 1944 in Gisborne, New Zealand. Her original name was Claire Rawstron. Her father was Maori and her mother was European, but there is little known about them. It is said that her father was a Maori aristocrat. As an infant she was adopted by Thomas Te Kanawa, a Maori, and his Irish wife Nell. Her musical talent revealed itself very early in her life. She performed publically when she was 6 years old.

Christmas with Kiri Te Kanawa

 

She was a student of Saint Mary's College in Auckland. There was an well-functioning orchestra and a choir in the school, led by Sister Mary Leo. She was a gifted teacher, since several of her students went on to become great singers. At school Kiri began as a mezzo-soprano and only several years later she developed into a soprano. It wasn’t exclusively classical music she sang after co/mpleting her education. It was actually mainly pop music. She sang in clubs in different cities of New Zealand and by the time she turned 20 she had already got a large crowd of fans all over the country.

 

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The breakthrough came in 1965. Kiri Te Kanawa took part in Mobil Song Quest competition, where she sang Vissi d'arte from Puccini’s “Tosca”. She was an uncontested winner. As a prize she was offered scholarship in London. In 1966 she began to study at London Opera Centre and was tutored by Vera Rozsa and James Robertson.They both agreed that although Kiri’s technique needed some polishing, her voice charmed the listeners from the start.

 

The first public appearance on stage took place in 1968 in Sadler's Wells Theatre. She sang there several times Mozart, Haendel and Donizetti. The following year she took part in Camden Festival, singing an aria from Mozart’s Idomeneo. The result of this performance was a three-year contract with Royal Opera House Covent Garden. Colin Davies, a famous conductor, led the orchestra when Kiri auditioned for the role of role of the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro. This is what he had to say about her singing: 'I couldn't believe my ears. I've taken thousands of auditions, but it was such a fantastically beautiful voice.' .

 

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Colin Davies, a famous conductor, led the orchestra when Kiri auditioned for the role of role of the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro. This is what he had to say about her singing: "I couldn't believe my ears. I've taken thousands of auditions, but it was such a fantastically beautiful voice." Her debut in Covent Garden took place in 1970. She played the role of Xenia in Musorgski’s “Boris Godunov”. John Copley, the Resident Director at the Royal Opera House, began to prepare her for the winter season, starting in December 1971. Before then, Kiri Te Kanawa appeared together with Frederika von Stade, another rising star, in Le Nozze di Figaro in Santa Fe Opera in New Mexico. John Crosby, the opera director, described the performance as a historical event.

 

The beginning of new season in 1971 in Covent Garden took place on the 1st of December. Kiri Te Kanawa repeated her interpretation from Santa Fe. Her performance of Porgi Amor literally knocked out the audience. With this one appearance she achieved world fame. Invitations from many different countries flooded in. In 1972 she appeared on stage in Lyon and San Francisco. In 1974 in the Metropolitan Opera in New York she acted the part of Desdemona in Otello. In the following years she sang in theatres in Paris, Mediolan, Sydney, Salzburg and Vienna.

 

She did not refuse to engage in less classical repertoire either. In 1984 Leonard Bernstein invited her to perform West Side Story, alongside Jose Carreras and Marylin Horne. She recorded works of Gershwin, Porter, Berlin, as well as Maori songs.

 

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The British Royal Family greatly apprecaited Kiri. In 1981 she sang at the wedding of Charles, the Prince Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. The transmission was watched by 600 million viewers worldwide. In 1982 she was awarded an honour by the Queen and since then she has been called Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

 

In her career she has played many opera roles. Her interpretations of Mozart and Richard Strauss are the most acclaimed ones. Her lyrical soprano brought the full quality out of the creations of these composers. She sang Italian, French and Russian operas with great success. She did not like them equally though, for example she only appeared in Tosca once, in 1982 in Paris.

 

The last opera she appeared in was Samuel Barber’s Vanessa, in 2004 in Los Angeles. Since then she has only occasionally performed in recitals. One of them was in Warsaw in 2006.

 

In the music box carols recorded during concert in Barbican Centre in London in 1988. Kiri Te Kanawa is accompanied by Philharmonia Orchestra under the direction of Carl Davies.

 

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Last Updated (Saturday, 14 March 2015 14:17)

 

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