Opera Scotland

Kiri Te Kanawa Suggest updates

Dame Kiri Jeanette Claire Te Kanawa  ONZ  CH  DBE  AC.

Born Gisborne, 6 March 1944.

New Zealand soprano.

Kiri Te Kanawa was born Claire Mary Teresa Rawstron and adopted in infancy.  She studied at St Mary's College,  Auckland,  and was taught singing by a renowned expert, Sister Mary Leo Niccol.  In 1965 she won the Mobil Song Quest which provided a bursary to study in London.   She had been runner-up in 1963 to (Dame) Malvina Major.

She trained at the London Opera Centre and with Vera Rosza.  Roles performed as a student included Second Lady The Magic Flute,  Second Woman Dido and Aeneas,  Anna Bolena  and Idamante Idomeneo.  Her professional operatic debut was in London at the 1969 Camden Festival as Elena in Rossini's La donna del lago.

In 1970 she sang two short roles at Covent Garden, a Flower Maiden in Parsifal and Xenia in Boris Godunov.  The following year she sang the Countess in John Copley's new staging of Le nozze di Figaro, conducted by Colin Davis.  The enormous success of this immediately launched her on a major international career.  Subsequent roles at the Royal Opera House included more Mozart (Donna Elvira,  Fiordiligi,  Pamina);  Verdi (Amelia Simon Boccanegra,  Desdemona);  Gounod (Marguerite);  Bizet (Micaëla);  J Strauss (Rosalinde);  Puccini (Mimì);  R Strauss (Marschallin,  Arabella,  Countess Capriccio).

Her first appearance as Countess Almaviva was in the summer of 1971 at Santa Fe, with the Covent Garden production following in December.  1972 saw further performances at Lyon and San Francisco and her first Desdemona with Scottish Opera.

Through the 70s she made appearances at Glyndebourne,  Paris,  Sydney,  Milan,  Salzburg and Vienna.  Her first Arabella was at Houston (1977), following that with the Marschallin.  She sang Tosca in Paris (1982).  Later additions to her operatic repertoire included Elisabeth de Valois Don Carlos (Chicago 1989).  She sang the Countess Capriccio in San Francisco (1990), repeating this part at Covent Garden, Glyndebourne and the Met, as well as La Scala,  Houston,  Munich and Cologne.  She also sang the Marschallin at Cologne.

Her final operatic leading role was in Samuel Barber's Vanessa at Monte Carlo (2001).  She repeated this in Washington DC and Los Angeles.  She later played the spoken part of the Duchess of Krakentorp in Donizetti's  La fille du régiment at the Met (2010),  Vienna and Covent Garden.

She rarely worked in Scotland, though her first appearance in 1972 was her wonderful role debut as Desdemona, with Charles Craig and Peter Glossop.   A noted Strauss stylist, she sang the Four Last Songs at the Edinburgh Festival, and eventually returned to Scottish Opera for two excellent gala concerts.

Honours awarded include Dame Commander of the British Empire (1982); New Zealand Commemoration Medal (1990);  Honorary Order of Australia (1990);  Order of New Zealand (1995);  Companion of Honour (2018).

She has Honorary Degrees from a number of Universities - Bath,  Cambridge,  Dundee,  Durham,  Nottingham,  Oxford,  Sunderland and Warwick in the UK, as well as Chicago,  Auckland and Waikato.

She sang Donna Elvira in the 1979 film of Don Giovanni directed by Joseph Losey, and several stage productions have been released on DVD, including Le nozze di Figaro,   Simon Boccanegra and Otello.

She has made a huge number of recordings of songs and choral works as well as operas.  She sang short parts in two recordings made by Dame Joan Sutherland and Richard Bonynge: Meyerbeer Les Huguenots (First Maid) and Verdi Rigoletto (Countess Ceprano).  The leading roles in operatic  and oratorio recordings include:-  Gay (Polly The Beggar's Opera);  Handel  (Messiah);  Bach (St Matthew Passion);  Mozart (Silberklang Der SchauspieldirektorLe nozze di FigaroDon GiovanniCosì fan tutteDie Zauberflöte);  Wagner (Elisabeth Tannhäuser);  Verdi (La traviataSimon BoccanegraOtello);  Gounod (Marguerite Faust);  Tchaikovsky (Tatyana Eugene Onegin);  Bizet (Micaëla Carmen);   J Strauss (Die Fledermaus);  Puccini (Manon LescautLa bohème Tosca,  Magda La rondine);  Humperdinck (Sandman Hansel und Gretel);  Strauss (Der RosenkavalierArabellaCapriccio);  Loewe (My Fair Lady);  Bernstein (West Side Story).

Roles in Scotland

Desdemona Otello's wife
Otello 1972
Soprano
Gala Concert 1985

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