Kiri Te Kanawa Sings Her Last Public Note
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, one of opera’s most celebrated stars, has told the BBC she will never sing in public again. Te Kanawa, 73, said she stopped performing a year ago, but had not announced her retirement until now.
“I don’t want to hear my voice,” said the soprano, whose career has spanned more than half a century. “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.”
Te Kanawa has appeared at all the world’s major opera houses and concert halls. She made her name in 1971 when she was cast as the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro at Covent Garden. At the time she was barely known.
“I’ve had such an amazing career,” the New Zealander said. But she was adamant she wanted to decide “when it was going to be the last note.” However, she admitted it took her five years “to say the goodbye in my own mind”, adding: “I’ve taken that time.”
She has certainly achieved a level of fame rare for a classical performer. Six hundred million people heard her sing Let the Bright Seraphim by Handel at the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1981.
“I was told two or three months before, you will sing this song,” she revealed. “Can you imagine holding that inside you for months and months, not being able to mention it to anyone?”
But after the death of the Princess of Wales in 1997, she never sang it again. “I never wanted to,” she said. “When she died, I felt that I should put that song away forever.”
What turned out to be her final performance was a concert in Ballarat near Melbourne in Australia last October.
Her focus now, she said, was training what she called the future stars of opera through the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation.
Te Kanawa was honoured at the 2017 Gramophone Awards ceremony in London with a Lifetime Achievement Award. “It’s very, very special,” she said.
Original article by Rebecca Jones, BBC, September 13, 2017.
Photo by Ambroise Tézenas.