Q and A With Opera Singer Kiri Te Kanawa

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, who was presented with the 2017 Gramophone Awards Lifetime Achievement Award last week in London, and who has just announced her retirement from public performance, sat down with the Financial Times’ Hester Lacey to talk about her mentors, her love of gardening and about the ambitions she still has.

Te Kanawa first achieved fame after her 1971 performances in The Marriage of Figaro at the Santa Fe Opera and the Royal Opera House in London. She was made a Dame in 1982 for services to opera, and received the Order of New Zealand in 1995.

“[My mentor] first and foremost was Vera Rozsa, the distinguished Hungarian singing teacher I worked with throughout my professional career,” Te Kanawa explains. “She was known for speaking her mind. Sir Georg Solti, with whom I worked extensively, was also a great musical influence. When I first arrived at Covent Garden, Norman Feasey was one of the most significant coaches. I am constantly reminded of the wisdom and advice they all imparted to me.”

Te Kanawa says she is fit “like a gazelle”. “Gardening every day is keeping me very fit and my dogs need daily walks. My golfing days are over but I enjoy watching all sports, especially tennis and golf,” she says.

“Plants are my biggest extravagance. I’m addicted to garden centre.”

Te Kanawa, 73, describes the ambitions she still fosters:

“To grow all my own produce and see all my singers succeed – they need just as much nurturing as the plants and seeds I sow. When I started my foundation more than 10 years ago, it was at a time in my life when I felt that I had reached many of my personal goals, and my ambition today is to channel some of my dreams into the young singers we are supporting.”

Te Kawawa was born Claire Mary Teresa Rawstron in Gisborne in 1944.

Original article by Hester Lacey, Financial Times, September 15, 2017.

Tags: Financial Times  Kiri Te Kanawa  

  • David Cade - 8:23 pm on September 27th, 2017
    Te Kanawa possessed a remarkably beautiful voice and she used it extremely well. The flurry of fine recordings she made in Britain in the late 1970s and 1980s preserved her voice and work for posterity. I don't believe any other soprano will ever better Te Kanawa's 3 discs of Mozart arias, nor her first recording of Strauss's "Four Last Songs". And what a contribution she gave New Zealand with her Maori songs disc in the late 1990s! Whenever I play that it whisks me instantly back to school days in New Zealand.
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