New Zealand opera singer Kiri Te Kanawa, granted the title of "Dame" by the Queen of England, is considered one of the best Mozart performers in the world. Her focus these days is on the next generation of singers.
With "O mio babbino caro" Giacomo Puccini's opera "Gianni Schicchi," Kiri Te Kanawa became world-famous overnight - thanks to the film "A Room with a View," for whose soundtrack she had recorded the opera aria.
Kanawa, born on March 6, 1944 in New Zealand as the daughter of a Maori father and a European mother, originally wanted to make a mark in the world of cheesy pop - because the songs are easier to sing, she said at the time. After competition victories at home and in Australia, she began training as a singer in London. At the Royal Opera House there, she had her international breakthrough in 1971 with Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro."
Of her audition, conductor Sir Colin Davis said, "I couldn't believe my ears. I've taken thousands of auditions, but it was such a fantastically beautiful voice that I said, 'Let's hear her again and see if we're not dreaming.'"
The star from New Zealand compared her career with a journey, telling "The Telegraph" newspaper, "The freight train started and it never stopped." She celebrated major successes as Marschallin in "Rosenkavalier," as Desdemona in "Othello," as Mimi in "La Boheme," as Micaela in "Carmen" and as Maria in "West Side Story."
In August 2009, she announced the end of her opera career and gave her last performance at the Cologne Opera on April 17, 2010 as Marschallin in Richard Strauss' "Rosenkavalier." "There's relief that the pressure is off. It's a very, very high energy job and a lot is expected of you - you're really expected to do … more than you can cope with sometimes," she has said.
These days, Kiri Te Kanawa devotes her time to future generations of singers. She regularly offers masterclasses and founded a foundation to promote young talents. The veteran performer says she recognizes the beginning of a career is especially hard and wants to help young artists as they transition from studies to working life. She sees herself as a companion ready to offer assistance at every stage along the way.