62 / Dame Kiri Te Kanawa


New Zealand’s best-known singer, operatic soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, was born in Gisborne and educated at St Mary’s College, Auckland, where she studied singing under Sister Mary Leo. In 1965 she won both the New Zealand Mobil Song Quest and the Melbourne Sun Aria Competition, and the following year moved to London to study and sing. After performing at Covent Garden she rose to international prominence, appearing in major roles at opera houses in London, New York, Milan and Paris. In 1981 she performed at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in St Paul’s Cathedral, and the following year she was made a Dame of the British Empire by Queen Elizabeth II. Although she officially retired from the opera stage in 2004, she still performs on occasion, and in 2013 she played Australian soprano Dame Nellie Melba in an episode of the British period drama television series Downton Abbey

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