Opera legend Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will never sing in public again
The celebrated opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has announced that she will never sing in public again, bringing to a close a career that has spanned five decades and garnered her a host of accolades. Dame Kiri, 73, said that she came to the decision to stop singing last year as she no longer wants to hear her own voice, but has only announced her retirement publicly now. She had thought about retire-ment for five years, she said, and revealed that a performance in Melbourne last October was in fact her last. In an interview after the announcement, she told The Telegraph: “I won’t miss performing in public… I’m living all the things I did myself but without the pressure of performing. “Now it’s about getting the young students ready and my foundation is very important to me.” Addressing the issue of whether opera is still relevant in today’s ‘three-minute attention span’ culture, she said: “I’m told Covent Garden is 95 per cent full every night so that’s the answer surely. It must still be relevant to many people. “It’s very much loved and what people love is the joy of singers just doing what they do without microphones or mechanical devices. “Yes, the stories are a little bit old fashioned, but sometimes people like to go back to old fashioned rather than have it all modern.” She also said her career highlight was “staying healthy and being able to perform” and added that students should work hard before thinking about fame. “Sometimes what the students ask me is a little bit simple, such as ‘What’s it like to be famous?’ But that’s a confusion. I say to them let’s get the hard work done first then you can think about fame. I tell them our profession takes time,” she said. Te Kanawa was speaking before being presented with a Lifetime Achievement Award at the Gramophone Classical Music Awards – known as the Oscars of the classical music world – on Wednesday evening. She had earlier told the BBC’s Today programme she no longer wants to hear her own voice. “It is in the past,” she said. “When I’m teaching young singers and hearing beautiful young fresh voices, I don’t want to put my voice next to theirs.” She also confessed that she had never felt completely pleased with her work, revealing: “I never really achieved perfection of the 100% that I would have liked to. I never actually came off stage saying, ‘I’ve really nailed it.’ Never. I always thought there was a mistake in it. I was constantly analysing through the whole of the performance what I’d done. [But] I did keep trying.” She has also pledged to continue working with her foundation, which provides financial and mentoring support for singers from her native New Zealand.
Te Kanawa came to fame in 1971 several years after arriving in London. Her ascendance in the opera world came quickly, with acclaimed performances as The Countess in The Marriage of Figaro and as The Flower Maiden in Parsifal. She went on to perform at every major opera house in the world, and also sung to an audience of 600 million at the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana in 1981. Despite her success, however, Te Kanawa has seemed pessimistic about the industry of late, warning against those who aspire to break into it. Speaking to The Telegraph in May, she said: “Some people say: ‘Oh, I think I am going to try singing now.’ I think, don’t even bother. Don’t even start. “There are more pressures and less opportunities [today],” she continued. “More is demanded of them and there is more that they have to conform to. There’s more to it than simply getting up and having to sing. They are given opera after opera to study, recital after recital – it’s a big workload. I was able to do things more gradually.”