A New Zealand singer, one of the world's leading operatic and dramatic sopranos. Her strikingly chiselled good looks, half Maori and half pakeha, lend distinction to many a performance, and her voice is undeniably very beautiful.

However, personally, I have to say she is a little over-rated in some way. She is almost the "official" voice of state occasions now. She'll be in the Queen's Golden Jubilee performance on this celebration weekend, and having been one of Prince Charles's favourite singers she sang at his wedding to Diana. She also greeted the year 2000 for New Zealand.

Kiri Te Kanawa (the stress is on the KA-) was born on 6th March 1944 in Gisborne to a Maori father and a pakeha (European) mother. They were not married and put her up for adoption. She was adopted by another mixed-race family. Her mother promoted her musical talent, they moved to Auckland when Kiri was twelve to give her access to music school, and when she was 22 she moved to England to study. Her breakthrough came in 1971 when she played Countess Rosina in The Marriage of Figaro at Covent Garden. This was an overnight sensation and she was a star from that day on.

In serious music she sticks to her speciality, the lyric soprano suitable for Mozart and Richard Strauss: such as the Countess in Figaro, and Strauss's Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier. She has made Canteloube's Songs of the Auvergne especially hers.

Regrettably, she does "popular" and "crossover" recordings, such as Gershwin, and Christmas carols, which are completely wrong and embarrassing, and are a big part of why it's hard to treat her quite as seriously as, for example, a similarly narrow voice, the exquisite Cecilia Bartoli.

I know I'm being snobbish, but I can't help feeling this has made many people think she's the best classical singer around. She definitely isn't. (My vote is on Angela Gheorghiu, for what it's worth.)

Not long after the 1981 marriage of Charles and Diana she was made a Dame (DBE), in 1982.

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