From ‘Downton Abbey’ to Helping Young Singers, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa’s Post-Performance Exploits

By David Salazar

Kiri Te Kanawa is one of the great sopranos of the 20th century, the New Zealander known for her sheer magnetism and elegance onstage.

Te Kanawa, born on March 6, 1944, retired from the opera stage in the early 2000’s, making occasional cameos in ensuing years, but dedicating herself to a number of different projects and assignments.

The Foundation

Among her greatest exploits in her post-performance career has been the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation.

Founded by the Dame in 2004, which coincides with her last formal opera performance, the organization is committed to assisting outstanding young New Zealand singers who have complete dedication to their art, with judicious mentoring, financial support and career assistance. There is also a branch in the UK that considers any singer of any nationality. The first singer ever to gain support from the organization was Ana James.

Today Te Kanawa serves as the Chair for the Board of both branches.

Kiri Prize

She also famously created The Kiri Prize in collaboration with BBC Radio 2. The goal of the enterprise was to find a gifted singer of the future. The competition took on regional auditions of over 600 opera singers, eventually narrowing it down to 40 to attend masterclasses with the Dame herself. A final performance featuring five singers was broadcast via radio with the eventual winner, Shuna Scott Sendall, getting a chance to perform with Te Kanawa and José Carreras at the BBC Proms in 2010.

Downton Abbey

Another of the singers’ post-performance exploits is her work on the famed “Downton Abbey,” where she played Dame Nellie Melba for one episode in 2013.

And just for memory’s sake:



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