New Zealand born soprano Kiri Te Kanawa is of Maori descent. Her earliest vocal studies were with Sister Maria Leo in Auckland. She won the Melbourne Sun contest and went to London where she studied with Vera Rozsa at the London Opera Center. In 1970, she made her debut at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden as Xenia in Boris Godunov and the following year she captured the public attention as the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, a role for which she became world famous.
She was soon singing at all of the major opera houses of Europe adding roles in differents operas. Her appearances at the festivals at Salzburg and Glyndebourne are always highlights of the season.
Te Kanawa has earned fame also as a recitalist. Her programs included songs of Purcell, Schubert, Fauré, Canteloube, Liszt, and, of course, Strauss. She often included Maori folk songs as part of these programs or as encores. Perhaps her most famous appearance was at the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer at Westminster Abbey in 1981 singing "Let the bright seraphim" from Handel's Samson. The following year she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire.
The voice of Kiri Te Kanawa is a lovely bright soprano, with great ease and beauty in the upper register. The wonderful legato phrasing and good technique have served her well in in many Mozart roles. Kiri Te Kanawa will have a special place in the hearts of Mozart and Strauss enthusiasts as long her recordings and videos exist.>