What is the most beautiful Maori song

Maria and Maori: Star soprano Kiri Te Kanawa turns 75 | MUSIC TODAY

Wellington - New Zealand's contribution to the world of opera has long been modest. Until Kiri Te Kanawa came. The woman with the great soprano became New Zealand's first world star of classical music. The great lady from European operas gave it just as well as Maria, the young immigrant from Puerto Rico in the "West Side Story". On (today) Wednesday she will be 75 years old.

Kiri Te Kanawa

She had the appearance of her life in the summer of 1981 at the wedding of Prince Charles and Diana. She was used to the big stage at that time. But presumably more than half a billion on the televisions, she never had that and never again later.

If you see the performance today, you don't know what to be amazed at: the confidence with which the diva mastered the aria "Let The Bright Seraphim" from the Handel opera "Samson" - or the ease with which she handled it sported her dress. Its colors alternated between neon yellow and neon pink, which must have been daring even then. She also had a neon blue hat on her head.

There was every reason for so much self-confidence. Te Kanawa's soft, creamy soprano was considered one of the most beautiful voices ever. Some even told her that she was singing too beautifully and not dramatically enough. She also became a world star. The first, by the way, with Maori roots: her father was a native of New Zealand and her mother's family was Irish. She never made a big deal out of it herself.

Perhaps also because the parents put them up for adoption soon after the birth. She never saw them again. Kiri - real name: Claire - grew up with the Te Kanawas. The adoptive father was also a Maori. After her first successes in the classical subject, she went to study in London. At 25 she made her debut at the Royal Opera House. At 29 she sang for the first time in New York at the Met. All other famous opera houses in the world followed.

Her star role was that of the great lady, whether with Mozart, Verdi, Puccini or Strauss. At first she worked with old Herbert von Karajan. Georg Solti, one of the other great conductors, gave her a white mink as a token of admiration. For Leonard Bernstein she sang Maria in his own recording of "West Side Story". There's a great documentary about that.

Te Kanawa also changed subjects from time to time. At first she made money in country clubs. She later made pop and performed with Maori songs. Once she sang - a great honor for a New Zealander - the anthem for the Rugby World Cup. When Paul McCartney wrote a "Liverpool Oratorio", she was naturally present in the world premiere. She had a guest role as a soprano in the worldwide hit "Downton Abbey".

As for personal life, Te Kanawa married a British man in 1967 who later became her manager. The two adopted two children. They divorced after 20 years. At the age of 65, she announced that her career would soon end in 2009. Since then there have been a few more gigs. But since 2016 it actually seems to be over.

Today she teaches youngsters to sing. "My voice is in the past," she said in a recent interview with New Zealand women's magazine "Women’s Weekly". "When I hear these young, fresh voices, I don't want my own next to it." Shortly before Christmas, when she received an order from the British royal family from Prince Charles - still only heir to the throne - she also shed a few tears.

It is not known whether the two spoke again about the dream wedding of yore on the occasion. Te Kanawa received the title of "lady" - the female counterpart to the "sir" of the British equestrian order - in 1982, the year after that. The aria from back then, "Let The Bright Seraphim", she says she has never sung again since the Princess of Wales died in an accident.

(By Christoph Sator, dpa / MH)

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