Opera diva Kiri Te Kanawa announces retirement

Te Kanawa, hailed as one of the greatest sopranos of the modern age, officially announced her retirement on Sept 13, 2017 at the age of 73. PHOTO: AFP

Wellington (AFP) - New Zealander opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, hailed as one of the greatest sopranos of the modern age, officially announced her retirement on Wednesday at the age of 73.

She has not performed publicly for about a year and told the BBC she did not intend to perform in front of an audience again.

"I don't want to hear my voice, it is in the past," she told the British broadcaster.

"When I'm teaching young singers and hearing beautiful young fresh voices, I don't want to put my voice next to theirs."

Her career spanned more than five decades and included performances at the world's top opera houses, although she is best known as the diva who sang at Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding in 1981.

"I've had such an amazing career," she said, adding that it had taken her five years "to say the goodbye in my own mind".

Her big break came in 1971 at Covent Garden when she was cast as the Countess Almaviva in Mozart's The Marriage Of Figaro.

She soon found herself among opera's elite, sharing the stage with the likes of Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo.

She became a household name when performing Handel's Let The Bright Seraphim at the royal wedding, watched by a global television audience of more than 600 million.

She was also invited to perform at Diana's funeral in 1997, but declined as she was too upset over the princess' death. She never sang nor listened to Handel's aria again. She said: "When she died, I felt that I should put that song away forever."

She was made a dame in 1982 and the British recording industry gave her a lifetime achievement award in 2010, calling her "one of the most loved sopranos of the past century".

She stopped performing the most demanding of her signature opera roles in 2004 and, while still making concert appearances, concentrated on a foundation to encourage young New Zealander opera singers and musicians.

She won over a new generation of fans when she made a guest appearance on the television show Downton Abbey in 2013 playing Australia's Dame Nellie Melba.

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