Classical Music with William Price King – Dame Kiri Te Kanawa – Part Three

classical musicWelcome to the final part of the series on the music of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.. I hope that you have enjoyed this taste of both her life and work, and that you will enjoy her singing for many more years to come.

Kiri Te Kanawa is retired from performing in opera but still gives virtuoso performances of both classical and contemporary music that we can all enjoy. Today William Price King will take us through some of the highlights of the last 20 years of her formal career and also a look at some of her passions off stage.


There are almost 120 albums featuring Kiri Te Kanawa and in the 1980s and 90s she released a great many recordings of both classical and popular music.

A wonderful project resulted in both an album and a documentary when the great Leonard Bernstein decided to re-record West Side Story… This was a very personal project as he conducted her own music for the first time. Of course it was wonderful casting to bring Kiri Te Kanawa into the role of Maria, and to continue this more operatic theme to the musical, José Carreras was cast as Tony. The album won a Grammy Award for Best Cast Show Album in 1985 and here is an excerpt from the exceptional documentary of the rehearsals.

This is one of the finest versions of West Side Story, conducted by Leonard Bernstein, ever. It is certainly on par with the original Broadway version. It’s always a big gamble to place opera singers in the roles of Broadway singers, but this one works to perfection as you will hear with Jose Carreras as Tony, and Kiri Te Kanawa as Maria. It is a privilege to see these great artists at work and especially to hear Kiri Te Kanawa deliver a sublime performance under the baton of Leonard Bernstein. It’s magic!

Following the success of this more operatic approach to the popular musicals, Kiri performed again alongside José Carreras and American jazz singer Sarah Vaughan in the recording of the musical South Pacific (music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II). Here is This is How it Feels in rehearsal with a few words from José Carreras about the adjustments he made to his operatic voice to reflect the lighter musical theme.

There were some other noteable recordings released in the next 15 years including
Other recordings include, Blue Skies (1986); Kiri Sings Gershwin (1987): Italian Opera Arias (1991); Our Christmas Songs For You (1996); and The Ultimate Christmas Album (1996) with Luciano Pavarotti, Leontyne Price and Dame Joan Sutherland.

61k3qcjavzl-_ss500This album included both classical and more contemporary Christmas music such as Mendelssohn’s Hark! The Herald Angels Sing and Have Yourself a Very Merry Christmas written by Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane for the 1944 musical Meet Me in St. Louis with Judy Garland.

Here is a review by one of the fans of the album.

The Title Is No Lie By R. Mixon December 25, 2006

I probably own too many Christmas CDs.

Many of them, though good, are indistinguishable from one another. But ‘The Ultimate Christmas Album’, a compilation of holiday recordings culled from London’s vaults, has set itself apart. It has been my most-played Christmas CD for several years now.The recordings are unparalleled; the Bach Choir’s vigorous “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” (complete with thunderous pipe organ), Pavarotti’s tender “Ave Maria” and “O Holy Night”, Leontyne Price’s spritely “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen” and wistful “Silent Night”, the crystaline children’s voices in the Choir of Trinity School’s reading of “The First Nowell”–every selection on this CD could stand alone as a highlight.

For those of you who prefer your Christmas music with a classical bent, this is the CD you’ve been looking for. The selections are brilliantly chosen, recorded and programmed. I cannot recommend this any more-strongly. It is perfect.For once, you can believe the hype–this IS the ultimate Christmas album.

land-of-the-long-white-cloudAs a departure from music, Kiri Te Kanawa also wrote a Children’s book in 1989. Land of the Long White Cloud – Maori Myths, Tales and Legends. A collection of nineteen tales from various Maori tribes of New Zealand about the trickster Maui, the Creation, monsters, birds, animals, and special places.

Sadly Kiri and her husband Desmond Park divorced in the late 1990s. Although a very private person, the remarks that Kiri made at the time, reflect her belief that her career and the pressures and demands to remain at the top of a very difficult profession, played a part in the split. In the first post on her life we covered her early training with the nuns at school but it was only as an adult that she revealed the abuse that she suffered at the time.

The Whanganui Chronicle reported. “I am as tough as I am today because from age 12, when I was at a convent school in Auckland, I was beaten by the nuns.” “You have to be tough in the opera world or you are not going to make it. Just because you can sing an aria does not make you an opera singer.”

The world continued to delight in her performances through to her eventual retirement from the opera stage and she also received some further prestigious awards from her own country and around the world.

In the 1990 Australia Day Honours, Te Kanawa was appointed an Honorary Companion of the Order of Australia for services to the arts, particularly opera, and to the community. In the 1995 Queen’s Birthday Honours Te Kanawa was appointed to the Order of New Zealand.

There is no doubt about Kiri Te Kanawa’s love of New Zealand and in 1999 she released a new album, Maori Songs. She admits to seeking solace and rejuvenation in the lush, green north coastal region, where the ocean amiably wanders in and out of peaceful inlets. Ironically, the diva who made her mark singing the roles of royalty in elaborate costumes on ornate stages, is a self-described tomboy, who enthusiastically fishes, hikes, boats, plays golf and tennis, and even shoots clay pigeons

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa excels in this Maori song cycle. Her voice is excellent and she moves smoothly and effortlessly through these haunting melodies and creates an atmosphere which is quite soothing to the ear. She modulates her voice to the point that one would not believe that she is an opera singer and sings these New Zealand Maori lullabies in a creative and heartfelt way.

In recent years her appearances on stage have become infrequent, although she remains busy as a concert singer. She appeared in performances in Samuel Barber’s Vanessa in Monte Carlo (televised in 2001), with the Washington National Opera (2002), and the Los Angeles Opera in November/December 2004.

She sang in her last opera, Vanessa, in 2004, but continues with recitals and concerts and organizing the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, to help young music students.

The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation

Founded in 2004, Kiri Te Kanawa stated that here vision was “that talented young New Zealand singers and musicians with complete dedication to their art may receive judicious and thoughtful mentoring and support to assist them in realising their dreams.”

The foundation manages a trust fund to provide financial and career scholarships to young New Zealand singers and musicians. As part of its mission, the Foundation created scholarships at both the Royal College of Music and the Royal Academy of Music. Kiri Te Kanawa takes a very active role in ensuring that her vision is realised. She conducts master classes and coaching sessions around the world and supported other musical institutions who shared her aims, such as the in the position of Patron for the Cardiff Singer of the World Competition and her own BBC Radio 2 initiative to find gifted opera singers of the future.

In April 2010 she sang the Marschallin in Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss in two performances at the Cologne Opera in Germany.

Also in 2010 Te Kanawa played the spoken part of The Duchess of Krakenthorp in Donizetti’s La fille du régiment at the Metropolitan Opera, and sang a tango. She repeated this role at the Met in a revival during the 2011–12 season, and repeated it again in Vienna in 2013 and at Covent Garden in March 2014 (a run that comprised her 70th birthday).
In 2013, Kiri Te Kanawa appeared in Downton Abbey playing Dame Nellie Melba, an Australian operatic soprano.

Buy the music of Kiri Te Kanawa:

To end this short season on this beautiful and charasmatic singer one last peroformance and return to her classical roots. “Dove sono,” from Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, as the Countess, very brilliantly laments her broken heart and her husband’s wandering affections in this aria,” Dove sono” in Act 3. This is quite challenging because this aria has long *legato phrases that require skilled breath control and great vocal technique. When sung well, this aria reveals all of the beautiful qualities and textures of the voice. Kiri Te Kanawa is exceptional in this role and her mellow tone and elegance are admirable.

*legato – sung or played in a smooth flowing manner, without breaks between notes.

Additional sources

About William Price King


William Price King is an American jazz singer, musician and composer. Originally he studied classical music and opera but over the years his style has evolved to what many refer to as the ‘sweet point’ where music and voice come together so beautifully.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Torme. His jazz album, ‘Home,’ is a collection of contemporary songs and whilst clearly a homage to their wonderful legacy it brings a new and refreshing complexity to the vocals that is entrancing.

His latest album Eric Sempe and William Price King is now available to download. The repertory includes standards such as “Bye Bye Blackbird” (a jazz classic), Sting’s “Englishman in New York,” Queen’s “The Show Must Go On”, Led Zepplin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and other well-known jazz, pop, and rock classics.

William and Eric Sempe have also brought their own magic to the album with original tracks such as Keep on Dreaming and Red Snow with collaboration with Jeanne King
Download the new album.

William is currently in France where he performs in popular Jazz Venues in Nice and surrounding area.

Connect to William

Website –
Facebook –
Twitter – @wpkofficial
Regular Venue –

We hope you have enjoyed this look at the life and work so far of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.. Next week the last in the Classical Music series with the story of one of the first African Americans to become a leading performer at the Metropolitan Opera.

21 thoughts on “Classical Music with William Price King – Dame Kiri Te Kanawa – Part Three

  1. Pingback: Classical Music with William Price King – Dame Kiri Te Kanawa – Part Three | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  2. Fabulous post and music. I always loved all the music of West Side Story and she sings exquisitely. Also interesting that Kiri also wrote children’s books. And sad to learn about her marriage. The last song was so sad, without even understanding the lyrics. Thanks for another great episode. 🙂 ❤

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Pingback: Smorgasbord Weekly Round Up – Opera, bloggers, authors, health, Haiku and a few laffs | Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life

  4. Thanks so much. I have the West Side Story recording of Kiri Te Kanawa and Carreras (he’s from my hometown and my neighbourhood although I don’t know him personally but I’ve seen him sing a couple of times and studied Medicine at the hospital where he was treated for leukemia and now there’s a unit to treat children with the illness supported by him). I’m a big fan of South Pacific and… Mozart too so this is a great treat. Thanks, William and Sally!

    Liked by 1 person

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