Saturday, August 15, 2009

Soprano Kiri Te Kanawa retires from opera

Soprano Kiri Te Kanawa, whose career has spanned more than four decades, announced her retirement Friday.

Her last performance will be in April 2010 at the Cologne Opera in Germany, where she will play the Marschallin in Richard Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier.

The 65-year-old singer told the Daily Telegraph newspaper in London that she is retiring from the stage because the work is "exhausting."

The soprano had been on an open-ended farewell concert tour for the last two years, with stops in Toronto, Calgary and Vancouver, among other cities.

Te Kanawa became an international opera star for her vibrant, fresh voice during the 1970s and '80s.

She excelled in various works, including those of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Richard Strauss and Giuseppe Verdi, and was particularly successful in portraying princesses and countesses. Her natural beauty and presence helped personify such roles.

She first came into the spotlight in 1971, when she was cast to play the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro at the Covent Garden Opera in London.

She later gave a memorable performance at Lady Diana's wedding to Prince Charles.

Te Kanawa was made a dame commander of the Order of the British Empire in 1982 and has received honorary degrees from various universities including Oxford and Cambridge.

The New Zealand-born singer last performed in an opera in 2004 in Samuel Barber's Vanessa. Te Kanawa announced then that it would be her last opera performance, but she continued to give recitals and concerts.

She later decided to return to the stage to play the Duchess of Krakenthorpe in La Fille du Regiment at the Metropolitan Opera in New York. The run is scheduled to begin next Feb. 6.

Te Kanawa said she will continue to tour and perform her scheduled farewell concerts, as well as teach young aspiring singers at the Solti Academy in Italy.

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