The Maori soprano, Kiri Te Kanawa, is the adopted daughter of an Irish mother and Maori father. After winning the John Court Aria Prize and the Mobil Song Quest, Kiri shot to stardom in New Zealand and was accepted without audition to study at the London Opera Centre in 1965.
After appearing in little known operas such as Delibes’ Le Roi l’a dit and Wolf-Ferrari’s The Inquisitive Woman, Kiri Te Kanawa received critical praise as Idamantes in Mozart's Idomeneo. Soon after, Kiri was granted a three-year contract as a junior principal at Covent Garden.
Kiri Te Kanawa came to international attention singing the role of Xenia in Boris Godunov and the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro. After achieving world-wide celebrity status, Kiri was made an Officer of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an honor that was later sold at a police auction for £500 to raise money for the Mitchum Amateur Boxing Association.
After her successes at Covent Garden, Kiri Te Kanawa performed her Metropolitan Opera debut as Desdemona in Otello (replacing an ill Theresa Stratas). Her other performances include Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Arabella in Arabella, Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, Violetta in La Traviata, Tosca in Tosca, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and, most notably, her numerous performances as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni.
In 1981, Kiri Te Kanawa was chosen to sing "Let the Bright Seraphim" at St. Paul's cathedral at the marriage of HRH the Prince of Wales to the Lady Diana Spencer. The following year she was created a Dame of the British Empire by HM Queen Elizabeth II.
Kiri Te Kanawa married Desmond Park, whom she met on a blind date, in Auckland the 30th of August 1967. The couple adopted two children, Antonia and Thomas, in 1976 and 1979 respectivally. The pair divorced in early 1997. Most recently, on March 10, 1994, Kiri performed in concert celebrating her 50th birthday at The Royal Albert Hall.