13 Sep 2017

'I don't want to hear my voice' - Dame Kiri

5:24 pm on 13 September 2017

Opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has announced she will never again sing in public.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

Photo: RNZ / Alexander Robertson

Dame Kiri said she stopped performing a year ago, but has told the BBC she was now officially retiring.

The 73-year-old soprano, whose career has spanned more than half a century, said she was adamant about deciding when she would sing her last note in public.

"I don't want to hear my voice.

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

"I've had such an amazing career," she said.

She was adamant she wanted to decide "when it was going to be the last note".

However, she admitted it took her five years "to say the goodbye in my own mind".

What turned out to be her final performance was a concert in Ballarat near Melbourne in Australia last October.

"Before I'd gone on, I said, right, this it. And that was the end."

Dame Kiri said she has no regrets and does not miss singing. She said: "Look what I had. The memories are lovely."

She achieved a level of fame rare for a classical performer.

Six hundred million people heard her sing 'Let the Bright Seraphim' by Handel at the wedding of the Prince and Princess of Wales in 1981.

"I was told two or three months before, you will sing this song," she said.

"Can you imagine holding that inside you for months and months, not being able to mention it to anyone?"

But after the death of the Princess of Wales in 1997, she never sang it again.

"I never wanted to," she said. "When she died, I felt that I should put that song away forever."

She has not even listened to the piece again since then.

"In sort of respect for her, and the death and everything about it was such a terrible thing that I never wanted to hear it again."

Born on the East Coast, she trained in Auckland with Sister Mary Leo and went on to appear at all the world's major opera houses and concert halls.

RNZ / BBC

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