Sunday, 21 May 2017


This edition of Weekend at the Movies with Rose showcases the brilliant talent of Dame Kira Te Kanawa, arguably New Zealand’s greatest musical export and undoubtedly one of the leading sopranos of the 20th century.

Kiri Te Kanawa: A Portrait (1991, directed by Nigel Wattis), stars Dame Kanawa herself, in an intimate, in-depth interview with English broadcaster Melvyn Bragg in which the superstar soprano discusses her meteoric rise to fame.

Topics range from Dame Kanawa’s rough beginnings as an unwanted child put up for adoption (and the subsequent racial turmoil she endured as bi-racial youth of both Maori and European lineage – known as “half-caste” to her classmates), to her “discovery” and vocal tutorship by a local Catholic nun who doubled as a vocal coach (Dame Sister Mary Leo, DBE, RSM); to her jaw dropping debut as Countess Almaviva in Mozart’s Le Nozze di Figaro at Covent Garden in 1971 – a role and performance that transformed the budding diva into an overnight international sensation – and which, according to then-conductor Colin Davis, a performance that “knocked the place flat;” before delving deep into the everyday life of the dynamic diva as the documentary crew follow her around the globe - from New Zealand to San Francisco - capturing the star at her very best: both on stage and behind the scenes in rehearsal, preparing for her role as Countess Madeleine in Richard Strauss' Capriccio.

"A Portrait" not only features exclusive personal footage of Dame Kanawa (including rehearsals under the tutelage of Sister Mary Leo) but also exquisite performances of the highest caliber - including (from George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess), “Summertime” (incidentally, the only aria - and version of - by Gershwin that I can stomach), and a special open air performance of Francesco Cilea's breathtaking "Io Son L'Umile Ancella" (Adriana Lecouvreur) - the latter filmed by the documentary crew at New Zealand’s Trentham Park in 1990.

The nearly two-hour documentary includes tributes by Sir Georg Solti, Dame Joan Sutherland, Richard Bonynge and Jeffrey Tate.

Watch it with me below:


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