I first noticed Kiri Te Kanawa because she kept appearing on opera CD box sets I bought – Le Nozze di Figaro, Rigoletto, Don Giovanni, Così fan tutte, etc. She had a gorgeous, warm, unmistakable lyric soprano voice that seemed especially suited to Mozart. She has gone on to become one of my favorite divas.

Kiri Te Kanawa

Te Kanawa was born Claire Mary Teresa Rawstron in New Zealand in 1944 and was later adopted by two Māori, Thomas Te Kanawa and his wife Nell. Te Kanawa herself was part Māori and part European. She began her career in the clubs in New Zealand, eventually winning several contests that helped propel her budding operatic career.

Listen to her sing one of Donna Elvira’s arias in a famous video of Don Giovanni from the 1970s…