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A Grande Dame, Dame Kiri at Ravinia

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Skypes with composer Jake Heggie from her home in England

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Skypes with composer Jake Heggie from her home in England

Ravinia Recital, Monday at 8:00 pm

Composer of Operas

Composer Jake Heggie wrote a song cycle for Dame Kiri and accompanied her at the piano at the 2014 Ravinia recital


The city of Chicago has long had a love affair with superstar New Zealander Dame Kiri Te Kanawa. First appearing in A German Requiem with Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra on May 4, 1978, the soprano went on to record the Mahler Symphony No.4, Handel’s Messiah, Bach’s St. Matthew Passion, and Verdi’s Otello with the CSO and Solti.

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See the program and view a history of Kiri Te Kanawa with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, courtesy of the CSO Rosenthal Archives

Ms. Te Kanawa, who was named Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1982, celebrated her 70th birthday this year – though she’s shown no indication of slowing down. Over the summer, she embarked on a 70th birthday gala tour, giving recitals across Australia. When she made an appearance on Downton Abbey as the turn of the century opera singer Dame Nellie Melba, producer Gareth Neame told The Telegraph the whole crew rushed to hear her sing, “It was the sight of all these tough electricians and grips and all the people you see on a film set with tears in their eyes…”

Dame Kiri actively provides assistance, masterclasses, and training to young singers through her own New Zealand-based foundation, as well as through the Georg Solti Accademia and other young artist programs, including Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute (see video below of a 2012 masterclass at Ravinia).

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Kiri Te Kanawa sings Amelia in Lyric Opera of Chicago’s 1996-96 “Simon Boccanegra”

Over her 40-year career, her associations in Chicago have spread across the city: she sang Arabella, Così fan tutte; Don Carlo, and Simon Boccanegra at Lyric Opera, as well as a much-acclaimed solo recital for Lyric. She’s also made numerous appearances at Ravinia.

This past summer, the Ravinia Festival honored Dame Kiri’s 70th birthday with a song cycle by San Francisco-based American composer Jake Heggie. WFMT will present a broadcast of that recital, including Mr. Heggie’s settings of poems by Emily Dickinson, and songs by Richard Strauss on Monday, September 29 at 8:00 pm. WFMT’s Kerry Frumkin hosts the program.

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Sir Andrew Davis conducting Kiri Te Kanaw

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