One of the world’s greatest sopranos is being celebrated in a grand theatre tradition, with a permanent tribute to be unveiled at Auckland’s Aotea Centre on 20 November.
Aotea Centre’s ASB Theatre will be renamed Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, with a gala concert to commemorate the occasion and acknowledge her formidable talent and contribution to the arts. As the guest of honour, the concert will include some of Dame Kiri’s operatic favourites and will feature the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra conducted by Music Director Giordano Bellincampi, together with the Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus.
ASB Bank has held the naming rights to the theatre since it opened in 1990. Working in partnership with Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) and the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, the bank’s decision to relinquish these rights makes this tribute possible.
According to Vittoria Shortt, ASB CEO, honouring Dame Kiri in this way is a special privilege.
“As a long-standing sponsor of the arts, we are proud to support this recognition of Dame Kiri’s outstanding contribution to classical music in New Zealand, and as one of the world’s greatest sopranos,” she said.
“ASB Bank has been a part of Dame Kiri’s journey from the very start. In 1965, Bill Barrett, the bank’s general manager of that time, recognised her immense talent and established the Kiri Te Kanawa Trust, which enabled her to travel to the UK for extended study at National Opera Studio, London.
“When Dame Kiri’s own Foundation was created for outstanding young New Zealand singers, we were one of the first commercial organisations to support it. Today, it is fitting that we can come full circle and can honour her hard work and prodigious talent by supporting the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre.”
As custodian of the purpose-built performing arts centre, Regional Facilities Auckland has seen a wealth of local and international talent grace the Aotea Centre stage. RFA Board Chair Andrew Barnes said the new name has a very special significance for artists.
“Dame Kiri has inspired so many talented young Kiwi performers to step onto the world stage and follow their dreams, through her example and through her Foundation,” he said.
“With the gracious support of ASB Bank, we are delighted to be able to honour that legacy in Dame Kiri’s seventy-fifth year, and to be able to showcase new and fresh talent in the first theatre to bear her name.”
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff says bestowing Dame Kiri’s name on the theatre honours an extraordinary singer and a remarkable legacy.
“It is fitting that Auckland recognises Dame Kiri Te Kanawa in this way. It acknowledges her incredible contribution to Auckland, to New Zealand, and to the classical music world, as well as her strong connection with the Aotea Centre and the theatre,” he said.
“Dame Kiri was an early champion of the Aotea Centre − a commitment that culminated in her return to Auckland in 1983 to sing in two fund-raising concerts which raised nearly $500,000 for the campaign.
“I am delighted Auckland is bestowing this honour on one of New Zealand’s iconic artists.”
Dame Kiri, New Zealand’s first Grammy Award winner, opera royalty and performer on the most spectacular stages in the world, expressed her appreciation for the tribute.
“I thank the City of Auckland, ASB and RFA for this great honour,” she said. “To be recognised in this way in my country means the world to me.
“This stage and Aotea Centre have a very special place in my heart; and the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre is a welcoming space for opera lovers and performers alike.
“I look forward to seeing many talented, hard-working New Zealand singers perform the greatest operas right here in future, as my Foundation and enablers such as ASB Bank and RFA build a new opera legacy together.”
Gala Concert Details
- The celebratory gala concert will be held on Wednesday, 20 November 2019 to name the Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre in the Aotea Centre.
- It will be attended by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, and feature some of her best-loved opera choruses and arias.
- Produced by Auckland Live, the gala concert is made possible with the support of ASB Bank, the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, New Zealand Opera, the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and Regional Facilities Auckland.
- The full gala concert programme and line-up of artists will be announced on Tuesday 3 September.
- The gala concert will go on sale to the general public on Friday 6 September, 10am.
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Dame Kiri Te Kanawa
Kiri Te Kanawa was born in New Zealand, of European and Māori heritage. In 1965 she moved to London to study at the National Opera Studio.
Her sensational London debut in Figaro gained Kiri Te Kanawa legendary status. She became one of the most famous sopranos in the world, a familiar figure in leading opera houses including Covent Garden, the Metropolitan, Chicago Lyric Opera, Paris Opera, Sydney Opera House, Vienna State Opera, La Scala Milan, San Francisco, Munich, and Cologne.
Dame Kiri’s recordings include sixteen full operas, plus oratorios, song cycles, lieder, and three recordings of all-Māori music. As a soloist at the wedding of HRH Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in St Paul's Cathedral, she faced one of the largest direct telecast audiences of any solo singer in history (estimated to be over 600 million people). The year 1990 saw another record when, during a tour of Australia and New Zealand, her outdoor concert in the city of Auckland attracted a crowd of 140,000.
Kiri Te Kanawa was created a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1982 and has been conferred with honorary degrees from eleven universities including Oxford and Cambridge. She was invested into the Order of Australia in 1990, and the Order of New Zealand in 1995.
The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation was launched in 2004, providing mentorship, support and financial assistance to dedicated New Zealand singers and musicians. In 2010 she was presented with the British Recording Industry’s Lifetime Achievement award and was named Iconic New Zealander of the Year in 2012.
In 2018 Dame Kiri was appointed a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the Queen’s Birthday Honours for services to music.
About Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre
The new name for the theatre follows a long-held performing arts tradition of recognising an artist who has a special connection with a particular theatre, such as the Joan Sutherland Theatre at the Sydney Opera House.
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa officially opened the Aotea Centre in September 1990, unveiling a 1.6m bronze sculpture of herself by Terry Stringer that still graces the foyer today.
She was the star of the first concert to be held there and followed this up with leading roles in the first two operas staged at the Aotea Centre, La bohème and Don Giovanni.
Famous performers to take the spotlight in this theatre over the years include world-renowned Russian soprano Anna Netrebko, and contemporary singers Natalie Cole, Carole King, Tom Jones, and Prince, to name a few.
Regional Facilities Auckland (RFA) enriches life in Auckland by engaging people in the arts, environment, sport and events. With our six divisions – Auckland Art Gallery, Auckland Conventions, Auckland Live, Auckland Stadiums, Auckland Zoo and New Zealand Maritime Museum – we strive to create rewarding visitor experiences and positive outcomes for Auckland. Our innovative and creative programmes delight more than four million visitors a year as we present engaging and accessible experiences across the city every single day.
As one of six Auckland Council organisations, we are a charitable trust governed by a board. Our landmark venues include Aotea Centre, Aotea Square, Auckland Art Gallery Toi o Tamaki, Auckland Town Hall, Auckland Zoo, Bruce Mason Centre, The Civic, Mt Smart Stadium, New Zealand Maritime Museum, North Harbour Stadium, Queens Wharf and Western Springs Stadium.
ASB and the arts
ASB has long been recognised and respected for the support it gives to the arts community, including theatre sponsorships, across the country. As well as its sponsorship of the ASB Theatre in Aotea Centre since its opening in 1990, the bank is also naming sponsor for the ASB Waterfront Theatre and supports the ASB Theatre in Marlborough and Isaac Theatre Royal in Christchurch.
ASB is also the exclusive principal partner for Auckland Theatre Company, Auckland's premier professional theatre company. It is a major partner in important arts and cultural festivals including the Auckland Lantern Festival and the ASB Polyfest in Auckland, and the New Zealand Art Show in Wellington.
ASB has been a proud supporter of the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation since it was established in 2004.