Putting New Zealand singers on the world’s stages

 The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation – putting New Zealand singers on the world’s stages 

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa knows from personal experience the challenges facing talented young New Zealanders who aspire to an international career in opera. As a 21-year old in 1966, having won all the major vocal prizes available in the South Pacific, she moved to the United Kingdom to study at the London Opera Centre. 

“I’d won the Mobil Song Quest in 1965, and the £300 prize money, plus a bursary from the New Zealand Arts Council, made it possible for me to leave New Zealand to learn from the best teachers in the world,” Dame Kiri says. “It would have been difficult for me to build an international career without that opportunity.” 

In recognition of the support she received early in her career, Dame Kiri decided in 2004 to give back to the new generation of New Zealand singers. She established the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation to offer mentoring, financial support and career assistance to outstanding young New Zealand singers to help them succeed internationally. 

Since its inception the Foundation has made over 160 grants of various sizes to 30 New Zealand singers including Ana James, Kristen Darragh, Claire Egan, Phillip Rhodes, Joanna Foote, Kawiti Waetford, Jonathan Abernethy, Darren Pene, Alexander Wilson, Tom Atkins, Oliver Sewell, Bianca Andrew, James Ioelu, Anthony Schneider, Kieran Rayner, Julien Van Mellaerts and Edward Laurenson. 

The grants have enabled singers to attend international music schools such as the Cardiff International Academy of Voice, the Guildhall School of Music and Drama, the Royal College of Music, the National Opera Studio and the Manhattan School of Music, and helped them access other international opportunities. New Zealand singers studying in the UK have also enjoyed weekend mentoring and coaching sessions with Dame Kiri at her London home. 

“Those who have been blessed with talent deserve the opportunity to nurture and develop it to full potential,” Dame Kiri says. “My passion is to see young people succeed and it is such a joy to see Foundation recipients progress along the difficult journey which is a career in music.” 

The support offered by the Foundation continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of students. 

A recent initiative is The Kiri Programme for emerging singers. Led by prominent international teachers and coaches, the programme takes a carefully selected group of six singers through a series of high-impact modules to improve their readiness to undertake advanced study abroad. 

“I’m proud that we have learnt to adapt and provide much needed practical help with vocal technique, knowledge of vocal management, handling the media and agents, good health habits, stagecraft and managing stress.” 

For established singers, The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation Cover Awards were created by the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation (UK) in 2015 to offer new opportunities for significant international exposure and experience. The Cover Award allows The Royal Opera House to select promising artists to cover roles where the Company might not normally employ a cover. 

In addition to grants to individuals, the Foundations funds the Lexus Song Quest masterclass series and provides the Quest’s Kiri Te Kanawa travel scholarship for the most promising finalist as well as annual scholarships for students in their final year of studies at the Royal College of Music. 

For Dame Kiri, the Foundation continues to be hard but enjoyable and rewarding work. 

“It is a pleasure to be involved with very talented singers who work hard to achieve their dreams. It’s a privilege and an honor to nurture and support them.”