Soprano Te Kanawa trills for 70th on Covent Garden stage

Thu Mar 6, 2014 6:18pm EST
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By Michael Roddy

LONDON (Reuters) - The stage was strewn with daffodils and a cake was wheeled out as Dame Kiri te Kanawa celebrated her 70th birthday on Thursday singing on stage at Covent Garden where the New Zealand-born soprano first made an international splash more than 40 years ago.

Te Kanawa, who retired from the opera stage in 2004 but still sings recitals, was misty eyed after video tributes from famous singers she has worked with, including Frederica von Stade, Jose Carreras and Placido Domingo, were shown on a screen at the end of a production of Donizetti's comic opera "La Fille du Regiment."

"After this day... I'm going to do a runner, and there's no more birthdays," Te Kanawa said to laughter from the sold-out opera audience.

"I thank this whole cast for the most wonderful performance and I'm so pleased that I was able to do five minutes of this," Te Kanawa, who played what is usually the non-singing role of the Duchess of Crackentorp in the production.

A special aria, lifted from Puccini's opera "Edgar", was inserted for Te Kanawa to sing, giving the audience a glimpse of her famous creamy high notes.

"I thank you all so much and keep up the spirit and the love of classical music," Te Kanawa said after the audience had sung "Happy Birthday to her.

Domingo, with whom Te Kanawa sang in a fabled production of Puccini's "Manon Lescaut", in his video tribute welcomed her into her 70s where he noted he had preceded her by three years.

"It's a wonderful's so beautiful," the Spanish tenor said before launching into "Happy Birthday" to Kiri.   Continued...

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, (L) and Mstislav Rostropovich on stage at the end of the "Prom At The Palace" concert in the grounds of London's Buckingham Palace as part of Britain's Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee celebrations June 1, 2002. REUTERS/Alastar Grant