Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has been named the UK New Zealander of the Year 2018 by the NZ Society of the UK, and will be presented this prestigious Award at the New Zealand Society’s Waitangi Day Charity Ball in London on the evening of Friday 2 February 2018.
The award recognises the outstanding contribution that a New Zealand or British national has made in promoting the interests of New Zealand or New Zealanders in the United Kingdom. Dame Kiri is one of the best-known NZers in the world, having forged a career as one of the greatest operatic sopranos of the modern era. She has performed in leading roles in all of the world's major opera houses, and has also been a best-selling recording artist, with a large catalogue of CDs and DVDs to her name.
Dame Kiri has been instrumental in expanding New Zealand's performing arts connections and profile in the United Kingdom and Europe through the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, an organisation she created in 2004 to offer mentoring and financial support, as well as imaginative and constructive ways to assist outstanding young New Zealand singers who are focused on creating international opera careers.
Under Dame Kiri's leadership the Foundation has supported over 50 very talented New Zealand singers with over 200 grants for attendance at international music schools as well as costs related to travel, auditions, visa applications and language tuition. Support for the young singers has not been restricted to funding – Dame Kiri has also taken time out from her international schedule to mentor and coach small groups of NZ singers studying in the UK, usually in the form of weekend sessions at her home. The feedback from the selected singers has been inspiring.
In 2016 the Foundation launched its most ambitious project. The Kiri Programme is an annual series of high-impact modules for selected singers lead by prominent international teachers and coaches, which provides training and mentorship to improve the singers’ readiness to undertake advanced study abroad. Modules include language, stagecraft, management, business acumen as well as vocal and repertoire coaching.
The Kiri Programme complements the Foundation's other activities:
- A key supporter of the biennial Lexus Song Quest – NZ's most prestigious singing competition which includes funding of the masterclass series and the Kiri Te Kanawa travel scholarship.
- The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation Cover Award and initiative developed in conjunction with the Royal Opera House in recognition of Dame Kiri's 70th birthday in 2014, and her long professional association with Covent Garden. The award provides an opportunity for emerging artists to take on cover roles where the company might not normally be able to have a cover in place.
- A series of annual Kiri Te Kanawa Scholarships (£10,000) for students in their final year of studies at the Royal College of Music.
- Major support for the NZ Opera School (2012-17)
Kerryn Beeching, President of the New Zealand Society (UK) said
"Dame Kiri may have retired from public performance, but her influence, energy, expertise and passion is very much a current and driving force in both developing and shining a light on young NZ singing talent on the world stage, and for that we are delighted to recognise her with the UK New Zealander of the Year Award in 2018.”
The New Zealand Society established the UK New Zealander of the Year Award in 1999 to recognise and honour those New Zealanders or British nationals who have gone above and beyond their daily or professional lives to make a difference in presenting the most positive image of New Zealand within the U.K.