Opera star Dame Kiri Te Kanawa fought back tears as she accepted a major classical music prize after revealing she will never sing in public again.
Dame Kiri, 73, was honoured with the Lifetime Achievement accolade at the Gramophone Classical Music Awards – known as the Oscars of classical music – to celebrate her decades-long career.
The New Zealander took to the stage after an extended and enthusiastic round of applause from the audience at the London-based event, after she was honoured with a montage of her body of work and an introduction from singer and actor Julian Ovenden.
Listing her most memorable moments, including being conducted by Andre Previn in Die Fledermaus, working on an album with Michel Legrand and being named Gramophone’s Artist of the Year in 1992, the soprano said that she was “fortunate to have had the opportunity to record many of my key roles”.
She said of her charitable organisation that helps music students: “Looking now to the future and through my Foundation, I have the pleasure of working with some wonderful young singers, helping to guide them in their future careers.
“Music is many things – fine technique, a beautiful voice and passion.
“It’s also about teamwork and I was privileged to be part of some amazing teams, one of my favourites right here in London, at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden… but it’s also about hard work, something I try to instil in the students of my foundation.
“I’m grateful to the recording industry for supporting me throughout my career. It was a unique opportunity which few will have the possibility to experience today.”
With her voice breaking, Dame Kiri added: “Lastly, I wish to acknowledge the support of my country… the audiences around the world, and the many sacrifices made by my wonderful parents, without which I would not be here today.
“My sincerest thanks to you all.”
Hours before her appearance, Dame Kiri revealed that she had given her final performance a year ago but had not announced it at the time.
“I don’t want to hear my voice. It is in the past,” she told the BBC.
Dame Kiri, who sprang to fame in 1971 in The Marriage Of Figaro at the Royal Opera House, said that it took her five years “to say the goodbye in my own mind”.
The star, who appeared in TV drama Downton Abbey, made her last public performance in a concert in Australia last October.
“Before I’d gone on, I said, right, this is it. And that was the end,” she said.
She added that she had “never really achieved perfection of the 100% that I would have liked to”.