Te Kanawa, Kiri

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Te Kanawa was born to an unmarried couple (European mother and Maori father). They were extremely poor and already had a son, so the baby Kiri was placed for adoption at a few weeks of age with a married couple in Gisborne. (again, European mother and Maori father). Mrs. Te Kanawa already had daughters from a previous marriage.

Her aunt is the famous traditional weaver, Diggeress Te Kanawa. Her singing talent was obvious from an early age and vigorously fostered by her parents. From the early 1960s she was winning major prizes in New Zealand and Australia, and one of the prizes was a scholarship to study in London in 1966.

In 1971 she rocketed to operatic stardom in the role of the Countess in The Marriage of Figaro and ever since she has been one of the world's most celebrated and high-profile opera singers.

She has also published a volume of Maori folk tales for children, Land of the Long White Cloud: Maori Myths, Tales and Legends.

She is the adoptive mother of two.

She has never attempted to find her birth family and does not encourage her children to trace theirs. It is known that her birth parents are both dead and that she has an older birth brother. Her birth mother was the unmarried daughter of a Protestant minister.


Dever, Maria, and Dever, Aileen. Relative Origins: Famous Foster and Adopted People. (Portland: National Book Company, 1992)
Microsoft Encarta 98 Encyclopedia, 1993-97
"Kindred Spirits," Telegraph Magazine [London], 10 April 1993, p. 10
Who's Who, 1997
New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, edited by Stanley Sadie. 20 vols. (London: Macmillan, 1980)
Who's Who in America, 1996
Fingleton, David. Kiri Te Kanawa: A Biography. (London: Arrow Books, 1983)
Wendler, Robin. "Kiri Te Kanawa." [Includes portrait]. Available at: http://elmer.harvard.edu/~robin/kiri.html
"Dame Kiri Te Kanawa." [Includes portrait]. Available at: http://www.emiclassics.com/artists/biogs/kirb.html
Jenkins, Garry, and D'Antal, Stephen. Kiri: Her Unsung Story. (London: HarperCollins, 1998)
Snow, Terry, "Dame Kiri Te Kanawa Welcomed Home," Tu Tangata, 10 (March 1983), 3


Polynesian, Melanesian
New Zealand
Uk/great Britain
20th Century
21st Century
Music and Dance
Adoptees/fosterees Who Are/were Also Adopters or Foster Parents
Formal, American/European-Type Adoption
Birth or Infancy
Unmarried Mother, Single Parent (Mother or Father) Unable to Cope
Others ("Strangers")
Adoptive/Foster Family Included Birth Child(ren)
Unmarried Mother
Both Parents Unable or Unwilling to Care for Child
Birth Sibling(s) Remained With or Returned to Birth Family
Birth Sibling(s) Separated
Adoptee/Fosteree Not Interested in Tracing
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