Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, 77, quits Britain to spend ‘last summers’ with grandson


Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, 77, quits Britain to spend her ‘last summers’ with her grandson in her native New Zealand after Covid pandemic kept them apart for months

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has moved back to her native New Zealand so she can watch her grandson grow up.

In a touching interview, the retired opera star told how she made the decision after the pandemic meant she was unable to see him for months.

Dame Kiri, who sang at the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, said: ‘I’m 77 now and I don’t know how many summers I have left. I want those summers to be with Luther.’

She moved to London to train in 1965, travelled the world after her career took off, and has lived in East Sussex for more than 20 years.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa, 77, has moved back to her native New Zealand so she can watch her grandson grow up

Her grandson Luther, who is three and a half, lives in Auckland with his parents Tom Park, 42 – Dame Kiri’s son from her first marriage – and his partner Zeera.

Dame Kiri has moved to the Bay of Islands, where she already had a home. It is a three-hour drive north of Auckland and she spends time with Luther every week.

She arrived back in New Zealand in March, but news that the move was permanent has only now emerged in an interview in the latest issue of New Zealand Woman’s Weekly.

The magazine describes it as ‘Dame Kiri’s secret Kiwi homecoming’ on its front cover.

Dame Kiri, who sang Handel’s Let the Bright Seraphim to a global audience of 600million at the royal wedding in 1981, told the magazine: ‘When Covid kicked in… it was all about trying to work out how I was going to visit my grandson.’

Dame Kiri, who sang at the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, said: 'I'm 77 now and I don't know how many summers I have left. I want those summers to be with Luther'. Pictured: Dame Kiri sings Let The Bright Seraphim at Prince Charles and Lady Diana's wedding in St Pauls Cathedral in 1981

Dame Kiri, who sang at the wedding of Prince Charles and Princess Diana, said: ‘I’m 77 now and I don’t know how many summers I have left. I want those summers to be with Luther’. Pictured: Dame Kiri sings Let The Bright Seraphim at Prince Charles and Lady Diana’s wedding in St Pauls Cathedral in 1981

The soprano had seen Luther for two Christmases in East Sussex and was planning to spend six months of the year with him before Covid.

She said: ‘We had such wonderful Christmases and he was lovely and adorable, and then suddenly I couldn’t see him. That was a huge thing for me.’

During those long months she became good at Zoom and FaceTime as they kept in touch, but she said: ‘Now I can spend real time with him and watch him. See how he grows, how he learns and how he changes, day to day. I didn’t want to miss that.’

Dame Kiri, who was given up for adoption as a baby after being born to Noeleen Rawstron, a waitress, and her boyfriend Jack Wawatai, a married Maori butcher, added: ‘I have a very small family and I didn’t want him not to have a grandmother.’

She wants Luther ‘to have great memories and be able to say, “I remember my grandmother” in 50 years’ time’.

Dame Kiri has been joined in New Zealand by her unnamed husband, who she said is ‘very private’ and has never been photographed in the years they have been together. She also has a daughter Antonia, 44, who lives in Brisbane, Australia.

Dame Kiri announced her retirement from public performance in 2017. She remains busy with the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, set up in 2004 to help young New Zealand opera singers when they are starting out.

Strict border controls and snap lockdowns are among the measures that have kept infection rates low in New Zealand.

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