Aussies welcome Kiri in Parliament
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa can list many achievements in a singing career spanning more than four decades.
But in Canberra on Thursday she enjoyed a first-time honour - she was welcomed during Question Time by the Speaker of the House of Representatives, Bronwyn Bishop.
Introducing Dame Kiri to the media, the Speaker - who spoke of her great love of opera - was asked if she would sing and she replied, "Not today - I wouldn't dare!"
"It's a lovely experience,'' Dame Kiri said, adding it was the first time she had been so recognised in any Parliament.
She is in Canberra to perform on Friday night as part of her 70th birthday tour.
"I wanted to have an enjoyable 70th year but I didn't want it to be cocktail parties - I wanted to work."
She will be singing a recital of arias and songs from across a wide range of repertoire across the centuries from the Baroque to the present including works by Scarlatti, Vivaldi, Handel. Mozart, Puccini, Granados, Debussy, and Poulenc.
Dame Kiri said regarding the composers, "The best ones are dead - we do need a couple of new ones."
But she is including at least one work by a living composer in her recital, the Final Monologue from Master Class by Jake Heggie, who adapted text from Terence McNally's play about the opera singer Maria Callas.
When this tour is finished Dame Kiri will be return to her home in London where she will rehearse some new songs by Heggie that set poems by Emily Dickinson.
"They were my choice,'' she said.
She said acting in Downton Abbey was "a lovely experience'' but did not envisage a change of career
"It's quite specialised and they study intensely. I've studied a different area - I'd have to retrain."
She was not sure when she would next return to Australia but having been here several times it is quite possible she will return. She certainly had no intention of retiring.
"Retirement is not a word we use,'' she said.