The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation was created by Dame Kiri in 2003 to assist outstanding young opera singers and musicians with their international career

Our Mission & Values

The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation is a legally registered charitable trust, established to realise the vision of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa to provide financial support, career assistance and guidance to young New Zealand singers and musicians with exceptional potential to support their aspirations to develop international careers at the highest level.


 Putting New Zealand singers on the world’s stages

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa knows from personal experience the challenges facing talented young New Zealanders who aspire to an international career in opera. As a 21-year old in 1966, having won all the major vocal prizes available in the South Pacific, she moved to the United Kingdom to study at the London Opera Centre.

“I’d won the Mobil Song Quest in 1965, and the £300 prize money, plus a bursary from the New Zealand Arts Council, made it possible for me to leave New Zealand to learn from the best teachers in the world,” Dame Kiri says. “It would have been difficult for me to build an international career without that opportunity.”

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Special Projects

In 2016, after substantial research and consultation with a variety of New Zealand organisations and individuals involved with the training and development of young singers, the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation launched The Kiri Programme , designed to provide a high-level, personalised and sustained skills boost to a small group of outstanding young opera singers preparing to leave  New Zealand for international post-graduate training and career development.


Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Kiri Te Kanawa was born in New Zealand with European and Maori heritage.

By the time she was 20 she had won the major vocal prizes available in the South Pacific, and had also started her recording career - unusual for a prima donna in any era. In 1965 she moved to London to study at the London Opera Centre. After first appearing as Carmen in Britain and New Zealand, the young Te Kanawa was marked for Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, first at Sante Fe then at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1971.


Overview of Foundation

In 2003, Dame Kiri decided to establish the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation and is committed to assisting outstanding young New Zealand singers who have complete dedication to their art, with judicious mentoring, financial support and career assistance. The Foundation also provides opera lovers with the unique opportunity to make a difference to the lives and careers of talented young New Zealand singers and to help them achieve their dreams.

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Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation (UK)

The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation (UK) is an associate Foundation established in the United Kingdom in 2003 by Dame Kiri to raise local donations and provide support for singers studying in the UK. The UK-based Foundation has similar aims and objectives as the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation except its objectives allow it to consider supporting singers regardless of their country of origin. 

Although both foundations (who are both chaired by Dame Kiri) have no legal connection they work very closely together collaborating on projects relating to NZ singers studying in the UK. The UK Foundation has also supported a small number of international singers who have come to Dame Kiri’s attention. These include sopranos Julia Lezhneva (Russia), Louise Alder and Nardia Williams (UK) and Laurayna Bendziunaite (Lithuania) and tenors Chen Chen (China), Roberto Ortiz (Mexico), Joel Williams (UK) and bass-baritone Andri Róbertsson (Iceland).

Special projects supported by the UK organisation include:

  • The annual Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation Cover Awards in association with The Royal Opera House;

  • The annual scholarship awarded to a singer in his/her final year of study at the Royal College of Music;

  • Special support for the BBC Cardiff Singer of the World Competition, of which Dame Kiri is Patron.

The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation (UK) is an approved charitable trust registered with the Charities Commission in the UK (Registered No 1092813).