Kiri Te Kanawa to appear in Downton Abbey
Much-loved soprano to play - and sing - the role of Nellie Melba, a pioneering Victorian opera singer.
New Zealand soprano Kiri Te Kanawa will sing in the episode, performing the aria ‘O mio babbino caro’ from Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi and Antonín Dvořák’s ‘Songs my Mother taught Me’ at a manor house party.
‘I nearly choked when I saw the email that invited me,’ she told the Telegraph. ‘I didn’t really sleep the night before,’ she says of her first day on set, ‘It was exciting – and frightening. The first moment of sitting in this incredible group of actors – who have been in our sitting room so often… I remember the cold of the day, the big coats they gave us. And the great hallway at Highclere where I sang – amazing acoustics!’
Nellie Melba was an Australian soprano and one of the most famous singers of the Victorian era and early 20th century. She regularly sang at Covent Garden from 1888 and was the first Antipodean to achieve international fame as a classical musician. Listen to Nellie Melba performing the famous mad scene from Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor, recorded in 1904.
The appearance comes before Te Kanawa’s Royal Opera return as the Duchess de Crackentorp in Donizetti’s uproarious comedy La Fille du régiment later this Season. The role has been expanded for the forthcoming revival to include some singing, marking Te Kanawa’s first performance at Covent Garden since 1997.
The episode of Downton Abbey will be broadcast on ITV at 9pm on Sunday 6 October.