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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.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

3 October 2013 at 5.55pm | 6 Comments

One of the most recognizable faces in classical music will appear on screen in this week’s episode of ITV's Downton Abbey, playing Australian opera singer Nellie Melba.

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.

By Chris Shipman (Head of Brand Engagement and Social Media)

3 October 2013 at 5.55pm

This article has been categorised Off stage and tagged by Laurent Pelly, Downton Abbey, Gianni Schicchi, ITV, Kiri Te Kanawa, La Fille du regiment, La Fille du rgiment, Production, TV

This article has 6 comments

  1. Annette Montesano responded on 3 October 2013 at 9:50pm Reply

    She has a beautful voice, first saw her on the Andrew Loyd Webber birthday show.
    She sang a new song he wrote , wished she would record it, I think it was called , there is only you.

  2. Manuela Kleeman responded on 6 October 2013 at 10:44pm Reply

    She also sang Donde Lieta Uscí from Bohème.

  3. Robert Francisco responded on 13 January 2014 at 6:45am Reply

    K.T.K. sang a magnificent Arabella during the 1977-78 season at Houston Grand Opera. This was prior to her ascent to fame when she sang in St. Paul's during the wedding of Charles & Diana. The ringing clarity of her voice still comes through at a time in her life when many others would have stepped aside. Thank you K.T.K. for staying the course. So refreshing when the past comes alive in the present.

  4. Sharlene Shipman Baker responded on 14 January 2014 at 4:43pm Reply

    Kiri Te Kanawa is lovely and has a wonderful voice but Madame Melba would have had more presence, dignity and power. She was a grand dame and a diva. Thought you might be interested to know since your last name is Shipman that my great uncle impresario Frederic Shipman managed world tours for Madame Melba, as well as Lillian Nordica, Emma Eames, Frances Alda and others. He would have made sure that she received royal treatment at Downton Abbey.

  5. Sally Wodzinska responded on 1 July 2015 at 11:49am Reply

    I saw Dame Kiri in Der Rosenkavalier at ROH Covent Garden. Scored a box for second half due a kind couple who had to leave due to ill health. I'd paid £10 fir a standing ticket - still thrilled to recall it, 31 years later!
    I could tell it was she, even through the "chalk" makeup! Fabulous, still.

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