Soprano Kiri Te Kanawa and Conductor Sir John Prichard
  A Conversation with Bruce Duffie

kiri          pritchard

In the course of doing interviews with classical musicians since 1979, I have had the pleasure of meeting most in person and a few on the telephone.  Usually it is a one-on-one conversation between us, but occasionally there will be a second person involved.  One such duo-chat is presented here, and they are both British nobility
— soprano Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and conductor Sir John Pritchard.

Besides my quarter-century with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago, I also worked for another station for about six months, as well as giving my voice and a few interviews for a year and a half to the Music in the Air Corporation, which provided the in-flight entertainment package for various airlines.  Delta, Northwest and Eastern were among the clients, but the major one was United Airlines.  Based in Chicago, the in-flight package given to them was also used aboard Air Force One, the Presidential Jetliner.  My term of employment included a few months each of Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush.  Whether they actually listened to my programs I do not know, but the shows were there, ready and playing whenever they were soaring around the world.

In addition to the regular programs, there were some special ones, and this was the reason for the interview with Te Kanawa and Pritchard.  They were performing Così Fan Tutte at Lyric Opera of Chicago in the fall of 1987, so we arranged to meet on an off-day.  I had met the conductor twice before, but this was my first (and only) encounter with the soprano.  Portions were used on the airline program, and segments also were heard on WNIB.  Now I am pleased to present it in transcript form on my website.  [To read my first interview with Pritchard, dating from 1980, click here.  To read my second interview with the conductor, dating from 1984, which was published in Wagner News and deals mostly with his works, click here.] 

Like practically all of my interviews, this one was filled with serious discussion, easy and difficult questions, a few heavy moments and lots of laughter. 

A few times, the conversation was simply between the two colleagues.  Sir John inquired something of Dame Kiri, and I had the good sense to stay out of the way and let the ideas flow.  Also, while they were speaking to each other, they would nod or voice their agreement with what was being said.  This often happened during longer stretches of responses, and I have not interrupted the text with the interjections.  They were absolutely compatible, so the reader may assume that each agreed with the other like an old happily married couple.  Occasionally they reminisce about things and get deeply personal in their reflections.  She even reveals something she hates about interviewers
a method which fortunately I never use!  But it was obvious that they both enjoyed the conversation, and even at the end when I offered a graceful exit, they continued to chat with me until the tape finally just ran out.

I have left in some distinctly British ways of expression, such as viewing the group as a plural entity.  For example, they will say,
The audience appreciate it rather than appreciates it.

I have identified the artists as KTK (Kiri Te Kanawa) and SJP (Sir John Pritchard).  She has the title of Dame, but doesn't refer to herself with it.  He, on the other hand, used the title of Knighthood when identifying himself for the radio, and she also used it in the conversation.  I do not have a middle name, so there was no temptation to include myself in the tri-initialization. (!)

While setting up the machine and getting everyone settled around a small table, the conversation ranged from Lulu
which was also playing at Lyric duirng that time, and where the conductor was conflicted about getting used to the new third actto Samson, where the soprano lamented singing at the beginning and not again until the end.  That is where we begin the transcript . . . . . . .

Bruce Duffie:    In an opera where you sing early and then late, do you come back and try to re-vocalize, or do you try to keep the voice warm in the dressing room?

Kiri Te Kanawa:    No, because it’s too long to keep it warmed up.  In Rosenkavalier there’s almost two hours. 

Sir John Pritchard:    The second act of the opera with the intermissions, yes.

KTK:    Yes, two intermissions, one act and almost half of the third act. 

SJP:    And you’ve got those lovely costumes to get into. 

KTK:    And a marvelous entrance. 

SJP:    That’s right.  It is a long time and it’s a very tricky thing.  However, the conductor’s slaving away in the pit there the whole time!

KTK:    I always wondered if they could have a tennis court right next door so I could hit balls against the walls and keep the adrenalin going.

SJP:    That might be bad for your breathing. 

BD:    I’m surprised they don’t have athletic facilities at the top of the Opera House for the singers and the conductors and others in the company.

SJP:    Well, I’d like a swimming pool, how about that?

KTK:    Yes!

kiriBD:    That’s my sport…swimming.  I vote for that.  [Coming back to the subject at hand]  Tell me the secret of singing Mozart.

KTK:    I don’t think there is a secret ‘cause no one’s handed me the secret so quickly.  It was sheer, hard work.

BD:    Is it worth it?

KTK:    I think that’s for the listener and not for the do-er.  In my case, I love it, I enjoy it, but you have a lot of people out there.  In lots of ways I feel that they don’t actually appreciate Mozart as they should.  The film Amadeus has helped promote his music a lot more than we could do.

SJP:    Enormously, yes, more than all the work we’ve done for twenty-five years or more. 

KTK:    Certainly Sir John Prichard and his hard work promoted it.  He’s one of the experts. 

SJP:    I rather enjoyed that film.  I thought the music was very well done, and I was delighted to hear that teenagers were getting in line in record shops and buying Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.

BD:    Was this encouraging a bigger audience or re-encouraging the standard audience?

SJP:    I think it was a totally fresh audience.  I think they struck on the heap.  The visual images of the film were very good, and the soundtrack, of course, and the choice of music was very good.  It was a little bit solemn here and there, but then you had Mozart himself jazzing up one or two little marches out of Figaro at a harpsichord which is fun.

KTK:    The only thing which grated on my ears, unfortunately, was the spoken word which was an American accent.  I would have been very happy if Mozart had had an Austrian or German accent, but not an American accent.  It just kept on bringing me back to the reality of an actor playing the part.

SJP:    Yes, and in the salacious nature which we have always been told of Mozart, that he loved dirty stories and happy stories and perhaps suggestive situations.  Even with a very good American actor, as the boy was, nevertheless it came out rather brash in my opinion.  It showed another kind of forwardness than I’m sure was not part of the Eighteenth Century politeness.  They were all educated to a certain point.  What I call the back slapping and, if I may use the term, fanny tickling, was certainly not part of Mozart’s character.

BD:    It’s as if Mozart was living in the Twentieth Century. 

SJP:    I suppose that was the view, and that is how they put it.  But you were asking Kiri about the secret of singing Mozart.  I think it’s the best thing.  I always recommend it even to Verdi singers.  If people with big voices haven’t had a bit of training, trying to get the discipline of a Mozart aria can be more or less difficult for their voice, especially if it has a bit of fluid running about.  It’s always good for their technique, one of the best trainings you can have.  The secret of doing it well is what only comes after a lot of experience and a lot of searching as Kiri said.  You’ve got to look for it.  It’s a refinement level, which is not an ordinary one.

If they’ve sung a lot of Verdi/Puccini, many musicians are just not prepared to put in the sacrifice and the effort, quite often, to sing Mozart.  It is just too demanding and it is too revealing as to where your downfall is.  I have discovered this quite often going back to Mozart, which I often do having sung one Verdi role in a year and two or three Mozart roles in a year.  I find that it is very easy to sing Verdi/Puccini after Mozart.

SJP:    But isn’t there a line?  You do a lot of Richard Strauss as well.

KTK:    Yes.

SJP:    There’s a kind of line between Mozart and Strauss.

BD:    Why is that?

SJP:    Particularly if it’s in German, like Pamina in Magic Flute, the connection is both verbal and in the line of the soprano voice.

KTK:    It involves the approach of the notes and the cleanliness of being able to attack.

SJP:    Even though it’s a very rich texture in Strauss, somehow they’re in the same family.  Strauss is a later product of the same family.

BD:    Is he telling us in every measure that Mozart was his favorite composer?

SJP:    I don’t think in every measure, but one couldn’t hear a whole act of Strauss and not notice it, particularly some of the delicate music in Rosenkavalier, Capriccio...

BD:    Arabella?

SJP:   ... Arabella particularly is beautiful in the refinements of the orchestration.  What we’re really saying here is that the effect of Mozart on all of us interpreters or singers is primal.  It’s one of the great influences in your life.  You don’t want to get stuffy about it, but it’s something you can’t always feel on this very high level.

KTK:    A lot of great conductors, including yourself, you have started off with Mozart, gone off to other composers and always returned.  Colin Davis, James Levine, all the great conductors and the executors even of today return back to Mozart.  He gives the sort of lubrication for the voice, and I suppose for the mind.

SJP:    I was in the car just yesterday listening to a performance of a Mozart symphony and we played that game, as collectors of records, of who is conducting?  First of all it was a very good orchestra, so you file it down to it’s got to be Vienna or Chicago or London or something like this.  So you weren’t in the sticks in any way.  It had such a very clean and disciplined sound, but a bit hard. 

KTK:    I think I’m getting closer to the answer...  [Laughter]

SJP:    I better leave it at that, but it is a fascinating game to find the approach of different musicians and singers to Mozart.

BD:    For either of you, is your approach to Mozart something you can define, or is just the way you feel him intuitively?

KTK:    Sir John should really answer this one first because I was brought up in his sort of schooling.  I was really taught a lot of Mozart by you by hand.

kiriSJP:    Yes, that’s right.  I think Kiri will agree that the work in the room at the beginning is important.  Sitting at the piano, I’ve always found those little sessions when you have to go through the arias and the ensembles and discuss points of phrasing is marvelous.  When you come to Puccini or even Verdi, so much is written already in the score, so provided the singer is well-prepared and the conductor knows his job, you don’t have that amount of discussion.  But with Mozart you can discuss and say, “Try it this way, or what about shading this or making it a diminuendo,” and so on.  All of these are technical things which the audience on the receiving end only appreciate because they hear how fine-tuned the whole thing is.  That’s the collaboration which Kiri and I have enjoyed for a long time, and it’s absolutely necessary.  It is also an ensemble piece.  For example, in the lovely ensemble trios and quartets, and quintets or sextets of Figaro, it’s no use having one voice which is going to stick out.  In the ensemble pieces, they’ve got to listen to each other and that’s great.

KTK:    We were all taught this way.  For me, ’66 to ’76 was the time when Mozart reigned in the schools, and the conductors and the coaching and the repetiteurs drilled us with all these ideas for at least ten years of my young musical life.  I was drilled in the school, and when I work with Sir John it’s very important for him to know, but certainly for me, that I’ve got the same train of thought, exactly knowing what he wants me to do.  Whereas sometimes I would get with a conductor who I didn’t seem to work with at that time, or it wasn’t brought up at that time who had completely different ideas about Mozart.  I find that Jimmy Levine is very much in this sort of way, your sort of way, this sort of mind like mine, and he has the same ideas, which is wonderful.

BD:    Once you get through all this technique, then you can begin working on the music?

KTK:    No, we don’t dissect it so easily.  Everyone wants to dissect things these days.  It all comes as a whole.  A phrase is a phrase is a phrase.  You don’t sing it syllable by syllable, sound by sound.

SJP:    You have a feeling that’s instinctive about the music.  She wouldn’t be singing Fiordiligi and I wouldn’t be conducting Così Fan Tutte if there wasn’t an instinctive appreciation of what the whole arc of that music is about.  Therefore we don’t need to discuss that.  We must realize that this leap of an octave here is something very important in Mozart’s melodic design.  You don’t need to say anything about that because the singer knows this.  One mustn’t underestimate the fact that there are Mozart singers, though there aren’t so many of them in the world.  This sounds like a rather nasty crit of very special people, but it isn’t.  Not at all.  It’s the fact that for many people, as Kiri said, the approach is there.  It’s not that we’re going to discuss how all of us together can get that bottom line effect which we all instinctively know we want.  It’s as easy as that and as difficult as that.

BD:    Does all of your understanding of Mozart go back to Fritz Busch?

SJP:    Yes, definitely from my first years at the Glyndebourne Festival, which is famous, or was famous for Mozart, and perhaps still is.  I don’t know since I’m not there now, but I enjoy their performances and I enjoy the fact that it is an ensemble house.  I always remember when I was a young coach there, the famous artists would arrive and be put in a small room with a very small musician at the piano...

KTK:    A determined musician!

SJP:    ...determined to see if they had some vestigital knowledge of the part.  They would usually come out and say, “Yes, they were well prepared.”  But it was always from the ground up, the building.  They had to get the foundations right.

KTK:    Actually I remember a story about a producer who is or maybe is not at Glyndebourne now, regarding his rehearsal period.  This particular producer said, “You pay me for the rehearsals; I give you the performances.”  It’s a bit like that.  They work you really to death, but you come out very educated.

SJP:    Very early, one of the great Don Alfonsos was Mariano Stabile, and that was the first contact I had with a really professional Italian bass-baritone who knew his way around every corner and out of every corner.  I always remember him saying, “Ah, John, La scuola di Glyndebourne.
  The school of Glyndebourne.  He didn’t like it.

BD:    But he approved of it?

SJP:    He approved of the facts but he didn’t like it because he had to go back to school.  With Italian artists, as Kiri knows, Mozart is appreciated and revered and loved in Italy, but more now in the past fifteen years than it was in the previous decades.  A lot of Italian singers in the early days thought that Mozart was really too difficult for them.  They thought it was too hard and would rather get on to the big, broad effects.

KTK:    Sometimes I find it difficult even now.  When I sing Così, I think, “Oh, it amounts to climbing Mount Everest every time.
  But I suppose that is the beauty of being a slightly older musician.  You need the challenges.  You can’t just go in and sing the thing willy-nilly and come out and say, “That was alright.  It wasn’t my best but it was close.”  With Mozart it’s a hundred percent.  You can’t give anything else.

SJP:    Yes, it’s got to be there.  There’s no miss-hits really.

BD:    So when you climb his Mount Everest, it’s got to be the climb and the view from the top?

Both:    [Laughing]  Yes!  That
’s right.

BD:    How is Così or any Mozart going to be different from Glyndebourne to Covent Garden to Chicago or to any of the great houses of the world?’

KTK:    Don’t read the crits for a start.  That’s a very varied idea.  It’s a very difficult question.

pritchardSJP:    Part of it is the size of the auditorium.  My debut at the Metropolitan Opera was in Così Fan Tutte, and I was just underwhelmed by the difficult acoustic.  To be able to get the ensemble or the right kind of sound at Covent Garden is much easier.  It has very good acoustic.

BD:    How are the acoustics here in Chicago?

SJP:    I find them good.  Oh yes, they’re excellent, especially with the scenery.  There are no special spots on the stage where you have to be sure that you stand to get a good sound.

KTK:    I haven’t felt that, but I’ve sometimes stood at one particular spot right at the prop box where I heard a funny echo. 

SJP:    Yes, it comes back to you.

KTK:    There’s sort of a hole there.  I don’t know, maybe the audience don’t notice it.

BD:    Does that change with different scenery behind you?

KTK:    I have no idea.  I’ve only got the one setting behind me, so I wouldn’t really know unless I saw every opera and saw it night after night to try to figure it out.

BD:    Was it different during other operas you’ve sung here?

KTK:    Well, I can’t remember now because having sung in so many operas and halls in between.  You can’t really recall, but I must say some of the most magnificent acoustics have been here in America.

SJP:    Oh, yes.

KTK:    I like the Auditorium Theatre really very much.

BD:    Orchestra Hall too?

KTK:    It’s not as nice as I would imagine.  It’s not as rewarding, I must say, but there are some great places in America for sound, and some quite bad ones too.  But they’re best left unsaid.

BD:    How do the dramatics change from a very small house like Glyndebourne to a large one like Chicago?

KTK:    That is a funny question.

SJP:    Do you play a little broader, do you think?  I haven’t noticed it.  If the house is good and the audience is concentrated
which I can’t say you always feelbut if they are concentrated, it’s like film, meaning you do exactly the same as you would anywhere.  You don’t overplay and make gestures that make it look like a rather hammy, Verdian performance.  It doesn’t work.  I’m sure you have to think of the size of the house, but in a beautiful acoustic, a pianissimo carries as far as a fortissimo. 

KTK:    With the small gestures or with the big gestures, as you say, if it’s too big, it looks hammy.  I must say I try very hard never to adjust in any way.  Sometimes someone will say to me they can’t see very much what I’m doing, so you obviously adjust a little.  Sometimes if you’ve been doing film work or television work, you tend to really scale right down.  You tend to forget.

SJP:    Doesn’t it depend also on the scale of the lighting?  If your face is in shadow, the emotions which you’re trying to express don’t get across.  I’ve noticed that.  Kiri will remember with me whole decades really of stage directors who love dark and gloomy scenes.  The artists have to run from pinpoint of light A to pinpoint of light B, and then it’s very bad for them.  It is a problem of communication. 

KTK:    Didn’t someone come out with a miner’s hat with a light once because it was so dark?  [Note: This was Birgit Nilsson at the Met in Karajan
’s production of The Ring.  See my Interview with Birgit Nilsson.]

BD:    Have stage directors gone far too far, or just a little too far?

KTK:    Well, they’re a whole other story really, aren’t they?

SJP:    I’ll vote for far too far.  [Laughter]

BD:    Who gets the upper hand then, the conductor or the director?

SJP:    That’s rather difficult.  Let me give you a quick example in my own case.  For a new production, it’s always in my contract that I have the right to see the mockup of the set, the model and all the designs.  That’s really to prevent a stage director from going too far wrong.  For example, if you’re doing Aïda and the whole chorus is supposed to be playing subterraneously, the triumphal scene wouldn’t go down very well.  This is a simple and ridiculous example, but I remember in Don Carlos of Verdi, having a problem in the Auto-da fé
which is one of the choral scenes of all opera and terribly dramatic with processions and so on.  I told the director, “We’ve got to have differences of level on the stage.  You’ve just got to do it because otherwise half the chorus will spend their time saying they can’t see the conductor, they can’t see the beat.”  It’s a purely practical consideration, and usually the intelligent stage directors think of these problems beforehand.  But I’ve always wondered, Kiri, how you manage to get up and down thirty-one steps.  It is the syndrome of having steps on the stage.  There are always some balustrades and steps, and for the artists, often in long period costumes, it’s quite difficult running up and down.  And they usually are made to run up and down when they have something difficult to sing.

KTK:    Having just experienced it now, doing Otello at the Met, it’s one of the most uncomfortable platforms I’ve ever worked.  The steps are irregular and shaped against you or for you.  If one step is straight, the next one is pointing downwards, then the next one you go down is pointing upwards.  So your feet are doing a sort of updown, updown.  They’re very strange, plus the costumes are the heaviest ones around.  I actually wanted to weigh them because I couldn’t lift my arms.  By the third act, you can’t lift your arms because you’re just too tired.  I don’t sweat very much, but these things are so impossible.  I don’t even feel good in them because you’re struggling against the sheer weight.  Placido was doing one movement which was very simple, and he tripped and took the whole sole of the shoe off.  When you have to work against all these things and come up with a good performance, you sort of think,
Now just a minute, why am I here?  Do I really need this?

BD:    Then let me ask, why are you there on stage?

KTK:    As a friend of mine said, it
’s not the money.  I know it’s a stupid answer but I suppose somewhere along the line you enjoy it.  I really enjoy my job.  I love the people I work with and I can say quite honestly I’ve hardly worked with a person I didn’t like, and that was so few and far between and such a long time ago it didn’t matter.  I really do love it.  I love everything about it.  I would like to travel less, of course.

SJP:    It’s painful traveling.  Kiri and I are alike in this, that we both love our home life.  We have too little of it.  We can’t relate to any particular place; we’re always on the move.  We have this dream in the mind where you can put your feet up and where the books and music are, and a few pets and whatever you have at home.  Really like anybody else, that’s what we’re working for.  We’re working in a very hard profession with great demands on our stamina and strength.  It really is tough to get through an opera, apart from the physical considerations.  The costumes as we mentioned, but the strain of a three-act opera often lasting three and one-half hours, added to which the principal artists must be there an hour before to get into makeup and wigs and all these things.  Then there is the climate of the city you’re in, whether there’s a lot of humidity.  All these things are relating to the human throat, the human body, and are problems that you have before that curtain ever goes up.  The conductor doesn’t have to get there early for makeup, but we have to stay there.  We haven’t got time to go out for a glass of something.

KTK:    A pit stop or something...  I suddenly thought, “Goodness, what happens if you do have to leave the pit, and you can’t.  You’re absolutely stuck there.” 

SJP:    If you’re gone, the orchestra, of course will look a little bit amazed.

BD:    You can’t have a deputy conductor standing by?

KTK:    Hardly...

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Let us change the subject and go to French music.  You’ve made this recording of the Ravel Scheherazade and the Duparc Songs.  Let’s talk a little bit about the French style.  How is the French style different from the Mozart style or the Verdi style or the Strauss style?

KTK:    [With a gentle nudge]  You tend to ask these questions which I never actually think about.  I sing a song and I’m not going to suddenly become French, you know, or think,
“Here’s my Mozart voice and my Mozart interpretation.  I am executing music.

SJP:    Language, of course, is really the main handle there because when you sing French poems you are singing French vowels and consonants, so the voice tends to take on different colors.  It isn’t that it’s going to be different from Mozart.

KTK:    Not consciously.

SJP:    No, you don’t think, “I’m going to sing in French so here comes my French style.’’

KTK:    It’s sort of dressing up as the French maid and getting out and saying “Look.”  That’s a very hard question to answer because O.K., I’m a schizophrenic, I suppose.  One has to be, but I’m not that far gone.

kiriSJP:    There is perhaps more for the conductor to think of the style in French music.  That arrives, for example, if you’re playing a Beethoven symphony and then you come to a Debussy tone poem or something like this.  The texture of the writing is so different that you’re not a very good artist or conductor unless you take it into account, and unless you ask the orchestra for this.  It’s like the difference between a water color or an oil painting.  There’s a difference in technique and there’s a difference of effect on your eyes as you look.  It is the same with your ears when you hear the refinement like in this beautiful Ravel song cycle that we’ve done together.  This is such tone painting and the poems.  I live in France so I can be a bit rude about the French, but I always say that they are so oriented towards the spoken word.  The French by and large prefer dramatic theatre to opera or anything else.  They are taking big strides now all over France to catch up.  I don’t want to offend anybody by saying that they need to catch up that much, but their refinement is first and foremost directed towards spoken words or plays in the theatre.  When their language is sung to them, it adds another dimension.  For those who are not French-speaking, the actual sound comes first and they realize that it’s clothing the words in beautiful sound.  But every Frenchman that I know is really listening to his mother tongue and then to the sound.  Do you think that is true?

KTK:    I absolutely think so.

BD:    Are you, then, more careful of your diction in French?

KTK:    You must pronounce it correctly.  If you become careful, then you become wrong.

SJP:    Stilted, yes.

KTK:    You must sing it as you would sing it, but you must sing it correctly.  I don’t think about that sort of stuff very much.  I’m an executor, I’m not a dissector.  You’re dissecting what I execute.  [Good-naturedly]  Of course, you’ve got to ask the questions, but I got to keep on bumping you back and saying, “Stop dissecting my music.”

BD:    [Reassuringly]  Oh, no, I’ve got to ask the right questions.

KTK:    That’s right.

BD:    Well, do you enjoy singing French as much as Italian and German?

KTK:    I enjoy singing.  I enjoy music, I enjoy singing.

SJP:    Of course, there’s a vastly different repertoire one has to consider.  Really one must say the French repertoire is more limited in actual scope.  There’s so much German lieder and all the wonderful songs that you do in your recitals. 

KTK:    I try to view the repertoire in visual terms.  The French music reminds me of the ocean...

SJP:    La Mer...

KTK: just keeps rolling, whereas you can sort of see incredible highways and horizons and things in German lyrics.  They are boundless.

SJP:    That’s a good analogy really.  There’s a lot of the air and watery spirit, as it were, in French music.

KTK:    It always seems to be coming into the shore, though, for me.  There is a stop somewhere, whereas in the Mozart and German music, there’s a tendency to be going the other way.  You never quite reach it, you never quite get there.

SJP:    The mountains are up there.

BD:    Is it that way in the small songs as well as in the long descriptive poetry?

SJP:    The small songs are more effective in German lieder.  A Schubert song can be so brief and so perfect, whereas French writing always needs time to develop.  Even these songs that we recorded, the Duparc and so on
wonderful poetry and a delicious line for the voicebut I know the way Kiri works, and I’m sure she takes this and she gets the sound correct for the words and then she floats the voice as it’s intended to be.  It’s as though a ship would take off on the water, and as it sails from the harbor it’s poetical, but that’s how it is with French music.  Whereas the form is always very clear in Germanic music.  It’s silly to divide up music in this wayItalian music, German music, French musicbut since we are trying to analyze the appeal of this music a bit, otherwise we wouldn’t be talking about it, it’s perhaps worth talking about.  When I come to a concert program, I like to compose it like the chef making out the menu.  I should have a little French music here and maybe a Russian piano concerto, and then a Brahms symphony.  That’s how you make a very satisfying meal.

BD:    Many times, children are sent to a concert and when they get back to the classroom the teacher will say, “Paint what you heard.”  I would think that this would be one hundred percent the wrong way of going about the teaching of music and inspiring young listeners.

SJP:    There’s the famous story of the little boy who was asked to describe the symphony concert he went to.  He said, “We had a great time.  The hall was full and the orchestra played great, and then a man come on and tapped his baton and they made the most horrible noise.”  [Laughter all around]

kiriBD:    Are we encouraging enough young audiences to come to theatre, opera, symphony, plays?

KTK:    I think the encouragement’s a little too slow.  I tend to think that you have to take bigger steps.  It’s all very well having youth concerts and all this sort of thing, but a youth concert means playing their music as well as what you want them to listen to.  You tempt them with a bit of popular pieces, and then you make them listen to something that is not so popular to them but quite popular to musicians, and then tempt them again.  I think that’s the way to do it rather than tempt them with a whole lot of, as they would think, boring music. 

BD:    This brings one of my favorite questions
where is the balance between the artistic achievement and the entertainment value?

KTK:    You have to talk to the management because the bottom line is money, isn’t it?  All the way, it means getting those concerts on and the orchestras kept hard at work.  The fine line is getting seats sold, as far as I can make out.

BD:    But for you as an artist, where is the balance?

KTK:    Well, one has to do what the audience wants, too.  You have to keep your ears and eyes open to this.  Look at the recordings and see what people buy.

BD:    Is the audience always right?

KTK:    They are actually paying for the seats, and I sometimes think that they must be at least fifty percent right.

SJP:    Yes, I think that the experience over the years of giving concerts in all sorts of localities has proved to me that on the whole the audience is right.  They’re not absolutely fool-proof because sometimes one is convinced about the value of something and you know perfectly well on that particular evening, on that day with that particular audience, it’s not working.  As the conductor standing there, you feel it in your backbone, you know if the audience is with you.  Sometimes in opera they’re so far from being with you that you hear the gentle snores.  I have experienced that, but I think the importance of what you said about entertainment is that we must always remember we’re an entertainment industry.  That’s what we’re there to do.  They’ve got to have a good time, and that’s why I’m a little bit against experimental stage directors sometimes.  I’m always trying to get back to give them a wallop.  Their emphasis on the symbolism, on this means this
something terribly high-flowing and how you must take the symbolismis not something which hits the audience between the eyes and therefore the stage directors have got to underline it by any number of technical effects.  They do this particularly in the German theaters.  He’s got his idee fixe, his fixed idea, and he’s gonna hammer it home whatever happens.  In that case, the audience is right when they ignore it, especially if it’s a work of genius.  Let’s take Bohème.  You can’t really have a more perfect opera than Bohème.  It is going to jolt everybody in their seat if they hear it the first time or if they hear it the two hundredth time.  Therefore, this is what I call audience rightness.  People have appreciated that over the years, and if somebody comes along with a new concept of Bohème, it’s irrelevant.  People are not interested.  If you want to know what Puccini wrote, the immense humanity of the characters he created, that’s what opera should be about, and to answer one of your questions, that’s the way we will make it live for young people, not in stuffy performances when they have to be correct.  Formalism is not the answer, particularly, if I may say so, in America where there are dress nights for the audience.  Mind you, I love to see a well-dressed opera audience...

KTK:    ...but they’re not a real audience.  That’s the problem. 

SJP:    That
’s the point.

It’s very important because the patrons and all the sponsors are there and they are very important, but the thing is, I wish they could share their night out and come on all sorts of separate nights, so that you actually got a real audience instead of these people who are brought there by people who don’t really want to go to the opera.  It’s sort of a corporate evening outfifty seats at the operaand they don’t know what they’re watching.  The other side of it is that sometimes operas are far too long.  Producers will not cut operas in order to entertain, and you see people walking out.  For instance, at the Met operas start at 8 o’clock.  Now you know, Rosenkavalier is not down until sometimes 12:30.  They say you’ve got to be finished by a certain time and they’re pushing us to finish, whereas in actual fact it should be management who should put the opera on at 7 or 7:30.  Another thing is that subtitles are a must in opera, especially if it’s in a foreign language.  Here in Così, they took out the line "Che bella giornata".  The audience don’t understand it.  They don’t know what I said, so I had to get the production people to put the translation back in.

SJP:    No, it hasn’t got one laugh and I was very surprised.  [Explaining the spot in the opera]  This is a moment in Così fan Tutte when there’s a general embarrassment.  The two pairs, the two ladies and the two officers are pairing up the wrong way and are about to embark on this little flirtation
innocent or not — and there’s a marvelous embarrassing moment when they just all look at each other and twiddle their thumbs.  Fiordiligi breaks it by saying, “Oh, what a lovely day.”

KTK:    [With a tweak of playfullness]  I think I will say it in English tomorrow. 

SJP:    [With a huge smile]  Oh, why don
’t you!

I’ll say, “Oh, what a lovely evening!”  I will, I will.

BD:    That’ll bring down the house.

SJP:    Oh it will break them up!

KTK:    We don’t want to say, “You don’t understand us, you don’t know what’s going on,” but in actual fact they don’t understand, and it’s very frustrating.  So you really have got a big bridge yet to put over an enormous lake.

SJP:    Yes, I agree completely with you about the translations.

BD:    Is the use of surtitles in the theatre going to mean the death of opera-in-English?

SJP:    No, I think they should be put up in English works as well, because people get more from that.  It’s done in some cases, you know.

BD:    I mean should opera be sung in translation?

SJP:    Oh, that’s a much bigger question.  I think that’s very difficult.  I don’t particularly; it’s not really necessary now if we have surtitles.  The answer is hearing the laughter in the operas. 

KTK:    Also, if you have got to have a replacement, you can be absolutely sure, they’re not gonna sing it in Czechoslovakian.  If they’re singing it in the original language, your replacement situation is so much easier. 

SJP:    Yes, and we have to cope with that now.

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    Do you sing any differently in the recording studio than you do in the concert hall or opera house?

kiriKTK:    It is very difficult now because everyone knows that you get a more perfect sound and you get a more perfect recording than you do in the concert hall simply because you can cut in a good note and take out a bad one.  I really don’t think that there is a great comparison.  It’s not worlds apart, but it is at least you can stop and have a drink of water if you’re not having a great time.  But in the theater you have to keep going. 

BD:    Is there any point where this cut-and-paste becomes a fraud?

KTK:    Past recordings have been the biggest fraud in the whole world.  Now it’s much better, it’s much cleaner.  I think my recordings are much cleaner.  Also, I refuse to cut and stick in note after note unless you’re in very bad trouble.

SJP:    I remember you very clearly, Kiri, during one of our recording sessions together.  You said to me as we went through this, “That’s not my voice.”  You were very clear.  “That’s not my voice.  They haven’t got it, and we’re going to insist till they do.
  I rather agreed.  Now the artist himself or herself knows whether what we hear on the playback is what they did in the studio.  It’s very relevant to your question because you can’t always know what’s coming out while being transcribed.  You know the sound you’re producing there relative to the orchestra, and it’s up to the technicians to get it right.  To get it, they’ve got every technical advantage to be able to do so.

KTK:    The problem is, as in this particular case, it wasn’t my voice.  I know it very well and I have said it on several occasions.  It was with exactly the same technical engineer.  He had a problem.  He couldn’t hear what I could hear, and so from that time on I couldn’t work with him because it would take one or two three-hour sessions to get what I heard.  I even got to a stage where I would bring in my own recording and say, “That’s the sound I want to hear!  I don’t want to hear anything different.”  But they’ve got something else in their heads, I don’t know what it is.  I know I’m very difficult in a recording studio.  I don’t settle for anything until I know I’ve gotten exactly what I want.

SJP:    I think Kiri is quite right because that’s what the public wants, too.

KTK:    There is a difference of how you sing, but the thing is the recordings are already something away from the live performance.  Starting at the beginning, normally I would say I will only do this in three takes to prove to myself that it was as close to a live, straight-through performance as I could get.  Quite often now I do that.

SJP:    I love long takes particularly in symphonic music because even if there’s some little inequality, that you can usually splice in.  But the feeling of the whole line of the thing is marvelous and you need it. 

KTK:    Sometimes in Strauss, the horn players do a fluff because their lips have gotten tired.  They just can’t get the tension that’s needed, so they either have to rest or wait until they come back the next day... and sometimes you haven’t got the next day, so they have got to do it.  So you’ve got to give them a break, or just do the bit that is very necessary to get in.  That sometimes is difficult because some of those guys do three sessions a day and so their lips finally go.

BD:    How do you decide which roles to accept and which roles not to accept?

KTK:    Well, I’m running short of roles at the moment.  Actually, some roles have been chosen for me.  Someone says, “You must sing this,” so I go and listen to it very carefully with the score.  If there was a recording by a singer that I liked doing the part, I was very happy to listen to it.  That’s how I choose quite often, but it takes a lot of recordings, a lot of hours for listening.

BD:    How do you choose which ones you will conduct?  Of course, you’re in a little different position because you’re Music Director in a couple of different places.

SJP:    You have the kind of things that you’re going to enjoy recording, and that does impose an invitation.  But young singers are very much in the hands in their opera houses or their managers to take suggestions.  If I may take Kiri Te Kanawa’s case, she had the direction of her voice, and her vocal task was obvious from the start.  We knew that she would be going through Pamina and the Countess in Figaro, and then the Marschallin and all the roles which you enjoyed doing from Mozart and Strauss.  This Mozart/Strauss line was established clearly with her.  With some singers it’s not quite so clear, particularly baritones.  You can have a heroic baritone or you can have a baritone that sings Papageno, and these people are not always put into the best roles by the opera houses, frankly.  We all know opera houses where singers
voices have actually been distorted and eventually spoiled by too early projection in roles that they shouldn’t sing in that particular house, or even any house.  I hate to see that happen.  It’s a great responsibility on the house, and not every singer is frankly as bright and as choosy as Kiri has managed to be.  They are very easily influenced.  You can say, “Oh, you would enjoy this role, or that’s the role for you,” and it’s very good time to think it over.  There’s a good case in point, which I won’t go now into, where we’re discussing a very beautiful role and I’m very interested for Kiri to look at it.  She’s interested, too, but the decision will come eventually from her when she looks at the whole picture, she sees the score and goes through it and thinks, “Well, it’s beautiful but perhaps not for me.”  With conductors, it’s a bit different because a conductor has to have an enormous repertoire, and he has to try many things.  There are some composers, frankly, that I have executed in my younger years which I will mercifully spare the public from hearing now.  On the other hand, the composers that you enjoy performing usually mean that you’ve got a special affinity and you’re on the right track.

BD:    This stable of composers you enjoying performing, is it expanding little by little or is it closing down little by little?

SJP:    In my case, it’s closing down rather remarkably.

BD:    Are you slamming doors behind you?

SJP:    It’s just particularly because conductors are often asked to conduct contemporary music and that was one of my duties.  I had a big series called Musica Viva in the old days in Liverpool.  I presented modern scores of every type and stable, as you used that descriptive word.  Gradually as I get more seen here in the profession, I’ve been able to let some younger guy look at this because I did all that.  Now, if I like the work of so and so, I’d be happy to do this particular piece.

BD:    Are we getting a young Strauss or a young Verdi or a young Mozart?

SJP:    I very much doubt that because the operatic form is not actually developing.  I think of opera like a Stradivarius violin which has reached the perfection of form in instrument making.  Now, nothing can develop for the violin.  It’s going to remain as a violin for all eternity as far as I can see.  You’re not going to have a super violin or something else which gives you better effect.

KTK:    There is an electric one out right now, but it
’s not in our particular bracket.

SJP:    I think that means that the form of the thing is perfect in itself.  Opera has reached a peak of attainment and of perhaps perfection with all its inbuilt difficulties, which means that we’re at the end of a chapter.  I don’t see the young performers and composers around who are going to extend this art form.  I think we can have Twentieth Century opera.  I think there are some great ones.  You could say The Rake
’s Progress of Stravinsky is, but it is really a kind of prestige which throws back to the eighteenth century.  I don’t want to sound reactionary about it because I’d like to think there is some new wonderful growth which will come, but I’m not convinced.

BD:    I want to be sure to ask you about the National Opera of Belgium.  How did you choose this location to do the French disc?

SJP:    This was really an accident.

BD:    A good accident or a bad accident?

KTK:    You had a nice time there.

SJP:    It was a happy accident.  I was there as music director of the Belgian National Theatre, and we wanted to find a location with a bright, youngish orchestra which we were able to form there.  It was a good opportunity for them to do it, and Belgium is so geographically central to the whole movement of artists, it was no problem to bring Kiri there.  She was happy to come.

KTK:    But you must see him in all his glory there.  He is really the Gentleman, the Squire, or whatever you call it.  He goes around to all these wonderful cities eating beautiful meals in glorious restaurants...

SJP:    Too many, sometimes I’m afraid!

KTK:    ...and living in beautiful houses.  The picture of John Prichard is amazing because by accident he found a beautiful house there or a particular restaurant or a nice art gallery or something which has attracted him there, and suddenly they’ve got him there for a while.  Then he moves on to the next beautiful site, whatever it is, like a house in the mountains and things like that.  I think that is your escape from our musical rigidity.

SJP:    Yes, very definitely.  It comes back to the love of domesticity in a way.

KTK:    But given it, I doubt you’d stay in one place.  It would be the same with me.  We’ve moved so much for so many years that we’d long for it, but I think we’d run a mile if someone said right now, “Domesticity is yours for the rest of your life.”  No, no, no, no, I’m very happy.

SJP:    Lord make me less sinful, but not yet!

*     *     *     *     *

BD:    You’ve made the French songs together and the Puccini together.  Are there any others coming along?

KTK:    Actually, we haven’t got together on this much.  We’ve got to since there are all sorts of things out there.  John Prichard needs to find out what he wants to do first and then I’ve got to find if I want to learn it and if I have got the time to learn it.  You see, I have to learn these things.  It’s all very well for him since it’s already in his repertoire.  I did my very first Four Last Songs with Sir John, which was a wonderful experience.  I’ve never been so nervous in my life.

SJP:    It’s very early, but I played the cassette the other day and it’s very beautiful.  That’s what I mean by a voice naturally fitting the output of a great composer for the voice.  Strauss was a great composer for the voice, particularly for female voices.

kiriKTK:    That was seventeen years ago.

SJP:    Oh dear.  I always have an agreement now...

KTK:    Never to mention...?

SJP:    No.  I say, “I’ve known you for at least ten years,” which is enough.

KTK:    But you were in bed with fever at that time, so it was five years lost.  I remember that very clearly because I was in Lyon with Annie Howells, and my mother died while I was learning it.  So it remains very indelibly imprinted on my mind.  And just three years ago, I was singing it in New York and my father died.  So the Strauss Four Last Songs to me means death, which I don’t like...  He talks about it I guess, but it does really mean death to me,

SJP:    It’s associated with it, yes.

BD:    But it doesn’t mean that you’ve kept it out of your repertoire?

KTK:    No, not at all.  It really reminds me of my parents, and I want to keep it there because I never want to forget them.  There are reasons why I was given them and they were given me, and one has to keep singing his music because they enforced it on me and I took over from that.  I think it’s very important to know that somehow your destiny is written.

SJP:    It’s very funny because that reminds me of an association of a word with something unpleasant.  I love the Bartok Concerto for Orchestra, a great show piece, but with me it’s always associated with the fact that I conducted it in a memorable concert with the BBC Symphony Orchestra in London.  I was conscious of acute and growing pains, and was admitted with a suppurative appendix into the hospital about twenty-five minutes after the end of it.  So whenever I have this familiar little tremor, it’s associated with the physical discomfort of that time.

KTK:    Yes, it was extremely bad. 

SJP:    It was a very bad one, and I don’t know if the performance was that bad.

BD:    Have you ever had any scenery fall over, or something goofy that you look back and laugh about?

KTK:    No, not really.

SJP:    We have a lot of fun discussing things that go on.  There are many more funny things in rehearsals, really.

KTK:    Yes, but one doesn’t find them funny later on because it’s how you’re living.  I find more funny things in taxi cabs.  I went out not so long ago in a taxi ride with a clarinetist who played his clarinet all the way to my tennis lesson.  He said,
Do you like the flute?  I said that I love the flute, and he pulled out a flute from his sun shade thing and he played the flute!

BD:    [Shocked]  So this was the driver that was playing???

KTK:    The driver, yes.  Now try to imagine how he was driving the car, which I thought was amazing.

SJP:    Funny things do happen to opera artists, you know.  There’s no doubt about it.  We’re in the line, which is helpful because then we can write amusing books about it someday.

BD:    Are you in a special section because you’re regarded as a super star?

KTK:    Me, a super star???  My children don’t think I’m a super star.  Sir John doesn’t think I’m a super star because he’s my friend.  I like being what I am, whatever they might be, but I don’t think it’s a super star.  I think I’ve a certain place in the musical world today and have put a certain input, but when you’re dead and gone and the recordings aren
’t there, you’re gone.  At least I leave a lot of recordings behind... if anyone will buy them.

SJP:    Go into the historic section.

KTK:    Yes.  Historically inaccurate.

BD:    But you strive for accuracy?

KTK:    Oh, yes, absolutely.

pritchardSJP:    Kiri’s very instinctive with music and always has been, and if there is a little inaccuracy, she’s aware of it.  It
’s rather like the princess with the pea under the mattress.  She can feel the discomfort about something which has gone a little bit wrong rhythmically or otherwise.  It’s more that than the pedantic.  I often feel that listeners to music think that we’re all very pedantic and mechanical about trying to get everything absolutely right.  It’s like getting a total figure right when you cast them out by hand, but it isn’t somehow like that.  Error in any field of art causes a kind of feeling of unease.  It’s imbalance when it isn’t right.  Somehow singers, for example, compose their own little phrases.  I’ve often conducted and thought I must tell them about it because they’re singing different shapes; the same melody but slightly different.  This can happen and it can become a habit.  Therefore, there’s no discomfort in there because it’s a musical instinct taking over from the actual mechanics of learning something.  I think instinct’s very important in music. 

KTK:    I think I’ve relied on mine for so long that to sit down and analyze what one does almost seems like an intrusion because I don’t want anybody to know what I was thinking or what I was doing.  It’s a bit like a comedian
they’re not going to give out all their best jokes until the lights are on and the camera’s are working.  We’re all a little bit like that; instinct works that way.  When I first began singing and having interviews, the interviewer would ask me all the questions, and I’d answer them thinking that the tape was running.  Then she’d say, “Now we’re ready to start.”  I thought that was it, so all of the interview was absolutely wasted.  Then I was instinctively trying to be different, but the next time nothing worked.  Instinct has always been my great friend and I hope I will always keep it like that.

BD:    That’s one thing I have learned, to turn the machine on first.  Occasionally someone will say, “Oh, you’ve been rolling all this time?” 

KTK:    Very wise.

BD:    I must let you go.  We could go on for hours and hours...

SJP:    Thank you.  Do you think you have enough?

BD:    There
’s never enough!

KTK:    We should do this every day
til we get it right.  [Laughter all around]

SJP:    Kiri’s talking and she has to sing tomorrow afternoon.

BD:    Yes.  I was almost afraid to do it today.  When I’m setting up interviews, I took at their calendar and my calendar and I try to pick the best time for them.

KTK:    Don
’t worry.  No, I’m fine. 

SJP:    She’ll be alright.

KTK:    [Testing her voice in a loud and sing-songy way]  It’s still there, oh, yes.

BD:    [With a bit of sadness]  Are you going to know when it’s no longer there?

KTK:    [Matter-of-factly]  Yes.

SJP:    I think she’ll be ahead of it.

KTK:    I’ll be well ahead of it, yes.

BD:    I hope that’s many years from now.

KTK:    If it were too late, then I would have wronged myself.  I have a limit.

SJP:    It’s like my definite feeling of...  [looking down at the machine]  Is your tape still running?

KTK:(!)    It’s not stopped, it’s still running.

SJP:    Well, I’ll say it anyway.  I saw a very great Italian conductor, a marvelous old master named Vittorio Gui.  He was dispensed with because he got a bit old.  He did a very slow figure and all that sort of thing, but he still loved his music.  But he was pushed out!  He was not invited back and I thought (in those days) I’m still quite young but I’m never going to be put in that position.  I resigned and they didn’t like it.

KTK:    Of course, they didn’t.  The other day I said to a lovely colleague who I really like, “In this business they want you either dead or voiceless.”  A lot of singers, when they’re old and retired, people tend to not take any notice of them or be nice to them or pleasant or anything.  A great old singer!  I love these old stars, and when they are finished and retired, they still come to the operas to say hello.  A lot of people say, “Oh, that silly old fool,” and they’re very cruel, very, very cruel.

BD:    I’ve had a lot of fun finding some of them and getting to interview them, and then playing their records on the radio.

SJP:    That’s lovely.

KTK:    There’s still a lot they have to offer and to talk about, but a lot of young people have no time for the older singers.  They feel they’re stilly and old and they’re past it and they can’t sing anymore.  They say "ha ha," and it’s very sad.

BD:    There’s a tradition in Germany
which I wish we had in England and in Americaof having the singers who are really too old to do the lead parts start singing secondary roles.  There’s an immense artistry and understanding for the smaller parts, and they’re there to nudge the young singers around and to give them little pointers.  Plus it is fun to just have this great old star in the cast along with the new stars.

SJP:    Yes, there have been such singers, and I have experienced a couple who tend to get in the way of a production, I must say.  They produce it and then they become very boring.  That is a nuisance, and you become frightened of them because you think they’re all powerful and you can lose jobs from it, but they’re not really.

BD:    Speaking of jobs, you have two or three different positions
at the moment.  Is this at all a left-handed non-compliment to other conductors meaning that you must take two or three jobs because there are not enough others around to fill the posts?

SJP:    Well, that’s a difficult question, isn’t it?

KTK:    It’s a straight up-front question I must say, and I’ve be very interested in your answer.

SJP:    Well, I’m going to answer it in a very diplomatic way.

KTK:    As a knight of the realm...

SJP:    As a knight of the realm, I’m going to say that for my fulfillment I have to do symphony and opera, and I’m not satisfied with either one to the exclusion of the other.  I feel a better artist when I do this.  I love going back to the BBC Symphony Orchestra and doing my concerts and then coming again into the jungle world of the opera.  That I like.  Therefore we’re really talking of a dual kind of arrangement.  You must remember that in Europe the resident conductor picture is not at all so normal as it has been in the United States.  One thinks of the Philadelphia Orchestra and Ormandy almost to the exclusion or anybody else; the same with Zubin Metha and the New York Philharmonic and so on.  [See my Interviews with Zubin Mehta.]  But in Europe the Principal Conductor is one of a series because it’s such a big volatile audience in all the cities, and another city is not far away.  If we want to go to Amsterdam to hear the Concertgebouw and you’re not far really from the Berlin Philharmonic, all this means that the little circus of conductors going around is more moveable.  Therefore it is possible and indeed preferable for conductors not to over-expose themselves in any one particular city.  I found that this works very well.  I think it’s been slightly exaggerated in my case in the last few years, but I’m taking the steps to, shall we say, climb down.

KTK:    Conductors do have a lot of energy, they can travel a lot more...

[Note: At this point the tape simply ran out.  We all continued to chat for a few more minutes and then we said our good-byes.]

Kiri Te Kanawa (Soprano)

Born: March 6, 1944 - Gisborne, on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island

The Maori soprano, Kiri Te Kanawa, is the adopted daughter of an Irish mother and Maori father. After winning the John Court Aria Prize and the Mobil Song Quest, Kiri shot to stardom in New Zealand and was accepted without audition to study at the London Opera Centre in 1965.


After appearing in little known operas such as Delibes’ Le Roi l’a dit and Wolf-Ferrari’s The Inquisitive Woman, Kiri Te Kanawa received critical praise as Idamantes in Mozart's Idomeneo. Soon after, Kiri was granted a three-year contract as a junior principal at Covent Garden.

Kiri Te Kanawa came to international attention singing the role of Xenia in Boris Godunov and the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro. After achieving world-wide celebrity status, Kiri was made an Officer of the Civil Division of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, an honor that was later sold at a police auction for £500 to raise money for the Mitchum Amateur Boxing Association.

After her successes at Covent Garden, Kiri Te Kanawa performed her Metropolitan Opera debut as Desdemona in Otello (replacing an ill Theresa Stratas). Her other performances include Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Arabella in Arabella, Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, Violetta in La Traviata, Tosca in Tosca, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte and, most notably, her numerous performances as Donna Elvira in Mozart’s Don Giovanni.

In 1981, Kiri Te Kanawa was chosen to sing "Let the Bright Seraphim" at St. Paul's cathedral at the marriage of HRH the Prince of Wales [shown in photo below] to the Lady Diana Spencer. The following year she was created a Dame of the British Empire by HM Queen Elizabeth II.


Kiri Te Kanawa married Desmond Park, whom she met on a blind date, in Auckland the 30th of August 1967. The couple adopted two children, Antonia and Thomas, in 1976 and 1979 respectively. The pair divorced in early 1997. Most recently, on March 10, 1994, Kiri performed in concert celebrating her 50th birthday at The Royal Albert Hall.

Sir John Pritchard, Music Director, Is Dead at 68

John Rockwell
The New York Times December 6, 1989

Sir John Pritchard, the music director of the San Francisco Opera and, until early this year, of the BBC Symphony and the Cologne Opera, died of lung cancer yesterday at the Seton Medical Center in Daly City, Calif. He was 68 years old.

An expert in the music of Mozart and Rossini as well as of contemporary composers, Sir John made his last public appearances in October in six performances of Mozart's ''Idomeneo'' in San Francisco. He was to have conducted Handel's ''Orlando Furioso'' there starting Nov. 19, but was unable to do so.

John Michael Pritchard was born in London in 1921. He was taught music by his father, a violinist in the London Symphony Orchestra, and later studied viola and piano in Italy and conducting with Sir Henry Wood.

In 1947 he joined the staff of the Glyndebourne Festival, becoming an assistant to Fritz Busch, and stepped in during a 1949 performance of Mozart's ''Don Giovanni'' when Busch fell ill. He made his formal conducting debut there in 1951, and his longtime association with the festival continued as a conductor, adviser and music director (1969-78). He is to be buried near the site of the festival.

In an interview, he once recalled Busch telling him: ''John, you have a natural sense of tempo. You were born with it. It's the most priceless gift for conductors.''

Lifelong Freelancer

Sir John's career was divided between concerts and opera. He made his debut with the Vienna State Opera and with the Royal Opera, Covent Garden, in 1952 and his American debut with the Pittsburgh Symphony in 1953. Although he freelanced throughout his life, his permanent engagements included music director of the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic (1957-63), the London Philharmonic (1962-66), the Theatre de la Monnaie in Brussels (1981-86), the Cologne Opera (1978 until this summer) and the BBC Symphony (1982 until October). In Liverpool, he was active in the Musica Viva concerts, subsequently repeated in London.

He was knighted in 1983 for his service to English contemporary music. Among his important operatic premieres were Britten's ''Gloriana'' and Sir Michael Tippett's ''Midsummer Marriage'' and ''King Priam.''

In September he realized a longtime ambition by leading the final night of the Proms, the BBC's popular summer concert series at the Royal Albert Hall in London, although illness forced him to sit while conducting.

Sir John's longtime companion was Terrence MacInnes. No family members survive. The funeral is to be in London late next week. The San Francisco Opera is to hold a memorial service on Monday at 11 A.M. at Grace Cathedral in San Francisco.


© 1987 Bruce Duffie

This interview was recorded in her apartment in Chicago on December 19, 1987.  It was used as part of the in-flight entertainment package aboard United Airlines and Air Force One in 1988, and several times on WNIB.  The transcription was posted on this website in 2013.

To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.

Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001.  His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.

You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests.  He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago.  You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.