Auckland Live, in association with the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation presents

A Gala Concert
in the Presence of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Performances by some of the New Zealand’s most highly regarded opera singers in the presence of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa include:


The gala concert will be hosted by Jennifer Ward-Lealand.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa


Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was born in New Zealand, of European and Māori heritage and first sang in public when she was six-years-old, on a Gisborne radio station. By the time she was twenty she had won the major vocal prizes available in the South Pacific, and – unusually early for a prima donna in any era – had also started her recording career and was awarded New Zealand’s first Gold Disc for sales.

In 1965 she moved to London to study at the London Opera Centre. Her sensational London debut in Figaro gained Kiri Te Kanawa legendary status. She became one of the most famous sopranos in the world, a familiar figure in leading opera houses including Covent Garden, the Metropolitan, Chicago Lyric Opera, Paris Opera, Sydney Opera House, Vienna State Opera, La Scala Milan, San Francisco, Munich, and Cologne.

Kiri Te Kanawa was created a Dame Commander of the British Empire in 1982. She was invested into the Order of Australia in 1990, and the Order of New Zealand in 1995. In 2012 Dame Kiri Te Kanawa was named ‘Iconic New Zealander of the Year’ and in 2018 she was made a Member of the Order of the Companions of Honour in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, for services to music.

The Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation was launched in 2004, providing mentorship, support and financial assistance to dedicated New Zealand singers and musicians. In 2010 Dame Kiri was presented with the British Recording Industry’s Lifetime Achievement Award and was named Iconic New Zealander of the Year in 2012. Dame Kiri Te Kanawa will be the guest of honour at the gala, but she will not be performing.

Anna Leese


New Zealand soprano Anna Leese completed a Bachelor of Music with First Class Honours at the University of Otago, before moving to London to study at the RCM Benjamin Britten International Opera School.  She made her debut at the 2006 BBC Proms in an all-Mozart programme with the Scottish Chamber Orchestra and Sir Roger Norrington,  and has appeared in a number of opera gala concerts with Jose Carreras.  

Since graduating, Anna has performed at the Royal Opera House Covent Garden as Tamiri (II Re Pastore), Musetta (La bohème), Micaela (Carmen), First Lady (Die Zauberflöte) and Echo (Ariadne auf Naxos). Further concert engagements have included Mahler 2nd Symphony with Bernard Haitink (RCM Benjamin Britten International Opera School), Beethoven 9th Symphony in Madrid with Carlo Rizzi, Elijah with the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, and Vaughan Williams’s Sea Symphony with the Malaysian Philharmonic. Anna has also represented New Zealand at the Cardiff Singer of the World competition.  

In 2019, Anna will perform the role of Governess (Turn of the Screw) for New Zealand Opera; and in Haydn's Nelson Mass with the Auckland Choral Society; Mozart's Requiem with the Christchurch Symphony Orchestra; and A Baroque Easter with the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.


Pene Pati


Since his debut as Duca in Verdi’s Rigoletto whilst still an Adler Fellow, Pene Pati has quickly risen to international attention and been hailed as “the most exceptional tenor discovery in the last ten years” (Opéra-Online). After graduating from San Francisco Opera’s young artist programme in 2017, Pati made his European operatic debut as Percy (Anna Bolena) at Opéra national de Bordeaux under Paul Daniel, and added Nemorino (L’elisir d’amore) and Pinkerton (Madama Butterfly) to his repertoire in productions at home in New Zealand. 

Since 2012, Pene Pati has also enjoyed huge commercial success as a member of Sol3 Mio, a popular trio formed together with his tenor brother and baritone cousin. Their first album, released on Decca Classics, achieved eight-time Platinum sales status in New Zealand; the group frequently performs concerts to sold-out stadiums.

James Ioelu


Bass-baritone James Ioelu returns home after a successful year in Europe where he performed in the English National Opera/Dutch National Opera/Metropolitan Opera co-production of Porgy and Bess in London and Amsterdam. He also performed the role of the Priest in Birmingham Opera’s production of Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District,  as well as the role of Leporello in Garsington Opera’s production of Don Giovanni, and Secret Police Agent in the Welsh National Opera’s production of The Consul.   

James completed his training at London’s National Opera Studio, as well as completing a Masters in Vocal Performance at the Manhattan School of Music in New York. He attended San Francisco Opera’s prestigious Merola Opera Program, singing the title role in Don Pasquale, and where the critics hailed James as “resonant and rhythmically secure” (Opera News), and he was described as “a big-voiced bass-baritone from New Zealand…[who]…showed a well-projected voice, with good diction” (San Francisco Classical Voice) with a “funny” and “convincing vocal and stage performance”. 

Since moving to London, James has had the support and mentorship of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation, for which he is very grateful. 


Giordano Bellincampi

Giordano Bellincampi is the music director of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra and chief conductor of Norway's Kristiansand Symphony Orchestra. Born in Italy and moving to Copenhagen at a young age, he began his career as a trombonist with the Royal Danish Orchestra before making his professional conducting debut in 1994. 

As an associate professor at the Royal Danish Academy, Giordano Bellincampi is dedicated to the work of educating future generations of orchestra musicians and conductors. He also regularly gives masterclasses and serves as a jury member for a number of international conducting competitions. In 2010, he was made a Knight of the Order of the Dannebrog, an award bestowed by the Danish royal family for services to Danish culture, and he also holds the title of ‘Cavaliere’ from the President of Italy, in recognition of his international promotion of Italian music.

Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra


The Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra is New Zealand’s full-time professional metropolitan orchestra, serving the country’s largest and most vibrant city with a comprehensive programme of concerts, and education and outreach activities.

In more than seventy mainstage performances annually, the APO presents a full season of symphonic works showcasing many of the world’s finest classical musicians. The APO is also proud to support both New Zealand Opera and the Royal New Zealand Ballet in their Auckland performances, as well as working in partnership with Auckland Arts Festival and Michael Hill International Violin Competition.

Renowned for its innovation, passion and versatility, the APO collaborates with some of New Zealand’s most inventive artists. Through its numerous APO Connecting (education, outreach and community) initiatives the APO offers opportunities to more than 20,000 young people and adults nationwide to participate in music.

More than 250,000 people hear the orchestra live each year, with many thousands more reached through special events, recordings and other media.


Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus

The Freemasons New Zealand Opera Chorus performs in the company’s main stage opera productions as well as a number of other major concert events annually. There are three choruses, based in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington respectively.

For opera productions, principal cast and creative teams work between each city, while each chorus rehearses and performs in its home base. Additional chorus members are sometimes recruited when large opera productions or concert works require an extended number of singers.


Jennifer Ward-Lealand

The award-winning actress has a list of performance credits that would make the Encyclopaedia Britannica seem short. She’s toured New Zealand and offshore with Harry Sinclair and Don McGlashan in music/theatre group The Front Lawn, starred to international acclaim in the local melodrama film Desperate Remedies, was a core-cast member of the high-rating Australian comedy sketch show Full Frontal, and played Isobel Kearney for a year-long stint on local soap Shortland Street. Latterly she’s directed theatre, especially musicals, and the accomplished singer presents her own shows, Falling in Love Again and The Look of Love, Evocative/Provocative, at festivals and venues in New Zealand and offshore. Most recently she starred in Delicious Oblivion as part of the 2019 Auckland Live Cabaret Season, to much success.

She was named a Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit for services to film, theatre and television in the 2019 New Year's Honours list.