John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Dame Kiri dazzles Baycourt audience

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Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and her pianist Professor Terence Dennis take a bow at the end of Saturday's show in Baycourt. Photo / Cinzia Jonathan
Dame Kiri Te Kanawa and her pianist Professor Terence Dennis take a bow at the end of Saturday's show in Baycourt. Photo / Cinzia Jonathan

Tauranga glimmered and sparkled as the closest person New Zealand has to royalty enthralled Baycourt theatre-goers on Saturday evening.

"It was absolutely worth it," Baycourt manager Megan Peacock Coyle said after farewelling world-renowned opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa at Tauranga Airport yesterday.

Dame Kiri's first ever Tauranga performance has been hailed a stunning success, but it took its toll on Ms Peacock Coyle whose initiative and professional links with the diva's manager secured the gala recital.

"Sitting here, I am feeling very tired and drained," she confessed to the Bay of Plenty Times.

A memorable moment was the audience's collective but barely discernable sigh after the last note of the magical song that ended the first half of the show.

The event literally sparkled with jewellery as many in the audience went out of their way to "glam up" for the occasion, particularly those who attended the pre-show VIP champagne function.

Ms Peacock Coyle was pleased with the mixture of ages in the audience, with the recital coming to a charming conclusion when Dame Kiri was presented with flowers by a girl and boy from Arataki Primary School.

"They were so excited. They realised it was a really special occasion."

Ever the perfectionist, Dame Kiri afterwards complimented Baycourt's technical manager for doing a great job.

Ms Peacock Coyle reflected on how it felt being in the company of Dame Kiri: "You feel like you are in the company of someone special, you really do, but she is also down-to-earth."

Heartland Bank's business development manager Tracey Rudduck-Gudsell said it was like having royalty in town: "She is so regal, what an exquisite woman, she was just delightful."

Heartland Bank met the contractual requirement to underwrite the show and at the end of the recital Dame Kiri spent 10 minutes mixing with 30 of the bank's clients and competition winners at another special function.

Ms Rudduck-Gudsell said the guests included Elvira Macrae, the elderly mother of Tauranga engineer Ian Macrae, who remembered Dame Kiri as a girl who lived around the corner in Gisborne.

The function was also memorable for 97-year-old Alf Rendall, whose aerial photos of old Tauranga feature in a recently published book. Dame Kiri wanted Mr Rendall to stay seated while she chatted to him but he insisted on getting to his feet.

Ms Rudduck-Gudsell said one of the reasons for getting Dame Kiri to perform in Tauranga was because the city was often left off the itineraries of touring shows. Ms Peacock Coyle agreed, saying it was a wonderful affirmation for Baycourt which the theatre would use to entice artists of similar calibre.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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