Opera is very much a minority sport in New Zealand, so it's hardly surprising the renaming of Aotea Centre's main theatre in honour of Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has failed to hit the front pages.
Only those of us of the Gold Card generation, will remember the Kirimania that swept the land from the early 1960s. It was New Zealand's very own Beatlemania.
And it lingered. When she achieved international stardom, we wanted her back home. With refreshing honesty she told Aucklanders the solution was in their hands. If they wanted her In Auckland performing in the operas that were wowing fans around the world, then build her a decent opera house she could sing in.
Such was her celebrity that Auckland politicians eventually stopped squabbling long enough to do just that, herded, with great difficulty it has to be said, by another feisty Dame, Mayor Cath Tizard. Sadly it all took too long.
The city politicians had been dithering about building a performing arts centre for decades. In the run up to the city council's centennial in 1971, a Centennial Hall was mooted, then shelved. Historian Graham Bush later wrote that after 36 years of inaction, the dream "received a substantial boost when Dame Kiri Te Kanawa staged two concerts in January 1983," donating the $300,000 proceeds to a future hall fund.
Unfortunately, it was to be another 17 years before the "opera house" the diva had promised to sing in, was ready for action. In September 1990, Dame Kiri presided over the opening proceedings than starred a few night later, in an exclusive, "Friends of Aotea Centre" gala concert.
It wasn't until a year later that she returned for a full opera production, starring as Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme. Kirimania was still alive, with the NZ Herald billboard's declaring "Kiri and Aotea The Big Night" along with a large front page photo of Mayor Dame Cath and a whole page of photos from the opening night inside.
Equally excited, Radio New Zealand flew National programme morning host Maggie Barry to Auckland to attend the show. The next morning, music critic Rod Biss, archly noted, instead of interviewing a musical expert, Barry quizzed the editor of Fashion Quarterly, Paula Ryan and games show host Bob Parker on their impressions. "One of the most nauseating quarter hours the National Programme has aired for many years" sniffed Biss, who found space to observe "it would be difficult to imagine a better sung La Boheme."
It was to be another five years – 1996 - before Te Kanawa returned to play Donna Elvira in a New Zealand Opera production of Mozart's Don Giovanni. And that was it, opera-wise, for the diva in the home Auckland build for her.
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In 2004 she returned of a gala concert at the Aotea Centre to launch the Kiri Te Kanawa Foundation to help young music students, then a decade later, in 2014 and 2016 she staged "intimate recitals" with piano accompaniment at the venue about to bear her name.
By pure fluke, I was at Covent Garden, that night in December 1971, when she became an overnight star singing the Countess in Mozart's, The Marriage of Figaro. I was working in the London office of a group of provincial papers, and the editor had complimentary tickets he didn't want. There's a New Zealand singer involved, he said, you might be interested.
New Zealand fans never got to hear her in signature roles like this, and the Marschallin in Strauss's Der Rosenkavalier, or Desdemona, in Verdi's Otello.
But we have ourselves to blame. We dithered too long with our theatre building. And our support for opera.
In November, there's a gala concert to mark the renaming. I'm crossing my fingers this red letter event goes better than Berlin's Komische Opera production of Mozart's Magic Flute at the theatre earlier this year.
Back in 2012, $12 million was spent on new wood panelling and electronic wizardry to correct the venue's until-then, notoriously dead acoustic. To my ears, the transformation was miraculous. We finally had the fine-sounding lyric theatre we'd been promised all those years before.
But only if the power was switched on. Which for the Magic Flute, didn't happen.