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Dame Malvina Major

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Oper, Operette


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Dame Malvina Lorraine Major PCNZM DBE (born 28 January 1943) was born in Hamilton, New Zealand into a large musical family. As a child she performed at various concerts, singing mainly country and western pop and music from the shows. She received her first classical training in 1955, from Sister Mary Magdalen at Ngaruawahia, north of Hamilton. Sister Febronie continued with her voice training and Sister Liguori gave her piano tuition. As her potential blossomed, Major began travelling weekly to Ponsonby in Auckland, where she received further tuition from Dame Sister Mary Leo at St Mary's College Music School. Sister Mary Leo was internationally recognised as one of the great music teachers, and she later taught another famous New Zealand soprano, Kiri Te Kanawa.

Major later moved to England for further study at the London Opera Centre under the guidance of renowned teacher Ruth Packer.

Her successes include winning the 1963 New Zealand Mobil Song Quest beating Kiri who was second (The 1965 contest was in fact won by Dame Kiri). She also won the Australian Melbourne Sun-Aria in 1965, and the prestigious London based Kathleen Ferrier Award in 1966. Malvina later performed in international concerts including a BBC concert broadcast in London, an outdoor concert at the pyramids in Egypt with the Cairo Symphony Orchestra, and a charity concert for Vera Lynn in London. She has performed more than 30 opera roles in their original languages. She has recorded numerous records and CDs.

She was made a Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) in 1991 in recognition of her contributions to music, and a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (PCNZM) in 2008 for her contributions to opera.

In 1992 she established a foundation to promote education through awards and provide training for young New Zealanders in the performing arts. One such recipient of her personal training is Hayley Westenra. Recent international concert performances have taken her to Asia, the Middle East, the United States, Australia and Britain. She is currently Professor of Music at University of Canterbury in Christchurch, New Zealand. In 2008 Major performed How Great Thou Art at the funeral of Sir Edmund Hillary.

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