Malvina Major

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Dame Malvina Major

Malvina Major (cropped).jpg
Major in 2016
Background information
Birth nameMalvina Lorraine Major
Born (1943-01-28) 28 January 1943 (age 75)
OriginHamilton, New Zealand
Occupation(s)Singer, teacher
Years active1965–present

Dame Malvina Lorraine Major ONZ GNZM DBE (born 28 January 1943) is a New Zealand opera singer.

Early life[edit]

She 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, Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.

International recognition[edit]

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 Te Kanawa who placed second (Dame Kiri later won the 1965 contest). 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 Order of the British Empire (DBE)[1] in 1991 in recognition of her contributions to music, and a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (PCNZM) in the 2008 New Year Honours for services to opera.[2] This was later exchanged for Dame Grand Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit.[3]

In 1998 she received the Benny Award from the Variety Artists Club of New Zealand Inc. [4]

In 2008, Major performed solo and duet with Hayley Westenra within ChristChurch Cathedral Choir 2008 UK Tour.[5][6]

On 18 March 2011, Major performed in the national Christchurch memorial service at Hagley Park of Christchurch in the presence of Prince William, Prime Minister John Key, Bob Parker, Hayley Westenra, ChristChurch Cathedral Choir, dignitaries, international rescue teams and tens of thousands of New Zealanders.[7]

On 25 February 2012, Major performed with soprano Amina Edris and tenor Chase Douglas in Waikato Times Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival.[8] [9]

In The Queen's Birthday and Diamond Jubilee Honours List 2012 Dame Malvina Major was appointed to the Order of New Zealand.[10] This is the highest honour awarded by the Queen of New Zealand, and entitles members of use the post-nominal letters ONZ.


Major is currently[when?] Professor of Voice at University of Waikato in Hamilton, New Zealand.

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.


  1. ^ "KNIGHTS AND DAMES OF THE ORDERS OF CHIVALRY". New Zealand Honours Lists. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Retrieved 29 June 2012.
  2. ^ "New Year honours list 2008". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 31 December 2007. Retrieved 1 November 2017.
  3. ^ "New Zealand Honours Lists". Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. 2008. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  4. ^ "Variety Artists Club of NZ Benny Award Recipients". Archived from the original on 16 October 2013.
  5. ^ "ChristChurch Cathedral Choir 2008 UK Tour". 2008. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  6. ^ "With passion". 13 February 2008. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  7. ^ "Christchurch memorial music performers". 18 March 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  8. ^ "Dame Malvina Major – Coming Home". 13 December 2011. Retrieved 25 December 2011.
  9. ^ "Dame Malvina top act for festival". 10 December 2011. Retrieved 25 February 2012.
  10. ^ "The Queen's Birthday and Diamond Jubilee Honours List 2012". New Zealand Honours Lists. Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet. Archived from the original on 4 June 2012. Retrieved 29 June 2012.

External links[edit]