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Dame Kiri Te Kanawa tells ITV News why she is retiring from opera

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa says she would never rule out a return to the stage Photo: ITV News

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has told ITV News she is bringing an end to her glittering 40-year operatic career.

Set to turn 70 this week, the world-renowned singer - who sang at the royal wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981 - says she is to draw the curtain with a small cameo performance in La fille du régiment at London's Royal Opera House.

And while she refuses to say definitively that this will be her final bow, she admitted to ITV News' Tim Ewart: "My knees don't like the stage at all now".

This isn't the first time the New Zealand-born performer has vowed to quit. Back in 2009, she told the Daily Telegraph she would be ending her career, saying she found the discipline "exhausting".

Today she told ITV News: "There's relief in that it's a very, very high energy job and a lot is expected of you - you're really expected to do...more than you can cope with sometimes".

Looking ahead to the future, she says she will keep singing and has a "whole year of work" ahead of her. She will also continue her work supporting younger artists starting out in opera:

Perhaps the most notable moment of Dame Kiri's career was performing in front of a global audience of 750 million at the wedding of Charles and Diana in 1981.

Dame Kiri was reunited with Prince Charles at a Diamond Jubilee Trust Reception in Auckland in 2012 Credit: David Rowland - AAP

Ten years later, she was the voice of the theme of the 1991 Rugby World Cup - performing the first recorded version of the now iconic World in Union.

More recently, Dame Kiri wowed again with a brief but stunning appearance in the hit series Downton Abbey, and compared the honour of being invited to the call she received to sing at the royal wedding.

Credit: Downton Abbey - Carnival Productions/ITV

Watch past episodes of Downton Abbey on ITV Player