Her services to opera and the community were acknowledged in 1991 when she was invested Dame of the British Empire.
In 2008 she was made a Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, changed in 2009 to Grande Dame of the New Zealand Order of Merit. In 2012 she was elevated to the New Zealand Order of Merit (ONZ). In 1992 she was named New Zealand Entertainer of the Year and in 2014 she was awarded a Lifetime Achievement award at the Women of Influence awards. She has received Honorary Doctorates from both Waikato and Massey Universities.
Dame Malvina retired from professional singing in 2015.
Dame Malvina Major was born in Hamilton, New Zealand. After winning the New Zealand Mobil Song Quest in 1963 and the Melbourne Sun Aria in 1964, Dame Malvina went to London to study at the London Opera Centre. She won the Kathleen Ferrier competition while studying at the London Opera Centre. In New Zealand her singing teacher was Dame Sister Mary Leo, and in London she was taught by Ruth Packer from the Royal College of Music.
Dame Malvina’s international opera career has included twenty eight major Operatic roles, extensive Oratorio and Concert repertoire and discography of commercial recordings.
Highlights include Mathilde in Elisabetta Regina d’Inghilterra, Rosina in Il Barbiere de Sivilgia, Arminda in La Finta Giardiniera, Donna Elvira and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor, Cio Cio San in Madama Butterfly, Violetta in la Traviata, Gilda in Rigoletto, Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus, Anna Glawari in The Merry Widow, the Countess in the Marriage of Figaro, Mimi and Muzetta in La Boheme and Constanze in Il Seraglio, Fiordiligi in Cosi fan tutte, Pamina in Die Zauberflote.
“When many Divas take themselves so seriously, it is refreshing to find an artist who is so natural, so loveable and considerate.”
In Australia, she has performed with all major symphony orchestras and opera companies, toured extensively and sung for the Australia Broadcasting Corporation. Interesting places that she has performed at include a celebration event in the wetlands of South Australia, where 550,000 acres had been recovered from invasion by sea water and returned to a natural bird sanctuary, Zion Canyon in Arizona, the Pyramids, the ancient amphitheatre in Jordan and Petra and the Cervantino Festival in Guanajuato, Mexico.
In New Zealand Dame Malvina has sung with all the major opera companies and orchestras.
Outdoor concerts have become a feature of the summer season in New Zealand, and Dame Malvina has performed with Brian Law conducting in concerts in the Auckland Domain, Rotorua Lakeside, Wellington Westpac Stadium, Dunedin’s Carisbrook Stadium, Christchurch in the Park, Dunedin and Queenstown Rose Gardens, and in the opera Carmen at North Harbour Stadium.
In 2009 Dame Malvina did a Heartland Tour called “My Life in Song” to 10 venues in the North Island. This was repeated in 2010 in the South Island.
Dame Malvina has performed in Mexico City, Brasilia, Buenos Aries and Santiago, Salt Lake City, London, Saltzburg and Brussels. Career highlights include performing for the King and Queen of Belgium, in Jordan for the Queen Noor Festival, in Japan where she met the Empress of Japan, and at New Zealand Embassy concerts in Washington, Paris, London, The Hague, and Brussels. She has performed for both the summer and winter Salzburg festivals, the Campden Town festival and at Covent Garden where she replaced Dame Joan Sutherland in Die Fledermaus. In 2006 Dame Malvina accepted an invitation from the Marinsky Academy in St Petersburg to be one of a panel of judges to the Rimsky-Korsakov International Competition.
In 2007 Dame Malvina was the guest soloist with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and gave concerts to open and close the 2007 Rotary International Conference in Salt Lake City,Utah. In 2008 she performed in St James, Piccadilly with Hayley Westenra, Will Martin and the touring Boys and Mens Choir of Christchurch Cathedral, New Zealand, with Music Director, Brian Law.
In 2008 as part of a USA Government Scholarship, Dame Malvina visited some of the leading voice teaching institution in the USA, including the San Francisco, Boston and New York Conservatories, the Julliard and Thornton Schools of Music and UCLA.
Dame Malvina has recorded Tosca, Il Seraglio, The Barber of Seville, and Michaela in Carmen for TVNZ. She has released a number of CDs, including Malvina Major, Dame Malvina in Concert, I Remember, Casta Diva, Alleluia, Christmas Time, an historic CD of Malvina and Gerald Moore and My Life in Song. Ovation: The Very Best Of Dame Malvina Major was released in 2015.