Watch: Dame Kiri Te Kanawa returns to the Auckland school where she learned to sing

Legendary New Zealand opera singer Dame Kiri Te Kanawa has returned to New Zealand from her home in England to attend a special ceremony naming an Auckland theatre in her honour.

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New Zealand’s world renowned opera singer dropped by St Mary’s College in Auckland. Source: Seven Sharp

The theatre at Aotea Centre is set to be called The Kiri Te Kanawa Theatre, and a big bash has been planned today to celebrate.

Dame Kiri went back to where it all began yesterday, St Mary's College in Auckland - the place where she learned to sing.

Dame Kiri told TVNZ 1's Seven Sharp she hoped that the students at the Catholic girls' high school "reach their hopes and dreams, that they do achieve, whether it be a mother and having six children or not, whether it's having a startup company that succeeds".

Dame Kiri first encountered success at the school because of Dame Sister Mary Leo, a legendary music teacher at St Mary's.

"I can still see Sister Mary Leo standing up, a little wee thing, you know, all hunched up, conducting up there, and I can still see her there, and her size - it all fits," Dame Kiri said.

"She put the fear of God into me, that's for sure .... I was in the fear of God wherever I went, I was in the fear of God but it was fear to do well. It wasn’t fear of them, because I knew I wasn't frightened - I wanted to do so well."

Dame Kiri has had an illustrious career, from singing in New York's Metropolitan Opera and Prince Charles and Diana's wedding, to attending church with Queen Elizabeth earlier this year.

After a special assembly yesterday, which included a pōwhiri, Dame Kiri who lives in England, told the students, "You always come back to your roots, no matter what happens - your land pulls you back."

"I don't care how many people say, 'Well, I'm happy over here' - New Zealand is my home, it always will be, and this is most probably where I will end up.

"I'm not sure if it will be in a box, or it will be while I’m still living, but I'm not planning on that just yet."

After the visit, Dame Kiri received an ovation, and also said a wish for those applauding her.

"They lead a good life. And New Zealand has a chance. We can all lead a good life."