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Teresa Żylis-Gara (1930-2021)

The Polish lyric soprano Teresa Żylis-Gara has died aged 91.

I have a distinct memory of being a young man seated in a perfumed courtyard in Orange one warm Provenšal summer evening in the early 70’s, listening to a recital she gave, in which she sang some French melodies - and I have loved her voice ever since.

She was an artist of extraordinary versatility, so much so that it is impossible to single out recordings or performances which typify her gifts. She a could sing pretty much anything: Bach, Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Wagner and Strauss all featured in her extensive repertoire and discography; my own favourites in the latter include her Elvira in Don Giovanni with for Karajan in Salzburg in 1970, her Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos under Kempe and her Four Last Songs. I wonder what singer can claim a breadth of Fach so great that her roles spanned being the soprano soloist in Bach’s St Matthew Passion to singing Desdemona with Franco Corelli in Otello.

Having won several competition prizes, she spent the earlier part of her career in Germany, making her international debut at Glyndebourne in 1965 and singing in Paris, Salzburg, Moscow, Buenos Aires, La Scala and other big houses worldwide into the 1990’s. In particular, she maintained a long-standing relationship with the Metropolitan Opera, New York but also sang regularly at the Royal Opera, Covent Garden through the late 70’s.

Her voice evinced a special combination of limpid purity and power, enabling her to convey intensity of emotion without losing beauty of timbre. This video posted on YouTube provides a fitting tribute to her artistry.

Ralph Moore

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