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Teresa Żylis-Gara (born 23 January 1930) is a Polish operatic soprano who had a major international career during the 1950s through the 1990s. She was a long-time member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, known for her portrayals in operas by Mozart, Puccini and Verdi. She performed a broad repertoire both on stage as in concert and recital, singing works by Bach, Handel, Brahms, Faure, Chopin and Szymanowski, among others. She is known for the stylistic security and flexibility of her unique voice.
Teresa Żylis-Gara was born in Landwarów, Second Polish Republic (now Lentvaris in Lithuania). She studied for nine years at the Łódź music academy with Olga Felixowna Olgina. In 1954 Żylis-Gara won first prize at the Polish Young Vocalists Contest in Warsaw which led to engagements to sing on the Polish National Radio and to perform as a soloist with the Kraków Philharmonic. In 1956 she made her professional opera debut with Opera Krakowska in the title role of Stanisław Moniuszko's Halka. She returned there the following year to portray the title role Puccini's Madama Butterfly. In 1958 Żylis-Gara won 2nd prize at the Concours of Toulouse and in 1960 she won 3rd prize at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich.
The ARD competition win led to her engagement at the Theater Oberhausen, where she appeared in many Mozart roles including Fiordiligi in Cosi fan Tutte. She continued her voice training in Germany with Dietger Jacob. She joined the ensemble of Theater Dortmund in 1962. When the new Opernhaus Dortmund was opened in 1966, she performed the title role in Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss, alongside Elisabeth Grümmer as Marschallin and Kurt Böhme as Ochs, the Dortmunder Philharmoniker conducted by Wilhelm Schüchter. In 1965 she joined the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. By now fluent in German, she appeared as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, requiring spoken dialogue, and as Agathe in Weber's Der Freischütz. She remained at the houses through 1970, and later returned often as a guest. She also appeared as a guest at the Oper Frankfurt, the Hamburg State Opera, the Cologne Opera, the Bavarian State Opera, Deutsche Oper Berlin, and the Vienna State Opera during the 1960s and 1970s.
During her residence in Germany, Żylis-Gara was active internationally, beginning in 1965 at the Glyndebourne Festival as Rosenkavalier, with Montserrat Caballé as Feldmarschallin), and in 1967 as Donna Elvira in Mozart's Don Giovanni. In 1966, she performed for the first time at the Palais Garnier in Paris which led to a contract with the Opéra National de Paris through 1969. In 1968, she appeared at the Royal Opera House in London in the title role of Verdi's La traviata, and sang Donna Elvira at the Salzburg Festival and at the San Francisco Opera.
Metropolitan Opera 1968–1984
Żylis-Gara's first appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on 17 December 1968, again as Donna Elvira. Irving Kolodin of the Saturday Review wrote of her performance: "Zylis-Gara, who has emerged from her Polish background onto the international operatic stage within the last eight or so years, has unusual attributes for Elvira. Her voice is both bright and substantial, which means that she can convey the intensity of emotion in the role - she is, after all, the only one in the east who truly loves the Don - without sounding shrewish. The last great Elvira, in a quite different way was Elisabeth Schwarzkopf. Zylis-Gara, an accomplished technician as well as a good-looking woman and capable actress, could well take over both the role and the rank of her distinguished predecessor."
After this performance, Rudolf Bing, General Manager of the house, offered her a long-term contract with the company beginning in January 1970 with Pamina in Mozart's The Magic Flute. She remained on the Met roster for the next 14 seasons, portraying such roles as Countess Almaviva in Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro, Amelia in Verdi's Un ballo in maschera, the title role of Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Desdemona in Verdi's Otello, Elisabeth in Wagner's Tannhäuser, Elsa in Lohengrin, Fiordiligi, Leonora in Verdi's Il trovatore, Liù in Puccini's Turandot, Marguerite in Gounod's Faust, Mimì in Puccini's La bohème, Octavian, Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, La traviata, and the title roles in Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, and Puccini's Suor Angelica and Tosca. Her final and 233rd performance at the Metropolitan Opera was the title role of Puccini's Manon Lescaut on 11 March 1984, with Vasile Moldoveanu as Des Grieux, Allan Monk as Lescaut, and Nello Santi conducting. She was La traviata again for Robert Merrill's 25th anniversary (31 October 1970), and Amelia in Carlo Bergonzi's 25th anniversary gala on 22 April 1972. She took part in the Gala honoring Rudolf Bing, on 1 October 1976 in a broadcast performance of the Met Marathon. She also joined the Met on tour. In her performances at the Met numerous artistsmade their house debuts, including Hildegard Behrens, Neil Shicoff, Kurt Moll, Isola Jones, Siegfried Jerusalem.
In the 1970s, Żylis-Gara appeared as a guest, especially at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Vienna State Opera. She sang annually at the Royal Opera House from 1976 to 1980. She was also a soloist at La Scala in Milan, Teatr Wielki in Warsaw, the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Teatro Real in Madrid, the Lyric Opera of Chicago, and the Bolshoi Theatre in Moscow. She also performed in operas houses in Amsterdam and Miami.
Żylis-Gara recorded in opera, concert and lied, include the Chopin's Polish songs and songs by Karol Szymanowski, the title role in Massenet's Manon (conductor Jean Fournet), the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos by Strauss (conductor Rudolf Kempe), Rossini's Mosè in Egitto (conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch), Elvira in Don Giovanni (conductor Karl Böhm), and Elisabetta in Don Carlo (conductor Thomas Schippers). She recorded Mozart's Requiem with Wolfgang Gönnenwein. In 1966 she recorded Bach cantatas with the Windsbacher Knabenchor, conducted by Hans Thamm, including Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten, BWV 93. She is the soprano soloist in Gönnenwein 1968 recording of Bach's St Matthew Passion, and recorded the part in a 1969 recording with Peter Schreier, Hermann Prey, Margarita Lilowa and Max van Egmond, played by RAI National Symphony Orchestra and conducted by Claudio Abbado. A performance of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, broadcast from Cologne by West German Radio in 1967, featured Żylis-Gara in the title role, Karl Ridderbusch (Enrico), Vera Little (Giovanna), Gene Ferguson (Percy), Wolfgang Anheißer (Rochefort), Barbara Scherler (Smeton) and Werner Hollweg (Hervey) conducted by Alberto Erede, and has been reissued on CD. In 1986, she recorded live Bach cantatas for soprano solo including Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199, at the inauguration of the Théâtre La Colonne in Miramas, conducted by Dominique Debart.
- L'art de Teresa Zylis-Gara, Cond. K.Kord, Rudolph, Harmonia Mundi, 1985
- Bach: Matthäuspassion – EMI
- Beethoven: Missa solemnis - Carlo Maria Giulini; with Marga Höffgen, Robert Tear, Raffaele Arié, Philharmonia, BBC 2002
- Chausson: Le roi Arthus Armin Jordan, Erato,(Warner Classics, 2010)
- Chopin: Mélodies with Halina Czerny-Stefańska – Erato, 1981
- Donizetti: Anna Bolena – Opera Depot
- Dvořák: Requiem – Apex
- Gounod: Faust, Plácido Domingo; Mario Sereni; Giorgio Tozzi; Martin Rich; Metropolitan Opera 1972
- Handel: Coronation Anthems – EMI, 2003
- Mahler: Second Symphony – Forlane
- Mahler: Das klagende Lied, Andor Kaposy, Nimbus, 1967
- Lalo: Melodies, with Christian Ivaldi, Phoenix Milano, also, Harmonia Mundi, 1987
- Mercadante: Il giuramento – Rodolphe
- Massenet: Manon – Gala
- Metropolitan Opera Gala – Deutsche Grammophon
- Moniuszko: Koncert gwiazd - Jacek Kaspszyk, Muza, 1977
- Mozart: Cosi fan tutte - John Pritchard, Metropolitan Opera, 1972
- Mozart: Don Giovanni (Elvira) – Deutsche Grammophon
- Mozart: Don Giovanni – Orfeo
- Mozart: Requiem – EMI
- Kolędy polskie (Polish Christmas carols). Veriton records, 1985
- Portrait, Kazimierz Kord, Harmonia Mundi France, 1986
- Rossini: Mosè – Frequenz
- Rossini: Stabat Mater with C. M. Giulini, Pavarotti, RAI, Butterfly music, 1990
- Strauss: Ariadne auf Naxos (Composer) – EMI
- Strauss: Four Last Songs (and Tchaikowsky songs, with Jerzy Marchwiński; Franz-Paul Decker; Peter Ilich Tchaikovsky; Rundfunkorchester Hannover, Harmonia mundi, 1985
- Slavic opera arias – Rodolphe, Muza, 1971
- Szymanowski: Songs, with Jadwiga Gadulanka; Jerzy Marchwiński; Halina Łukomska; Andrzej Bachleda; Jerzy Sulikowksi, Pol.Nagrania, 1990
- Verdi: Don Carlo - Gianandrea Gavazzeni, RAI, Myto, 2009
- Verdi: Otello - Jon Vickers; Louis Quilico; James Levine; Metropolitan Opera 1972
- Opera-Arias – Muza
- Le trouvère (1981 TV Movie of Verdi's Il Trovatore), G. Del Monaco's production with G. Zancanaro et al. Film by Yves-André Hubert
- Don Giovanni (1977 TV Movie of Mozart's Don Giovanni). Karl Böhm, Walter Berry et al.
- Beethoven Symphony nr. 9, Music on 2 TV series, 1970
- Jürgen Kesting: Die Großen Sänger. Claasen Verlag
- Thomas Synofzik, Susanne Rode-Breymann, Rheinische Sängerinnen des 20. Jahrhunderts: eine Dokumentation in Wort und Ton, Ausgabe 164,Teil 1, Merseburger, 2003 - 276 Seiten
- Karsten Steiger, Opern-Diskographie: Verzeichnis aller Audio- und Video-Gesamtaufnahmen, Ausgabe 2, Juli 2011, Walter de Gruyter
- Deutsch-polnische Hefte, Band 6, 1963
- Opernwelt, Band 26, E. Friedrich Verlag, 1985
- Opernwelt, Band 20, E. Friedrich Verlag, 1979 (Interview with Z.G.)
- Paul Seligman, Debuts & Farewells: A Two-decade Photographic Chronicle of the Metropolitan Opera, Knopf, 1972 - 180 pp.
- Neue Zeitschrift für Musik Robert Schumann Heft, B. Schott, 1967, p. 220
- "90 Years of Teresa Żylis-Gara". Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa.
- "Teresa Żylis-Gara". Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa.
- "Akademia Muzyczna im. Karola Lipińskiego we Wrocławiu". amuz.wroc.pl.
- Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Muzyczna
- Olga Olgina (1904–1979), who also taught soprano Teresa Kubiak
- Kutsch, K. J.; Riemens, Leo (2012). Zylis-Gara, Teresa. Großes Sängerlexikon (in German) (4th ed.). Walter de Gruyter. p. 5180. ISBN 978-3-59-844088-5.
- Melos/NZ., 1978
- "Interview with August Everding, December, 1997".
- Deutsch-polnische Hefte, Band 6, 1960
- Köln Professor and teacher of Monika Pick Hermiony, Hans Sotin, Waltraud Meier et al. Karl-Josef Kutsch, Leo Riemens, Großes Sängerlexikon, Band 4
- Wilhelm Kosch, Deutsche Theater Lexikon, Zylis Gara, Teresa
- Mykenae Theater-Korrespondenz, Vol 18, Nr. 28-36, Mykenae-Verlag J. Bauer KG, 1968
- Tobias Richter, Jochen Grote, DOR: 50 Jahre Musik-Theater : Deutsche Oper am Rhein, 1956-2006, DuMont, 2006 - 294 pages
- Opernwelt, Vol. 20, E. Friedrich Verlag, 1979 (Interview with Z.G.)
- "Teresa Zylis-Gara". Glyndebourne.
- "Metropolitan Opera Association". archives.metoperafamily.org.
- Metropolitan Opera Archives; accessed 14 September 2016.
- Opera Depot label (New York), OD 10388-2 (2 CDs). See Opera Discography Listing.
- BWV 199 at bach-cantatas
- "Żylis-Gara Teresa". Internetowa encyklopedia PWN. Retrieved 18 March 2007.
- "Żylis-Gara Teresa". WIEM Encyclopedia. Retrieved 18 March 2007.
- Teresa Żylis-Gara (Soprano) Bach Cantatas Website