Teresa Żylis-Gara

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Teresa Żylis-Gara
Teresa Zylis Gara (cropped).png
Born(1930-01-23)23 January 1930
Died28 August 2021(2021-08-28) (aged 91)
Łódź, Poland
EducationPaństwowa Wyższa Szkoła Muzyczna
OccupationOperatic soprano

Teresa Żylis-Gara (23 January 1930[a] – 28 August 2021[4][5][6]) was a Polish operatic soprano who enjoyed a major international career from the 1950s through the 1990s.

She made her stage debut at the Opera Krakowska in 1958 in the title role of Moniuszko's Halka,[7] and later recorded Chopin's Polish songs and songs by Karol Szymanowski. After achieving 3rd prize at the ARD International Music Competition in 1960, she became an ensemble member of the Oper Dortmund and the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. She was recognised internationally when she appeared at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1965 in the title role of Der Rosenkavalier, alongside Montserrat Caballé, and two years later as Donna Elvira in Mozart's Don Giovanni. From 1970, she was a long-time member of the Metropolitan Opera in New York City, where she appeared in leading roles including Desdemona in Verdi's Otello, and Puccini's Mimi, Liù and Manon Lescaut. She performed a broad repertoire both on stage as in concert and recital, adjusting flexibly to music from different periods.[5] Her unique voice was described as "both bright and substantial, which means that she can convey the intensity of emotion".[8] She was awarded honorary doctorates, the Order of Polonia Restituta, the Legion of Honour, and a sculpture in a public Polish park.

Life and career[edit]


She was born Teresa Żylis[9] in Landwarów,[4][10] Second Polish Republic (now Lentvaris in Lithuania).[11] Her father, Franciszek Żylis, a railwayman, was able to provide the family with a modest but stable existence from a state job. She had five older siblings: Mieczysław, Henryk, Romuald, Zofia and Maria (who died at the age of 14). There was music in her family home. Her brothers played guitar and mandolin. All family members sang. Teresa sang in the church choir as a child.[9] After World War II in 1946, she and her family moved to Łódź. She studied for nine years at the Łódź Music Academy with Olga Felixowna Olgina [pl].[4][b] In 1954, Żylis-Gara won first prize at the Polish Young Vocalists Contest in Warsaw[4][11] 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 Moniuszko's Halka. She returned there the following year to portray the title role in Puccini's Madama Butterfly.[1] In 1958 Żylis-Gara won 2nd prize at the Concours of Toulouse[1] and in 1960 she won 3rd prize at the ARD International Music Competition in Munich.[13][14]

Germany 1960–1970[edit]

The ARD competition win led to her engagement at the Theater Oberhausen, where she appeared in many Mozart roles including Fiordiligi in Mozart's Cosi fan Tutte.[15] She continued her voice training in Germany with Dietger Jacob.[14][c] She joined the ensemble of the Oper Dortmund in 1962.[17][1] 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,[4] Liselotte Hammes as Sophie and Kurt Böhme as Ochs, the Dortmunder Philharmoniker conducted by Wilhelm Schüchter.[18] In 1965 she joined the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. By now fluent in German, she appeared as Rosalinde in Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss, which requires spoken dialogue, and as Agathe in Weber's Der Freischütz.[19] She remained at the houses through 1970, and later returned often as a guest.[20][21] 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[22] during the 1960s and 1970s.[1]

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.[4][23] 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 made her house debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in London as Violetta in Verdi's La traviata.[10][1] In 1968, she appeared as Donna Elvira at the Salzburg Festival conducted by Herbert von Karajan,[24] at the San Francisco Opera,[25] and in 1969 at the Royal Opera House.[26] Żylis-Gara regarded Mozart's hapless quasi-heroine as her "destiny role."[27]

Metropolitan Opera 1970–1984[edit]

Żylis-Gara's first appeared at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City on 17 December 1968, again as Donna Elvira.[1][28] 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.[8]

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, Madame Butterfly,[29] 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 in Der Rosenkavalier, Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, La traviata, and the title roles in Cilea's Adriana Lecouvreur, and Puccini's Suor Angelica and Tosca.[4][8] Her final and 233rd performance at the Metropolitan Opera was the title role of Puccini's Manon Lescaut on 31 March 1984, with Vasile Moldoveanu as Des Grieux, Allan Monk as Lescaut, and Nello Santi conducting.[30] 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,[8] as Desdemona in the love duet from Otello with Franco Corelli, conducted by Karl Böhm.[4][31] She also joined the Met on tour. In her performances at the Met, numerous artists made their house debuts, including Hildegard Behrens, Neil Shicoff, Kurt Moll, Isola Jones, and Siegfried Jerusalem. A reviewer of Turandot at the Aix-en-Provence Festival wrote that she was "a Liù full of sweetness, whose lovely pianissimi would overcome a heart even colder than that of the cruel princess".[d][32]

In the 1970s, Żylis-Gara appeared as a guest, especially at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and the Vienna State Opera.[22] She sang annually at the Royal Opera House from 1976 to 1980.[33] 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.[1]

Personal life[edit]

At the beginning of her studies, she got married. Her husband was the engineer Jerzy Gara, after whom she took the double name of Żylis-Gara. While still a student, she gave birth to a son, Jerzy. As a result of a long separation from her husband and son, the family broke up.[9] She lived in Monaco from 1980.[1] She died on 28 August 2021 in Łódź[34] at age 91.[4][35] She was buried on 10 September 2021 in the Alley of Merit at Doły municipal cemetery in Łódź.[36]


Teresa Żylis-Gara, sculpture in Radziejowice Park

Żylis-Gara received a honorary doctorate of the Karol Lipiński Academy of Music in 2004.[37] The President of Poland awarded her the Commander's Cross with Star of the Order of Polonia Restituta.[38] In 2012 she was appointed officer of the Legion of Honour.[38] She received an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Music in Łódź in 2016.[10][39] A concert in her honour was performed on the occasion of her 90th birthday at the Teatr Wielki.[5][37]


Żylis-Gara recorded in opera, concert and lied, include Chopin's Polish songs and songs by Karol Szymanowski, the title role in Massenet's Manon, (conducted by Jean Fournet), the Composer in Ariadne auf Naxos by Richard Strauss, (conducted by Rudolf Kempe), Rossini's Mosè in Egitto, (conducted by Wolfgang Sawallisch), Elvira in Don Giovanni, (with Karl Böhm), and Elisabetta in Don Carlo, (with Thomas Schippers). She recorded the soprano in 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.[40] She is the soprano soloist in Gönnenwein's 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.[41] A performance of Donizetti's Anna Bolena, broadcast from Cologne by Westdeutscher Rundfunk (WDR) 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), was conducted by Alberto Erede, and has been reissued on CD.[42] 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.[43][44]



Explanatory notes[edit]

  1. ^ or 23 January 1935[1][2][3]
  2. ^ Olgina also taught soprano Teresa Kubiak.[12]
  3. ^ Professor in Cologne and teacher of Hans Sotin, Waltraud Meier et al.[16]
  4. ^ Teresa Zylis-Gara est une Liù pleine de douceur, dont les ravissants pianissimi viendraient à bout d'un cœur plus glacé encore que celui de la cruelle princesse.



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p 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.
  2. ^ Blyth, Alan (2001). "Zylis-Gara, Teresa". Grove Music Online (8th ed.). Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-1-56159-263-0.
  3. ^ Focht, Josef, ed. (8 April 2012). "Zylis-Gara, Teresa Geralda (1935– ), Sopranistin – BMLO". Bayerisches Musiker-Lexikon Online (in German). Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l "The soprano Teresa Żylis-Gara has died". Gramophone. 28 August 2021. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  5. ^ a b c "90 Years of Teresa Żylis-Gara". Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa.
  6. ^ "Teresa Żylis-Gara kończy 90 lat – Polityka i Społeczeństwo". www.portalsamorzadowy.pl (in Polish). Retrieved 15 June 2021.
  7. ^ Małgorzata Komorowska. "Teresa numer jeden" (PDF) (in Polish). maestro.net.pl. Retrieved 28 October 2022.
  8. ^ a b c d "Archive Metropolitan Opera Association". archives.metoperafamily.org.
  9. ^ a b c Hanna Milewska (November 2021). "Teresa Żylis-Gara: Warto dobrze zaśpiewać" (in Polish). hi-fi.com.pl. Retrieved 28 October 2022.
  10. ^ a b c "Teresa Żylis-Gara". Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa.
  11. ^ a b "Akademia Muzyczna im. Karola Lipińskiego we Wrocławiu". amuz.wroc.pl.
  12. ^ Kutsch, K.J.; Riemens, L.; Rost, H. (2012). Teresa Kubiak. Großes Sängerlexikon (in German) (4th ed.). De Gruyter. p. 2533. ISBN 978-3-598-44088-5. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  13. ^ Melos/NZ., 1978
  14. ^ a b Salazar, Francisco (1 September 2021). "Obituary: Legendary Soprano Teresa Zylis-Gara Dies at 91". Opera Wire. Retrieved 2 September 2021.
  15. ^ Deutsch-polnische Hefte, Band 6, 1960
  16. ^ Karl-Josef Kutsch, Leo Riemens, Großes Sängerlexikon, Band 4
  17. ^ Wilhelm Kosch, Deutsches Theater Lexikon, Zylis Gara, Teresa
  18. ^ 400 Jahre Oper / Theater – Opernhäuser / Bau – Vernichtung – Wiederaufbau (in German) euro-opera.de
  19. ^ Mykenae Theater-Korrespondenz, Vol 18, Nr. 28-36, Mykenae-Verlag J. Bauer KG, 1968
  20. ^ Tobias Richter, Jochen Grote, DOR: 50 Jahre Musik-Theater : Deutsche Oper am Rhein, 1956–2006, DuMont, 2006 – 294 pages
  21. ^ Opernwelt, Vol. 20, E. Friedrich Verlag, 1979 (Interview with Z.G.)
  22. ^ a b "Vorstellungen mit Teresa Zylis-Gara". Spielplanarchiv der Wiener Staatsoper (in German). Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  23. ^ "Teresa Zylis-Gara". Glyndebourne. 10 May 2015. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  24. ^ Wpolfgang A. Mozart: Don Giovanni Salzburg Festival
  25. ^ "Don Giovanni, San Francisco Opera 1968" (PDF). Retrieved 30 August 2021.
  26. ^ "Don Giovanni – 2 April 1969 Evening". Royal Opera House Collections Online. 2 April 1969. Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  27. ^ Bernheimer, Martin (22 October 1969). "Ubiquitous Elvira Via San Francisco". The Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles. p. 77 – via Newspapers.com.
  28. ^ "Teresa Żylis-Gara, Don Giovanni". Metropolitan Opera Association. 17 December 1968. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  29. ^ Smith, Helen C. (9 May 1974). "Mets 'Madame Butterfly' Walks for the Role". The Atlanta Constitution. Atlanta, Georgia. p. 43 – via Newspapers.com.
  30. ^ "Teresa Żylis-Gara, Manon Lescaut". Metropolitan Opera Association (in French). 31 March 1984. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  31. ^ Bing Gala review
  32. ^ Brancovan, Mihai de: Les Concerts (in French) revuedesdeuxmondes.fr
  33. ^ "Teresa Żylis-Gara – Performances". Royal Opera House Collections Online. Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  34. ^ "Obituary: Teresa Żylis-Gara". nekrologi.wyborcza.pl (in Polish). 31 August 2021. Retrieved 31 August 2021.
  35. ^ Kubik, Suzana (28 August 2021). "La légendaire soprano polonaise Teresa Żylis-Gara est morte". France Musique (in French). Retrieved 29 August 2021.
  36. ^ ks. Paweł Kłys (10 September 2021). "Pożegnanie śp. Teresy Żylis-Gara - światowej sławy polskiej śpiewaczki operowej" (in Polish). Retrieved 10 September 2021.
  37. ^ a b "Polnische Opernsängerin Teresa Zylis-Gara ist verstorben". Die Presse (in German). 28 August 2021. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  38. ^ a b "Teresa Żylis-Gara". Teatr Wielki Opera Narodowa. Retrieved 28 August 2021.
  39. ^ doctor honoris causa Akademii Muzycznej w Łodzi / Teresa Żylis-Gara (in Polish) Akademii Muzycznej w Łodzi
  40. ^ OCLC 1040415813
  41. ^ OCLC 772646981
  42. ^ Opera Depot label (New York), OD 10388-2 (2 CDs). See Opera Discography Listing.
  43. ^ OCLC 1113871002
  44. ^ BWV 199 Bach Cantatas Website
  45. ^ "Teresa Żylis-Gara". ArtistInfo (in German). 23 January 1935. Retrieved 28 August 2021.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]