Teresa Zylis-Gara, Plush-Voiced Polish Soprano, Is Dead at 91

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She played a variety of roles in her long international career, which included a stretch as a veteran of the Metropolitan Opera in the 1970s.

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Teresa Zielis-Gara, a Polish soprano who displayed a stately voice, impressive versatility and early stage presence during a three-decade international career that included a stretch at the Metropolitan Opera during her prime in the 1970s, August 28 died in ód. Poland. She was 91 years old.


his death Was declared by the Polish National Opera.

In her early years, Ms. Xyllis-Gara was essentially a lyrical soprano, excelling in Mozart and other roles suited to the lighter voice. But as she developed more richness and body in her voice, she moved to lyrico-spinto repertory, which sought dramatic heights along with lyricism, including the title role of Puccini’s “Tosca”, Tchaikovsky’s. “Eugene Onegin” features Tatiana and Elisabeth. Wagner’s “Tanhauser.”

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Their repertoire ranged from Baroque, including works by Claudio Monteverdi, to 20th-century fare by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. He also supported the songs of his countryman Chopin, works which were surprisingly overlooked.

To some opera fans and critics, Ms. Xyllis-Gara’s voice, though beautiful, lacked distinctiveness. And in an effort to refine, she was sometimes deemed overly restrained. Peter G. Davis described this mix of qualities in a brilliant review of her performance as Pamina in Mozart’s “Die Zuberflöte” at the 1970 Met.

His “quiet, silvery voice does not have a wide range of color nor any particular personality,” wrote Mr. Davis, “but it is a lovely thing to hear in itself, and he found Mozart’s melodies to be beautiful. And stylishly made.” In addition to “an inherently feminine warmth and charm”, Mr. Davis said, he gave “a pleasant note of humor in his opening scenes and a genuine sad pain in the latter.”

Two years later, reviewing the Met production of Verdi’s “Otello” performed on tour in Boston, critic Ellen Pfeiffer wrote in The Boston Globe that Xyllis-Gara’s Desdemona was “a spirited and mature youth rather than the typical teenage clinging violet. was a woman.” Her rendition, Ms Pfeiffer said, was “beautiful, substantial in size, with the expected transparency and flexibility.”

one in 1974 interview reveal With the Atlanta Constitution, Zylis-Gara spoke about the risks of getting too emotional in a performance. At the time, she was in Atlanta to sing the title role of Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly” and recalled crying on stage during a particularly intense scene playing the role as a student.

“It was terrible,” she said. “You can’t sing when you cry. I’ve never let myself go that far since that time, but it’s still a threat to me.”

Teresa Geralda Zylis was born on January 23, 1930 in Landavaro, Poland, now Lentvaris, Lithuania, near Vilnius. She was the youngest of five children of Franciszek and Jadwiga Zelis; His father was a railway worker, his mother was a housewife.

After the post-war political reorganization of the area, the family settled in ód, Poland in 1946. 16-year-old Teresa decided to devote herself to singing and began a nine-year study with Olga Ogina.

She won first prize at the Polish Young Vocalist Competition in Warsaw in 1954, which led to her association with Polish National Radio, and in 1956, her professional debut with the Kraków Opera in the title role of “Lighter” by a 19th-century Polish composer. Stanisaw Moniaszko, a staple of Polish operatic repertory. Further awards during the next few years in Toulouse, France and Munich led to associations with opera houses in Oberhausen, Dortmund and Düsseldorf in West Germany.

Determined to pursue her career, she made professional decisions that affected her personal life, as she revealed in a 1974 interview.

She married Jerzy Gaara, director of a technical school in ód in 1954. The next year their son was born, also named Jerzy. But it proved that “it is impossible to be a wife, mother and artist of international repute at the same time,” she said.

“I chose to be an artist,” she said. “I accept my choices and whatever has happened in my personal life as a result.”

When her son was 6 years old, she left him in the care of his mother in ód and settled in Germany to pursue a career, which quickly prospered. (Her marriage ended in divorce.)

He said, ‘Having a talent is something special. “It brings with it a responsibility.” Referring to his son, he said, “I noticed that sometimes he was not happy; And it’s difficult.”

He escapes her, as does one granddaughter.

Ms Xyllis-Gara had a critical breakthrough in 1965, when she sang an acclaimed Octavian in a production of Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier” at the Glyndeborn Festival in England, leading to her debut with the Paris National Opera the following year. In 1968, a banner year, Donna Elvira became his calling card in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” – or, as she put it in 1969 Interview with the Los Angeles Times, his “destiny role.” He sang Elvira for his debut at the Salzburg Festival (with Herbert von Karajan conducting), the San Francisco Opera and, in December, The Met.

Of the San Francisco performance, Los Angeles Times critic Martin Bernheimer wrote that Ms Zyllis-Gara sang “a donna elvira that was easy to compare with the finest recent exponents of that difficult role, Cena Jurinac and Elizabeth Schwarzkopf. “

At the Met, the cast included the formidable Cesare Cieppe as Giovanni and Martina Arroyo as Donna Anna. one in 2015 article in Opera News In which various opera professionals were asked to choose their favorite “diva debut” at the Met, Ms. Arroyo chose Ms. Xyllis-Gara’s Donna Elvira. “He sang Therefore Well, a pure voice in just the right style — one of the very best Elviras,” said Ms. Arroyo.

The Met’s general manager, Rudolf Bing, immediately appointed Ms Gilis-Gara for future bookings. She sang 232 performances with the company over 16 seasons, playing 20 roles, including “Rosencavalier”, Wagner’s Elizabeth and Elsa (in “Lohengrin”), Puccini’s Mimi, Butterfly and Desdemona, and Tchaikovsky’s Tatiana.

During the 1980s, Ms. Zailis-Gara continued to sing in major households around the world. In later years, she split her time between visits to a home in Monaco and her native land, often sat on competition juries, and eagerly tutored budding singers. When asked in a 2009 Opera News interview if she would ever say farewell to the opera, she insisted it “never happen!”

“The light of the stage will not dim for a second,” she said, “as I transmit all my artistic soul, my knowledge and my experience to my talented students.”

Anatol Magadziarz contributed reporting from Warsaw.

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