Teresa Zylis-Gara - Dvorak, Rusalka,
Song to the moon
Teresa Zylis-Gara "Gdyby rannem
Teresa Żylis-Gara was born in Landwarow on January 23, 1930 (in the Second Polish Republic; now Lentvaris in Lithuania) She is a Polish
operatic soprano whose career reached international fame from the 1950s through the 1990s. Known mostly for her performances in operatic
roles by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giacomo Puccini, and Giuseppe Verdi, her repertoire was very broad and encompassed a wide selection
of musical periods and languages. She also performed as a concert singer and recitalist, and was widely applauded for her interpretations of
the works of Bach, Handel, Mozart, and Brahms.
Żylis-Gara studied at the Państwowa Wyższa Szkoła Muzyczna in Łódź under Olga Ogina for nine years. In 1954 she participated in the Polish
Young Vocalists Contest in Warsaw and won first prize. It led her to many singing engagements on Polish National Radio and inviations to
perform as a soloist with the Kraków Philharmonic. She made her professional opera debut in 1956 with Opera Krakowska in the role of Halka
by Stanisław Moniuszko. A year later she returned to portray the role of Madame Butterfly of Giacomo Puccini.
In 1958 Żylis-Gara participated in the Concours of Toulouse and won 2nd prize. Two years later she took part in the International Music
Festival in Munich and won 3rd prize and it led her to an engagment at the opera house in Oberhausen. For the next ten years her career was
focused in German while she continued voice training under Dietger Jacob. In 1962 she was offered a three year contract with the Dortmund
Opera. When the new Opernhaus Dortmund was opened in 1966 she performed Octavian in Der Rosenkavalier, with Elisabeth Grümmer as
Marschallin and Kurt Böhme as Ochs, the Dortmunder Philharmoniker conducted by Wilhelm Schüchter. From 1965 through 1970 she sang
with the ensemble of principal singers at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf. She later returned as guest artist. During the 1960s and
1970s she appeared as a freelance artist with the Opern- und Schauspielhaus Frankfurt, the Hamburg State Opera, the Oper der Stadt Köln,
the Bavarian State Opera, and the Vienna State Opera.
In 1965, Żylis-Gara became a major presence on the international stage, beginning with her debut at the Glyndebourne Festival as Octavian
in Der Rosenkavalier. She returned in 1967 to sing Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni. In 1966 she made her first appearance at the Palais
Garnier in Paris which led to a contract with the Opéra National de Paris through 1969.
The year 1968 proved to be a banner year for Żylis-Gara. She made her London debut as Violetta in La Traviata, at the Royal Opera House,
and sang Donna Elvira for her debuts at the Salzburg Festival in the summer, the San Francisco Opera on November 8 and her Metropolitan
Opera debut on December 17.
Rudolf Bing, General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, was highly impressed with Żylis-Gara's debut performance and offered her a long
term contract with the company beginning in January 1970 with the role of Pamina in The Magic Flute. For the next 14 seasons, Zyls-Gara
portrayed numerous roles such as Countess Almaviva in The Marriage of Figaro, Amelia in Un ballo in maschera, Cio-Cio-San in Madama
Butterfly, Desdemona in Otello, Elisabeth in Tannhäuser, Elsa in Lohengrin, Fiordiligi in Così fan tutte, Leonora in Il trovatore, Liù in Turandot,
Marguerite in Faust, Mimì in La Bohème, Octavian, Tatiana in Eugene Onegin, Violetta, and the title roles in Adriana Lecouvreur, Suor
Angelica, and Tosca. In her final and 233rd performance at the Met she performed the title role of Manon Lescaut on March 31, 1984 with
Vasile Moldoveanu as Des Grieux, Allan Monk as Lescaut, and Nello Santi conducting.
She continued to work as a freelance artist during the 1970s making the Met her principle focus. She made many appearances at the
Deutsche Oper Berlin, the Vienna State Opera, the Royal Opera, London from 1976-1980, as well as 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 in Vienna, Hamburg, Amsterdam, and Miami.
She was given a doctor honoris causa of Karol Lipiński University of Music in 2003. She currently resides in Monaco.
The art of Teresa Żylis-Gara is recorded in opera, and concert, entries to Teresa Żylis-Gara in WorldCat. Recordings include songs by Karol
Szymanowski, Manon by Jules Massenet (conductor Alberto Erede), the composer in Ariadne auf Naxos by Strauss (conductor Rudolf Kempe),
Mosè by Gioachino Rossini, (conductor Wolfgang Sawallisch), Don Giovanni by Mozart (conductor: Karl Böhm), Requiem by Mozart (conductor
Wolfgang Gönnenwein) or Don Carlo by Verdi (conductor Thomas Schippers).
In 1966 she recorded Bach cantatas with the Windsbach Boys Choir, including Wer nur den lieben Gott läßt walten, BWV 93. She is heard in
the 1968 Gönnenwein (EMI) recording of the St Matthew Passion. She was the soprano soloist in a 1969 recording of the St Matthew Passion
with Peter Schreier, Hermann Prey, Margarita Lilova, Coro di Voci Bianche dell'Oratorio dell'Immacolata di Bergamo, Orchestra Sinfonica e
Coro di Milano della RAI, 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) under Alberto Erede, and has been reissued on CD. In 1986
she recorded live Bach cantatas including Mein Herze schwimmt im Blut, BWV 199 at the inauguration of the Théâtre La Colonne in Miramas,
conducted by Dominique Debart.