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

Teresa Zylis-Gara, a Polish soprano who displayed an opulent voice, spectacular versatility and beguiling stage presence throughout a three-decade worldwide profession that included a stretch at the Metropolitan Opera throughout her prime within the 1970s, died on Aug. 28 in Lodz, Poland. She was 91.

Her demise was introduced by the Polish National Opera.

In her early years, Ms. Zylis-Gara was basically a lyric soprano who excelled in Mozart and different roles suited to a lighter voice. But as she developed extra richness and physique in her sound, she moved into the lirico-spinto repertory, which requires dramatic heft together with lyricism, together with the title function of Puccini’s “Tosca,” Tatiana in Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin” and Elisabeth in Wagner’s “Tannhäuser.”

Her repertory ranged from the Baroque, together with works by Claudio Monteverdi, to 20th-century fare by the Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. She additionally championed the songs of her countryman Chopin, works that had been surprisingly neglected.

To some opera followers and critics, Ms. Zylis-Gara’s voice, although lovely, lacked distinctiveness. And in striving for refinement, she was generally deemed overly restrained. Peter G. Davis of The New York Times described this combination of qualities in a largely glowing evaluate of her efficiency as Pamina in Mozart’s “Die Zauberflöte” at the Met in 1970.

Her “cool, silvery voice does not possess a wide range of color nor any special individuality,” Mr. Davis wrote, “but it is a lovely thing to hear in itself, and she sculpted Mozart’s melodies gracefully and stylishly.” In addition to “naturally feminine warmth and charm,” Mr. Davis mentioned, she “interjected a pleasant note of humor into her early scenes and a genuine tragic pathos later on.”

Two years later, reviewing a Met manufacturing of Verdi’s “Otello” introduced on tour in Boston, the critic Ellen Pfeifer wrote in The Boston Globe that Ms. Zylis-Gara’s Desdemona was “a spirited and mature young woman instead of the usual adolescent clinging violet.” Her singing, Ms. Pfeifer added, “was beautiful, ample in size, with the requisite transparency and flexibility.”

In a revealing 1974 interview with The Atlanta Constitution, Ms. Zylis-Gara spoke concerning the dangers of being too emotional in efficiency. At the time, she was in Atlanta to sing the title function of Puccini’s “Madame Butterfly,” and he or she recalled crying onstage throughout one notably intense scene whereas performing the function as a scholar.

“It was terrible,” she mentioned. “When you cry you can’t sing. Since that time I’ve never allowed myself to get this far, but it’s still a danger for me.”

Ms. Zylis-Gara within the title function of Puccini’s “Manon Lescaut” at the Met in 1981. The tenor Giuliano Ciannella sang Des Grieux, Manon’s lover.Credit…J. Heffernan/Metropolitan Opera Archives

Teresa Geralda Zylis was born on Jan. 23, 1930, in Landwarow, Poland, now Lentvaris, Lithuania, close to Vilnius. She was the youngest of 5 youngsters of Franciszek and Jadwiga Zylis; her father was a railway employee, her mom a homemaker.

After the postwar political reconstitution of the area, the household settled in Lodz, Poland, in 1946. The 16-year-old Teresa determined to dedicate herself to singing and started 9 years of research with Olga Ogina.

She gained first prize within the 1954 Polish Young Vocalists Contest in Warsaw, which led to engagements with Polish National Radio and, in 1956, her skilled debut with the Krakow Opera within the title function of “Halka,” by the 19th-century Polish composer Stanislaw Moniuszko, a staple of the Polish opera repertory. Further prizes through the subsequent few years in Toulouse, France, and in Munich led to engagements with opera homes in Oberhausen, Dortmund and Düsseldorf in West Germany.

Determined to advance her profession, she made skilled choices that affected her private life, as she defined within the 1974 interview.

She had married Jerzy Gara, the director of a technical faculty in Lodz, in 1954. The subsequent yr their son, additionally named Jerzy, was born. But it proved “impossible to be a wife, mother and artist of international fame all at one time,” she mentioned.

“I chose to be the artist,” she added. “I accept my choice and everything that has happened in my private life as a result.”

When her son was 6, she left him within the care of her personal mom in Lodz and settled in Germany to pursue her profession, which shortly prospered. (Her marriage led to divorce.)

“It is something special to have a talent,” she mentioned. “It brings a responsibility with it.” She added, referring to her son, “I saw sometimes he was not happy; and this is difficult.”

He survives her, as does a granddaughter.

Ms. Zylis-Gara in 1968, the yr Donna Elvira in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” grew to become, as she put it, her “destiny role.” Credit…Evening Standard/Hulton Archive, through Getty Images

Ms. Zylis-Gara had a big breakthrough in 1965 when she sang an acclaimed Octavian in a manufacturing of Strauss’s “Der Rosenkavalier” at the Glyndebourne Festival in England, which led to her debut with the Paris National Opera the following yr. In 1968, a banner yr, Donna Elvira in Mozart’s “Don Giovanni” grew to become her calling card — or, as she put it in a 1969 interview with The Los Angeles Times, her “destiny role.” She sang Elvira for her debuts at the Salzburg Festival (with Herbert von Karajan conducting), the San Francisco Opera and, in December, the Met.

Of the San Francisco efficiency, the Los Angeles Times critic Martin Bernheimer wrote that Ms. Zylis-Gara “sang a Donna Elvira that easily withstood comparison with the finest recent exponents of that difficult role, Sena Jurinac and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.”

At the Met, the solid included the formidable Cesare Siepi as Giovanni and Martina Arroyo as Donna Anna. In a 2015 article in Opera News wherein numerous opera professionals had been requested to choose their favourite “diva debuts” at the Met, Ms. Arroyo selected Ms. Zylis-Gara’s Donna Elvira. “She sang so well, a pure voice just right in style — one of the very best Elviras,” Ms. Arroyo mentioned.

The Met’s normal supervisor, Rudolf Bing, promptly engaged Ms. Zylis-Gara for future bookings. She went on to sing 232 performances with the corporate over 16 seasons, taking up 20 roles, together with the Marschallin in “Rosenkavalier,” Wagner’s Elisabeth and Elsa (in “Lohengrin”), Puccini’s Mimi, Butterfly and Desdemona, and Tchaikovsky’s Tatiana.

Through the 1980s, Ms. Zylis-Gara continued to sing on this planet’s main homes. In later years, she divided her time between a house in Monaco and visits to her fatherland, sat typically on competitors juries, and eagerly taught rising singers. Asked in a 2009 Opera News interview whether or not she would ever say farewell to opera, she asserted that this “would never take place!”

“The stage lights won’t dim for even a second,” she mentioned, “since I transmit to my gifted pupils all my artistic soul, my knowledge and my experience.”

Anatol Magdziarz contributed reporting from Warsaw.