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Master Teacher: Teresa Cahill

Teresa Cahill was born in Maidenhead, Berkshire but brought up in Rotherhithe, South London where her father was a stevedore in the docks and her mother, a factory worker. Her early life was troubled. When she was five years old, her father died and at seven she was diagnosed with TB and spent 2 years in a sanatorium. She was supported greatly, at this time by the love of her mother Florence, sister Eileen and brother-in-law Andrew. She was educated at Notre Dame High School, Southwark and whilst there, won a place on the Guildhall School of Music and Drama’s Junior Exhibition Scheme to study the piano. At the age of eighteen she began the AGSM course at the Guildhall and after graduating as a teacher of singing and piano, she continued to study for a further two years on the Guildhall opera course.  She then won a Peter Stuyvesant scholarship to the London Opera Centre, during which time she made her recording debut for EMI as the 1st Bridesmaid in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro with the octogenarian conductor, Otto Klemperer.


She then joined the Glyndebourne Festival Chorus and in her first year won the coveted John Christie award. Her solo debut there was as the First Lady in Mozart’s Die Zauberflote and she also sang in La Calisto and Ariadne auf Naxos, returning later as Alice Ford in Falstaff.


She went on to become a Principal at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden singing Barbarina in Figaro as her debut role. New productions followed of Don Giovanni(Zerlina/Elvira) with both Peter Glossop and Cesare Siepi in the title role and of La Clemenza di Tito(Servilia) with Dame Janet Baker which was also performed at La Scala, Milan. She also sang Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier and the Fifth Maid in Elektra both with Carlos Kleiber conducting.

In over a hundred performances at Covent Garden, other roles at Covent Garden included Lisa in La Sonnambula, Xenia in Boris Godunov, First Rhinemaiden and the Woodbird in the Ring, both leading Flower Maidens in Parsifal, and 1st niece in Britten’s Peter Grimes in front of the composer. She also took part in the world premiere of Henze’s We Come to the River.


Opera performances elsewhere include Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier for Scottish Opera, Cavalli’s L’Egisto at La Fenice in Venice also with Scottish Opera, Don Giovanni in Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA and Falstaff (Alice Ford) in Philadelphia USA, with Renato Capecchi both singing the titile role and directing. She has sung Figaro (Countess) for Opera North, and both Antonia in The Tales of Hoffman and Pauline Leclerc in David Blake’s opera Toussaint for ENO. She also sang Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin (Tatiana) and Beethoven’s Fidelio(Leonore) for Kent Opera under the direction of Jonathan Miller. TV South made a series of programmes about the Fidelio production, one of which was devoted entirely to her role in the opera throughout the rehearsals leading up to the first night.


She has also sung the role of Miss Wordsworth in Britten’s Albert Herring with the English Opera group at the Aldeburgh Festival, in the presence of the composer.


Her concert career has taken Teresa Cahill all over the world, from Hong Kong to the West Coast of America, spanning Scandinavia and Finland, Eastern and Western Europe and the Middle East (Israel). She sang Mahler’s 8th Symphony with Sir Georg Solti and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra, with Michael Gielen at the Vienna festival, with Eliahu Inbal at the Alte Oper, Frankfurt and with Riccardo Chailly at the 1987 Berlin Festival, a performance which was also televised.


Her many Proms performances at the Albert Hall include Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied in the Royal Albert Hall, with fellow soloists Dame Janet Baker, Robert Tear and Gwynne Howell under Gennadi Rozhdestvensky, a performance subsequently released on a BBC CD (see recordings paragraph below). Teresa Cahill has sung Beethoven’s Missa Solemnis with Sir Colin Davis and the Boston Symphony Orchestra (USA) and with Ferdinand Leitner for RAI Turin, Wagner’s Das Rheingold with Solti at London’s Royal Festival Hall, Ravel’s L’enfant et les sortileges under Pierre Boulez and Mahler’s 4th Symphony at the Royal Festival Hall with Klaus Tennstedt. She was the soprano soloist in Shostakovich’s 14th Symphony with Dietrich Fisher-Dieskau and the WDR Cologne Orchestra conducted by Gary Bertini, sang both Anton Webern’s Cantatas with the Vienna Symphony Orchestra in the presence of his daughters and Mahler’s Resurrection Symphony with Rozhdestvensky and the London Philharmonic Orchestra.


Contemporary repertoire has included Henze’s Elegy for Young Lovers in Frankfurt, London and Gutersloh as part of the composer’s 6oth birthday celebrations with the London Sinfonietta under Henze’s baton, Sir Harrison Birtwistle’s Down by the Greenwood Side (Mrs Green) at London’s Royal National Theatre, directed by the composer and Sir Michael Tippett’s A Child of our Time in Houston, Texas (USA) under Sergiu Comissiona for the composer’s 80th birthday which led to her return for Comissiona’s farewell performances of the Verdi Requiem.


She gave the world premiere at London’s Barbican Centre of Meirion Bowen’s orchestration of Tippett’s song-cycle The Heart’s Assurance, as well as singing the solo part of Tippett’s 3rd Symphony under his own direction in Israel and Luxembourg. In the field of contemporary music, Sir Richard Rodney Bennettt, John Casken, David Blake and her husband Robert Saxton have all written works for her and she gave the world premiere of George Benjamin’s A Mind of Winter at the Aldeburgh Festival. Malcolm Williamson,Master of the Queen’s Music, was writing an orchestral work for her to a text by Iris Murdoch which lay unfinished at the time of his death.


In 1990, Teresa Cahill was the soprano soloist in Mahler’s 4th Symphony conducted by Norman del Mar, at the King’s Lynn Festival, in the presence of the Queen Mother, a concert given in honour of her 90th birthday and in 1992 she was invited by the Prince and Princess of Wales to participate in Sir Georg Solti’s 80th birthday concert at Buckingham Palace, with Placido Domingo, Birgit Nilsson, Hans Hotter and Mstislav Rostropovich. As a recitalist, Teresa Cahill has specialised in the songs of Richard Strauss and Elgar, and has worked with distinguished accompanists such as Martin Isepp and Roger Vignoles. Twice in her career, the late Sir Georg Solti accompanied her on the piano in songs by Schubert and StrTeresa Cahill’s recording career includes excerpts from Strauss’s’ Der Rosenkavalier and Elgar’s Coronation Ode and Spirit of England (Chandos) all of which have remained available in the record/CD catalogues for over thirty years—a rare achievement. She has recorded a Richard Strauss recital for Chandos (with Roger Vignoles) re-issued with the Rachmaninov Op.38 Songs on the Divine Art label, Mozart’s La Clemenza di Tito conducted by Sir John Pritchard on the Music and Arts label of America, a BBC archive CD of Mahler’s Das Klagende Lied with Rozhdestvensky from the Proms, Mahler’s 8th Symphony on Denon with Eliahu Inbal, Elgar’s King Olaf on EMI with Vernon Handley and many others, including Elisabeth Lutyens’ O Saisons,O Chateaux and Robert Saxton’s Eloge, conducted by Christopher Austin on the Cala and NMC labels respectively.


Selected television highlights of Teresa Cahill include several appearances as a solo guest artist on the BBC’s Good Old Days in the 1980s,a Viennese Night from the Proms at the Royal Albert Hall and her own recital series with Roger Vignoles for TV South. She gave Dawn French a singing lesson as part of Channel 4’s food series “Scoff”, appeared as special guest, singing on Stuart Burrows’ and Bernadette Greevy’s TV shows and, in 2007, was interviewed about singing Mahler during a BBC Prom, live from London’s Royal Albert Hall. She was also an adjudicator twice running on the Sainsbury’s Choir of the Year competition.


Her contribution to BBC Radio has consisted of innumerable concerts, recitals and operas and also many appearances on magazine programmes.On the occasion of her 60th birthday in 2004, David Mellor featured Teresa Cahill on his Classic FM Sunday radio programme describing her as one of the finest lyric sopranos of her generation.


Teresa Cahill is a regular adjudicator for the Royal Overseas League Competition, Making Music, Live Music Now, YCAT, the Boise Foundation, the Allcard Awards, the Great Elm Vocal Awards and the National Federation of Music Societies Awards and the National Mozart Competition to which she was also Artistic Adviser from 1997 to 2002. She has been a judge at the Llangollen International Eisteddfod and was a member of the Kathleen Ferrier Memorial Scholarship panel when Bryn Terfel won the first prize. She has examined and/or given masterclasses at the Royal College of Music, the Royal Academy of Music, the Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama, Oxford University, Reading University, the Oxford Lieder festival, the Hong Kong Academy of Arts, the Peabody Institute in Baltimore (US), Dartington Summer School and for two consecutive years, at the s’Hertogenbosch International Concours as a member of the jury which also included Grace Bumbry.


Her particular interests are the strict analysis of “bel canto” vocal technique and the vocal writing of Mozart and R. Strauss. Her career was chosen as the subject of a BA Hons degree thesis at the Bath College of Higher Education.


In addition to her operatic, concert and recording career, Teresa Cahill’s contribution to charitable Causes is also remarkable; she sang regularly at Buckingham Palace for, and with, Anne Shelton for the Not-Forgotten-Association, performing for those wounded in the Armed Forces in major conflicts from World War 1 onwards, and she is also a Governor of the Royal Society of Musicians of Gt Britain, in which capacity she devotes time and energy to the welfare of those in her profession who are in need of support. She is a member of the Worshipful Company of Musicians, a Freeman of the City of London, and was from 2007 to 2008, Warden of the Composers’ and Performers’ Section of the Incorporated Society of Musicians. Teresa Cahill is currently a Professor in the Vocal Department of Trinity College of Music, London. She recently became Patron of Opera/UK and she has just recorded the world premiere of Robert Saxton’s opera The Wandering Jew with the BBC Symphony Orchestra for BBC Radio 3.

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