The only female operatic voice I was familiar with before I entered my teens was that of soprano Margaret Burke-Sheridan (1889-1958). She was probably brought to my attention because she was actually born in Castlebar, the County Mayo town situated not all that far from my own home town of Ballina,
Burke-Sheridan’s recording of I Dreamt I Dwelt in Marble Halls (from the opera The Bohemian Girl by Michael William Balfe was, I seem to recall, regularly played the national radio station, Radio Éireann (later to become RTÉ), and whenever it was, one could be depend upon it that some fellow listener would point out that Burke Sheridan was a “Mayo woman”.
It was only much later that I learned that Burke Sheridan was much more than a local celebrity with a very appealing voice. She had, in professional opera-singing career that began rather late and lasted a mere 12 years, performed on stages throughout the world, among them Covent Garden, in Milan and Naples, and at the prestigious Carnivale season at Rimini, with all the greats, including the tenors Aureliano Pertile and Beniamino Gigli and the autocratic music director of La Scala Arturo Toscanini, and was coached by the great Giacomo Puccini.
Indeed Puccini openly admitted to being spellbound by her moving interpretation of Cio-Cio San in his Madame Butterfly and when Gigli was making his debut in Covent Garden, he chose her as his leading lady.
She was fully deserving of her celebrity.
RTE One at the 2008 Margaret Burke-Sheridan Exhibition in Castlebar, County Mayo only
Margaret Burke Sheridan and mezzo Ida Mannarini sing the Flower duet (“Una nave da guerra”) from the 1929/1930 La Scala production recording of Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.” .
Pre-concert talk by Margaret Burke Sheridan’s biographer, author Anne Chambers in the Carolan Room at 6.45pm
Wednesday 29 April, 8pm
NATIONAL CONCERT HALL
Tickets: €15, €30, €45 (concessions available)
Booking: 01 417 0000 www.nch.ie