Bernadette Greevy: Vibrant-voiced mezzo-soprano admired for her interpretations of the songs of Mahler

The mezzo-soprano Bernadette Greevy was admired above all as an interpreter of Mahler's songs, especially those with orchestral accompaniment. She had a warm, vibrant, expressive voice and a handsome presence, which should have made her a very fine opera singer, but for a lack of acting ability. However, in roles where not much action was required, such as those in Handel's operas, she could be equally magnificent on stage as on the concert platform.

Greevy was born in Clontarf, Dublin, in 1940. Educated at a convent school, she studied singing with Jean Nolan in Dublin and at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London with Helen Isepp. She made her operatic début in 1958 in Dublin as Siebel in Gounod's Faust. She sang another trouser role at the Wexford Festival in 1962, Beppe in Mascagni's Amico Fritz.

This was the start of a long and fruitful association with Wexford, during which she sang Duchess Federica (causing a sensation with two huge Irish wolfhounds) in Verdi's Luisa Miller (1970); the title role of Massenet's Herodias (1977) which, vocally at least, was one of her finest roles; a magnificent Medoro in Handel's Orlando (1980); Costanza in Haydn's Isola disabitata (1982), in which her character spends 13 years on a desert island; and finally the title role of Ariodante (1985), another excellent Handel performance.

Greevy's other operatic appearances included Anna, the sister of Dido in Berlioz' The Trojans for Scottish Opera (1969); Maddalena in Verdi's Rigoletto for Welsh National Opera (1972); Laura in the Weber/Mahler Die drei Pintos at the Edinburgh Festival (1976); and two roles that she sang with the Dublin Grand Opera Society, Charlotte in Massenet's Werther (1977) and Dalila in Saint-Saëns' Sansom et Dalila. She made her Covent Garden début in 1982 as Geneviève in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande and sang the title role of Britten's The Rape of Lucretia at Barcelona in 1990. Greevy's repertory also included Gluck's Orfeo, Purcell's Dido and two Verdi roles, Azucena in Il trovatore and Princess Eboli in Don Carlos.

Meanwhile she led a very active concert and recital life. As well as Elgar's Dream of Gerontius and Handel's Messiah, Greevy sang Brahms's Four Serious Songs and the Mahler orchestral song-cycles for which she was renowned. In 1966 she sang Kindertotenlieder in London, where she used to sing Das Lied von der Erde ("The Song of the Earth") during performances of Kenneth MacMillan's ballet at Covent Garden. In the 1990s she visited Buenos Aires four times to sing all of Mahler's vocal works with orchestra at the Teatro Colon. She recorded Kindertotenlieder and the Ruckert Songs with the National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland.

Greevy was the founder and artistic director of the Anna Livia Dublin International Opera Festival, which aims to promote opera among young people. She gave master classes at home and abroad. She received many honours, including an honorary doctorate of music from Trinity College, Dublin and a Jacob's Award – the Irish broadcasting awards – in 1978 for her performance of Mahler on radio.





Bernadette Greevy, concert and opera singer: born Dublin 3 July 1940; married Peter Tattan (died 1983; one son); died Dublin 26 September 2008.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Data Scientist - London - £50,000 + bonus

£35000 - £50000 per annum + generous bonus: Ashdown Group: Business Analytics ...

Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Development) - Kingston

£45000 - £50000 per annum: Ashdown Group: IT Project Coordinator (Software Dev...

Ashdown Group: Editor-in-chief - Financial Services - City, London

£60000 - £70000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Junior Application Support Analyst - Fluent German Speaker

£25000 - £30000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: A global leader operating...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

Miliband's unlikely journey from hapless geek to heart-throb

He was meant to be Labour's biggest handicap - but has become almost an asset
General Election 2015: A guide to the smaller parties, from the the National Health Action Party to the Church of the Militant Elvis Party

On the margins

From Militant Elvis to Women's Equality: a guide to the underdogs standing in the election
Amr Darrag: Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister in exile still believes Egypt's military regime can be replaced with 'moderate' Islamic rule

'This is the battle of young Egypt for the future of our country'

Ex-Muslim Brotherhood minister Amr Darrag still believes the opposition can rid Egypt of its military regime and replace it with 'moderate' Islamic rule, he tells Robert Fisk
Why patients must rely less on doctors: Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'

Why patients must rely less on doctors

Improving our own health is the 'blockbuster drug of the century'
Sarah Lucas is the perfect artist to represent Britain at the Venice Biennale

Flesh in Venice

Sarah Lucas has filled the British pavilion at the Venice Biennale with slinky cats and casts of her female friends' private parts. It makes you proud to be a woman, says Karen Wright
11 best anti-ageing day creams

11 best anti-ageing day creams

Slow down the ageing process with one of these high-performance, hardworking anti-agers
Juventus 2 Real Madrid 1: Five things we learnt, including Iker Casillas is past it and Carlos Tevez remains effective

Juventus vs Real Madrid

Five things we learnt from the Italian's Champions League first leg win over the Spanish giants
Ashes 2015: Test series looks a lost cause for England... whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket

Ashes series looks a lost cause for England...

Whoever takes over as ECB director of cricket, says Stephen Brenkley
Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power