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Obituary: Gustav Sacher

Gustav Sacher, singer and teacher: born Bukovina 17 May 1898; married Mila Flecker (died 1979; one son); died London 26 November 1993.

GUSTAV SACHER was a distinguished and greatly loved singing teacher.

Born in 1898 in the Bukovina region, then part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, he studied in Vienna and Paris where he gave recitals and concerts with his wife Mila Flecker, a cousin of the writer James Elroy Flecker. In 1938 they came to England as refugees. He served in two world wars, in the Austrian forces in the First and in the Pioneer Corps in the Second.

After the Second World War, Gus Sacher resumed his singing career appearing in Noel Coward's Pacific 1860. During that time he developed his own technical theory of the human voice and members of the cast became eager to study with him.

Thus began his long and remarkable career as a teacher: his pupils included the opera stars Sylvia Fisher, Amy Shuard, Adele Leigh and countless others, including musical comedy artists and straight actors. His methods also helped overcome speech impediments.

During the last eight years he had been much in demand for master classes in France and the United States. His final recital was at the Wigmore Hall, in London, in 1986 with Denny Dayviss and Nina Walker. He continued teaching - enthusiasm undiminished - until six weeks before his death. Although Sacher was cultivated, indeed erudite and well-versed in philosophy, there was nothing intellectual or pretentious in his approach to singing which he regarded as an extension of the speaking voice. Simplicity and relaxation, as found in the breathing of babies and animals, were above all the qualities he impressed on his pupils.

A particularly sweet-natured man, he had an extraordinary insight - psychological as well as technical - into his students' individual needs. Often when singers, for professional or domestic reasons, were overwrought to the point of voicelessness, his aura of calm and peace alone - 'Now we shall make some tea' - could restore them to vocal health and confidence.

Having known poverty himself he was well aware of it when it affected his pupils and would insist on them continuing their studies: 'No, no, pay me when you are famous.' Sometimes they became so and old debts were forgotten: he accepted this with his characteristic smiling shrug.

Gus had a wonderfully happy marriage. Mila, part-Polish, was also his professional partner, the accompanist at his lessons. Their only disagreement - amiable but vociferous - would be over the interpretation of an aria.

He showed great courage after her death 14 years ago. They had been working together on a book setting down the teaching theories developed over so many years. He continued this in collaboration with his pupil Jeanne Henney and it will be published next year.

The book should be a fitting monument to an outstandingly gifted and good man.

(Photograph omitted)