Sudden death of an Irish opera star, 48

Sudden death of an Irish opera star, 48


norman lebrecht

July 12, 2020

Fergus Shiel of Irish National Opera has confirmed the death in London of the much-loved Miriam Murphy.

I am shocked and heartbroken to hear of the death of Miriam Murphy. We have lost a singer with a unique talent, a singular voice and an irreplaceable personality.

I’ve known Miriam since we were both teenagers. Over the years we had many musical and operatic adventures together. Her voice was quite simply a phenomenon. It kept giving and giving with seemingly endless reserves of power, strength, musicality and finesse. Miriam had the unique capability of totally captivating an audience as if she owned everybody in the hall. You would not hear a pin drop when she sang. Her ability to cast a spell and command attention was unparalleled. I’ve been on the podium for many of these occasions and could feel the electricity in the air.

With Miriam I performed Beethoven Symphony No 9, Mahler Symphony No 2, Verdi’s Requiem and much more. But it was Wagner’s ‘Tristan und Isolde’ in 2012 which will be the towering moment of her success. The only Irish singer ever to sing Wagner’s Irish princess, her performances were quite simply sensational. She was the most wonderful colleague. Musically I could understand and respond to her every move so that we travelled the mountains and the gorges of this opera arm in arm.

On the establishment of Irish National Opera I was so pleased that she sang in our inaugural Big Bang Concert in 2018. She also performed brilliantly as the Mother in our 2020 production of Humperdinck’s Hansel and Gretel which toured Ireland. Yet in my mind we were only still beginning in terms of what Miriam could and should do.

It’s hard to believe that we will not hear Miriam’s magnificent voice soaring above a symphony orchestra once again. Her unique ability to cast a spell on an audience is gone with her. It’s heart-breaking to realise that we won’t hear that laugh any more or enjoy the company of a true friend. It’s absolutely right to say that we won’t see the likes of her again.”

Our thoughts are with Miriam and her family at this time.


  • Sam McElroy says:

    This is very sad news indeed for all in the Irish opera community, and beyond, who knew Miriam. My sincere condolences to Miriam’s family, and to friends in Ireland who will be mourning her loss.

  • tired of it all says:

    And, still, you offer no condolences. Best to stick to the tabloids.

    Rest in peace Miss Murphy.

    • Tiredofitall says:

      For some reason, the disagreeable post to which I was responding was deleted (good…). Out of context, my reply makes not sense. Just ignore; except for the wish that Miss Murphy rest in peace.

  • Herr Doktor says:

    What a lovely tribute from Fergus. My condolences to Fergus, and all her family and friends, at her premature passing. Great artists always live on through their art. May the music always keep you connected to her.

  • Charles Edwards says:

    This is terribly sad. I was extremely lucky to work with Miriam at ROH on Elektra, where she portrayed a wonderfully commanding and terrifying Overseer, while remaining at all times a delightfully funny and energetic colleague. Her astonishingly secure and natural dramatic soprano voice was a thrill to hear at every moment in a brief but pivotal role. All my condolences to her family and loved ones.

  • Chistopher Newcombe says:

    What an utter arse you are. Have some respect. She was a person just like you, and it’s none of your business what happened.

  • Hmus says:

    A wonderful clip by any standard, and in the current context absolutely devastating. Condolences to her family, colleagues and audiences.

  • FC says:

    Insensitive much? How about you mind your own business!

    A talented singer has died and her loved ones don’t owe you any “explanation” whatsoever – that’s even assuming they know themselves this soon after the event

    May she rest in peace

    • FC says:

      This was in response to a previous comment which has now been deleted in which the poster was demanding to know the cause of her death. Glad it has been removed but obviously my above comment might not make sense now

  • Una says:

    Not a very helpful comment at this time. Miriam has gone, loved by so many, and admired by others at such young age and obviously suddenly. May she rest on peace. Such an enormous loss for her family.

  • Miriam was one of the most beloved members of our opera community. She was kind, wise and overwhelmingly funny… her voice, and her laugh, were a wonder of the world.

  • She was my first Leonora and I was her first Manrico at Lyric Opera Productions in Dublin. She was a most wonderful colleague, singer and friend. Her loss will be felt deeply and by many.

  • Sinéad Ring says:

    My sincere condolences to Miriam’s family and friends. My memory of her is Christmas Eve mass in St Brendan’s Tralee. Her voice made me believe in life and the power of music to transcend.