Joan Sutherland’s Irish protégée dies at 58

Joan Sutherland’s Irish protégée dies at 58


norman lebrecht

January 27, 2021

The Irish soprano Cara O’Sullivan sang her first major role – Donna Anna in Don Giovanni – after coaching from Dame Joan Sutherland at Welsh National Opera in 1996. She went on to make acclaimed appearances in England, France, Belgium and Australia.

Cara retired from singing in 2018 after being diagnosed with early onset dementia. She died yesterday, at home in Cork.

Irish National Opera’s artistic director Fergus Sheil writes:

The untimely passing of soprano Cara O’Sullivan today (26 January) has robbed Ireland of one of its greatest operatic talents. Cara possessed a voice of pure beauty. She had virtuosic skills and when she unleashed her vocal fireworks, she made time stand still.

Cara’s voice had a liquidity and flexibility that could tackle some of the most demanding and glistening soprano repertoire. But her voice was only part of the attraction. Cara had a warmth to her personality that never failed to draw in audiences. She knew how to command attention, she strode onto the stage as though it were her own kingdom and she fed off the audience’s rapt responses.

Cara was a perfectionist. She was as demanding of herself as she was of all those around her. She commanded huge respect within the world of opera professionals. Cara enjoyed a successful career, but never took it for granted. She worked hard, prepared meticulously and continually sought to develop herself. Her reward was the adulation her fans offered her.

Her career and her life were cut short by the early onset of dementia. In the midst of this devastating news, her friends in the opera world and her fans mourn her loss, but we will also take a moment to celebrate the huge joy that her life brought.



  • BruceB says:

    So beautiful

  • JussiB says:

    that’s pretty young to have dementia. rip.

  • Seán Hurley says:

    Cara was filled with an amazing life force which makes her early death even more shocking. For those of us Munster fans, her performances of “Stand Up and Fight” before matches are iconic and will always be remembered. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.

  • Una says:

    This is very sad news. I heard her sing several times when in Dublin, and and in London. She sang beautifully. Ireland is a small country with a population of less than 5m. It has now been robbed of two of its major Irish singers in just a year, the other being Miriam Murphy at no age, and left a grieving family made even worse by the Covid funeral rules that one has to abide by. May she rest in peace.

  • Antony Walker says:

    I am so sorry to hear of Cara’s untimely passing. I had very fond memories of working with her at Welsh National Opera about 20 years ago, and then in the USA. She possessed a really stunning instrument, and really knew how to use it both expressively and with virtuosity. She was also a lovely and engaging person. RIP, Cara…