Tragic loss of a terrific critic, 65

Tragic loss of a terrific critic, 65


norman lebrecht

January 14, 2022

The Wall Street Journal has reported the sudden death at a friend’s home of its long-serving drama critic Terry Teachout. Terry, who was 65, had an insatiable appetite for all performing arts and a bottomless knowledge of most.

He wrote biographies of George Balanchine, Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington and libretti for three staged operas by Paul Moravec.

Terry experienced heart failure in 2005 but recovered to find late love and marriage with Hilary Dyson, who predeceased him in March 2020. His online chronicle of Hilary’s long wait for an organ translant was one of the most moving love letters on record.

His performance reviews were incisive, involved and scrupulously fair.

Tim Page writes: ‘The estimable Terry Teachout, who could write about anything and who was a warm, tender and loyal friend to so many of us, has died at the age of 65. I include this picture from Terry’s 2007 wedding to Hilary Dyson Teachout. I don’t think I’d seen either of them happier — and it’s hard to think of any couple that exuded the joy they did that night. It was a marriage that was both romantic and realistic: both Terry and Hilary were already unwell and his beloved “Mrs. T” predeceased him in 2020. I was so happy to learn recently that he had fallen in love again, with Cheril Mulligan of Long Island — and I know that Hilary would have been thrilled by this development.’



  • msc says:

    He was a good critic, a great writer, and I will miss him.

  • Greg says:

    He was one of the few writers who seemed at home in the big city worlds of opera, theater, cabaret and jazz while still retaining a warm affection for the small town in Missouri from which he came. Before the final illness of his first wife he seemed to spend half the year traveling around the country reviewing, and greatly appreciating, plays performed in such unlikely spots at Spring Green, Wisconsin and Glencoe, Illinois. To him this was not merely ‘regional theater’ and the vast expanse between Manhattan and Hollywood was not ‘flyover country.’ And he always great fun to read. He will be missed.

    • Gus says:

      Thanks for bringing back the memory of Spring Green as we wanted to go to Taliesin, the home and architectural school of Frank Lloyd Wright who settled there as its rolling hills reminded him of his ancestral home of Carmarthenshire – it does a bit.
      We stayed at New Glarus, a bit of Switzerland in Wisconsin and were amazed that doors and windows of our hosts were all open and we just walked in, owner still at work.
      We also went to the American Theatre Company to their marvellous open air amphitheatre to see a very atmospheric Macbeth.

      RIP Mr Teachout

  • J Barcelo says:

    I am so sorry to hear about this. I looked forward to his writing on Arts Journal. Fine writer and no snob for sure. I exchanged a number of emails with him several years ago when he said the biggest regret he had in life was that he still hadn’t ever visited London. I don’t know if he ever made that trip, but given his health issues probably not. I will miss his wit and love for music. RIP.

  • ChiLynne says:

    Loved reading his reviews and other columns and seeing Satchmo at the Waldorf. Wept for him when Hilary’s search for an organ transplant came to an end. Wonderful, witty, and humane writer – Terry Teachout was just superb and will be missed.

  • Monique Chandra says:

    I knew him back in the 1970s when we were both struggling critics. Miss you Terry, RIP. ♥

  • Tom Varley says:

    Shocking news. He was a superb writer whose work I’ve enjoyed in a number of magazines and newspapers for many years. I met him once when he came to speak at a local theater that was mounting a production of a play by Horton Foote. He was kind enough to autograph my copy of his biography of H.L. Mencken and exchange some thoughts on old recordings. His twitter posts were insightful and, during his wife’s final illness, heartbreaking. He will be missed.

  • Paul Moravec says:

    Now cracks a noble heart.

  • Jim C. says:

    I’m curious though. Why did he only write for what are basically arch-conservative publications? He was better than that.

    • The View from America says:

      What does that even mean?

    • Minnesota says:

      Terry was politically conservative but less political as he got older. He had long relationships with the Wall Street Journal and Commentary Magazine and very regular paychecks from them, something any arts critic would be thrilled to have. He also did a lot of freelance work.

  • Alexander F. says:

    I took his class at Mannes and he was a wonderful teacher. Rest in Peace, Mr. Teachout.