Maggie Teyte


Born: April 17, 1888; Wolverhampton, England   Died: May 26, 1976; London, England  
The daughter of a British midlands pub keeper, Maggie Tate changed the spelling of her surname when she went to Paris in 1903 to study with the storied tenor Jean de Reszke. First, though, she trained at the Royal Musical College as a light lyric soprano, and made her London debut in 1906 singing excerpts from Mozart's The Marriage of Figaro and Don Giovanni. Her professional debut came a year later in concert at Monte Carlo, followed by her Read more stage debut there as Zerlina. In 1907, the Paris Opéra-Comique engaged her for two seasons. On June 12, 1908, she succeeded Mary Garden as Debussy's Mélisande, who had sung the role sixty times since the opera's premiere in 1902. The composer coached Teyte, as he had Garden, and later accompanied her as pianist and conductor -- the only singer he ever performed with publicly -- despite writing in 1908 that she "was more than a distant princess," and "showed barely as much emotion as a prison door." Before the manager replaced her in 1910 with his own wife, Teyte had sung Mélisande 19 times. (Of her successor Debussy would write, "she brings a furious zeal...portraying [her] as a kind of melancholy washerwoman," whereas "the good Miss Teyte" had a "charming voice and a true feeling for the character.")

Returning to London, she made her Covent Garden debut in d'Albert's Tiefland with the Beecham Opera Company, and later sang Mélisande, Cherubino, Blonde (in Mozart's Abduction from the Seraglio), Gounod's Marguerite, Antonia in The Tales of Hoffmann, Humperdinck's Hänsel, and Madama Butterfly. In 1911, she joined the Chicago Grand Opera Company, debuting as Cherubino, then sang Massenet's Cendrillon opposite Mary Garden's Prince Charming, followed by Marguerite, Antonia, and Lygie in Jean Nouguès' novelty, Quo vadis? After the Chicago season ended, Teyte captivated New York on tour as Cendrillon, a role she repeated in 1912-1913, along with starring roles in La bohème and Goldmark's The Cricket on the Hearth (repeated in 1913-1914). Teyte's final Chicago season also featured Butterfly and Hänsel.

She charmed Boston Opera audiences in January 1914, and returned for three seasons as Mimì, Zerlina, and Butterfly; she added Verdi's A Masked Ball, and Wolf-Ferrari's The Secret of Suzanne for a two-month Boston visit to Paris before the outbreak of World War I. After a dark year, Boston heard her in 1915-1916 as Nedda in Pagliacci, Mimì, and Hänsel, but the company collapsed in January 1917 after a single week, despite Teyte's Marguerite and Mimì. She went home to England in 1919, costarred in Messager's final opera, Monsieur Beaucaire, at Birmingham, and, in 1923, created the Princess in Holst's The Perfect Fool. Her subsequent operatic appearances were random, however: Hänsel and Mélisande at Covent Garden in 1930, Hänsel in 1936, Euridice in Gluck's Orfeo in 1937, and her Covent Garden farewell as Butterfly in 1938. She appeared, though, in operettas throughout the 1930s, and in recitals and recordings of French music with pianists Alfred Cortot and Gerald Moore. During World War II, Teyte sang for Allied troops, and then in 1948 (at age 60), her first U.S. Mélisande with the New York City Opera. She made her final operatic appearance as Belinda opposite Kirsten Flagstad in Purcell's Dido and Aeneas in 1951. Her last public appearances came in 1955 -- at London's Royal Festival Hall on her 67th birthday, and five months later at Wigmore Hall.

Subsequently she wrote an autobiography, Star on the Door, and in 1958 was made a Dame of the British Empire for her services to music. Read less

There are 9 Maggie Teyte recordings available.

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