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last updated: 4/20/2012

Eileen Farrell

Eileen Farrell
Tenure at the School of Music (1971-1980)
Past and Present School of Music Faculty


American soprano. She studied with Merle Alcock and Eleanor McLellan, and concentrated on concert singing until her belated operatic début in 1956 as Santuzza in Tampa, Florida. That year she sang Leonora (Il trovatore) in San Francisco, returning in 1958 as Cherubini’s Medea; Chicago appearances followed. 

Rudolf Bing, general manager of the Metropolitan Opera, hired Ms. Farrell in 1960 to sing "Alceste." In 1962, she opened the Met season as Maddalena in Giordano's "Andrea Chenier," with Robert Merrill. She sang at the Met in six roles during five seasons for a total of 45 performances, and she made her finale as Maddalena in 1966.

Although her voice, temperament and histrionic gifts would have suited the great Wagnerian roles admirably, she sang Brünnhilde and Isolde only in concert performances, notably with the New York Philharmonic Orchestra under Bernstein. She was an intelligent actress; her voice was huge, warm, vibrant and, apart from difficulties at the extreme top in later years, remarkably well controlled.

Farrell was considered an unusual diva in many ways, not only for her talents in opera, jazz and pop, but for her down-to-earth lifestyle. She was married to a New York police officer, Robert Reagan, and she didn't hesitate to turn down work if it took her away from their son and daughter.

Her breakthrough in pop music came in 1959, when she was appearing at the Spoleto Festival in Italy. She gave a classical recital and sang in Verdi's "Requiem," then filled in for an ailing Louis Armstrong, singing ballads and blues numbers accompanied by Armstrong's musicians.

Back in New York, a Columbia Records executive who heard her sing some ballads at a party enlisted her to record. Among her pop albums were "I've Got a Right To Sing the Blues" and "Here I Go Again." Throughout the 1970s, Ms. Farrell taught at Indiana University and continued giving concerts until suffering a knee injury. She and her husband moved to Maine in 1980, and he died in 1986.


Online Discography from

Updated 28 Feb. 2008 / Benjamin P.
Copyright 1999-2008, The Trustees of Indiana University

last updated: 4/20/2012