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Eileen Farrell
Birth: Feb. 13, 1920
Willimantic
Windham County
Connecticut, USA
Death: Mar. 23, 2002
Park Ridge
Bergen County
New Jersey, USA

Opera Singer. Perhaps her generation's premiere dramatic soprano, she later became a renowned exponent of jazz and blues. The child of Vaudeville parents who had traveled as "The Singing O'Farrells", she learned to sing from her mother and was raised in a variety of northeastern locations before settling in Storrs, Connecticut. After graduating from high school in 1939 she received further vocal training in New York City then was signed by the CBS Radio Chorus; Eileen was too good to be a chorister, as proven by her ability to mimic Rosa Ponselle in a broadcast, and soon had her own "Eileen Farrell Sings" which ran on CBS for seven years. Married to New York City Police Captain Robert Reagan in 1946 she saw radio declining as a means of entertainment and began a touring concert career in 1947. Already well known from her years before the microphone she earned good reviews in the United States before being heard in South America in 1949. Returing home Eileen became associated with such prominent conductors as Leopold Stokowski, Pierre Montoux, and Dimitri Mitropoulos and in 1950 made her debut at Carnegie Hall while appearing 61 times with the New York Philharmonic. In 1951 she recorded Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with Maestro Arturo Toscanini and his NBC Symphony and thru the decade continued her recital career while being seen on such television shows as the "Texaco Star Theater", the "Ed Sullivan Show", the "Bell Telephone Hour", and the "Carol Burnett Show". In 1955 Eileen provided Eleanor Parker's singing voice for her Oscar-nominated portrayal of polio stricken Wagnerian Marjorie Lawrence in MGM's "Interrupted Melody" and that same year gave an acclaimed performance of Luigi Cherubini's "Medea" at New York's Town Hall. For years Eileen's fans had wished to see her in staged opera and in 1956 she made her bow with the San Carlo Opera Company at Tampa, Florida, as Santuzza from Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" then later that year was heard with the San Francisco Opera as Leonora in Giuseppe Verdi's "Il Trovatore". In 1957 she sang the title lead of Ponchielli's "La Gioconda" with Lyric Opera of Chicago and in 1959 saw her career partially change course while at Italy's Spoleto Festival to sing the "Verdi Requiem"; called upon to substitute for an ailing Louis Armstrong she astounded audiences with her jazz interpretations. In 1960 she recorded the much acclaimed "I've Got a Right to Sing the Blues", the first of her four jazz and pop albums made for Columbia, and that same year finally made her bow at New York's Metropolitan Opera as the title lead of Gluck's "Alceste". In some ways an ordinary housewife with an extraordinary part time job, Eileen proved a mismatch at the Metropolitan from the start; General Manager Rudolf Bing liked neither her nor her working class personna, was unable to recognize her ability, and resented her preference for associating with the stagehands rather than the other singers and the high society Metropolitan fans. Over her five seasons with the company she sang 46 performances as, in addition to Alceste, Gioconda, Santuzza, Reiza in Weber's "Oberon", Leonora from Verdi's "La Forza del Destino", and Maddalena in Umberto Giordano's "Andrea Chenier", the last named being the vehicle for her 1966 final Metropolitan appearances. Audiences had long wanted to hear her sing Wagner and if Bing did not appreciate her talent Maestro Leonard Bernstein of the New York Philharmonic did, casting her in much acclaimed concert presentations of "Goetterdammerung", for which she won a 1962 Grammy, and "Tristan und Isolde". In 1971 she accepted a professorship at Indiana University where she added jazz to the curriculum and proved a popular and effective teacher despite having little knowledge of or interest in the mechanics of voice production. Leaving Indiana in 1981 she joined the faculty of the University of Maine, Orono, in 1983 but after her husband's terminal illness and 1986 death she lost interest in music. A chance, however, to record "The Sound of Music" for Telarc with Erich Kunzel revealed that her powers were in no wise diminished leading to seven highly prized discs of The Great American Songbook made for the San Francisco-based audiophile label Reference Recordings in the late 1980s and early 1990s, and even to an appearance on Frank Sinatra's "Trilogy" album. Gradually retiring, she lived her last years in New Jersey, published "Can't Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell" in 1999, and died in a nursing facility of circulatory problems. Much of her large recorded legacy remains available. (bio by: Bob Hufford) 
 
Family links: 
 Spouse:
  Robert Vincent Reagan (1909 - 1986)*
 
*Calculated relationship
 
Burial:
Castine Cemetery
Castine
Hancock County
Maine, USA
 
Maintained by: Find A Grave
Originally Created by: Ron Moody
Record added: Jun 18, 2002
Find A Grave Memorial# 6521922
Eileen Farrell
Added by: Ron Moody
 
Eileen Farrell
Cemetery Photo
Added by: Robert Hodsdon
 
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