As the anniversary of her death approaches, Sheila O’Kelly recalls the career of the Dublin-born singer who was recognised as one of the finest mezzo-sopranos of her time
Bernadette Josephine Greevy, mezzo-soprano, was born on the 3rd July 1940 in Clontarf, Dublin to Patrick and Josephine Greevy. Bernadette was one of seven children that grew up in a musical home. She was educated at the Holy Faith Convent School in Clontarf, and participated in school musical plays and operas and in Church and School choirs.
By the time she left school she had won the Plunkett Gold Cup, The Lieder Cup and the Contralto Gold Medal in the Feis Ceoil in Dublin. Bernadette received formal singing lessons in Dublin from mezzo-soprano singer and teacher Jean Nolan, and later at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London and privately with Viennese singer and singing teacher, Heléné Isepp. To support her studies, Bernadette worked as a part-time cosmetician for Elizabeth Arden in London and Dublin.
Bernadette Greevy made her first appearance on the operatic stage in Gounod’s Faust at the Gaiety Theatre in Dublin in 1960. She appeared in Sir Julius Benedict’s opera The Lily of Killarney in the Olympia Theatre in Dublin alongside Veronica Dunne, John Carolan and Denis Noble with conductor, Father John O’Brien and the Glasnevin Musical Society. She made her first professional operatic debut as Maddalena in Dublin’s Grand Opera Society’s production of Verdi’s Rigoletto.
Bernadette benefited immensely from her collaboration with Hungarian-born Tiber Paul, principal conductor of the Radió Éireann Symphony Orchestra who introduced her to the works of composers Edward Elgar and Gustav Mahler. Bernadette cultivated a deep affinity for the vocal works of Mahler. “Singing Mahler’s music soon became part of me,” she said.
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