Farrell, Eileen

American soprano,  1920 - 2002

Biographical notes:

Born in Willimantic, Connecticut, in 1920, she became a student of Merle Alcock and Eleanor McLellan. In 1942 she made her concert debut at the Columbia Broadcasting Studios where she soon presented her own radio program! In 1950 Farrell appeared in a concert performance as Marie in Berg’s Wozzeck (there is a superb recording).  In 1956 she made her rather late debut on stage where she also was tremendously successful, but she definitely preferred the concert hall. Her relationship to the Met was not easy due to “problems” with manager Sir Rudolf Bing, singing there for only five seasons. She always stated that her husband (a policeman) and her children are more important to her than a career as an opera star!  She never reconciled herself to the life of a diva, preferring the friendliness of show business to aloofness of the opera world. There are too few recordings of this fabulous singer. Just imagine we had integral recordings with Wagner, Verdi and the Verists with her!



“With Franco Corelli and Bob Merrill, one of my all-time favorite colleagues”

(after a Met performance of Andrea Chénier)


“With my brother, John, and sister, Leona - I sure was lucky to have them both”


“With Richard Tucker. We weren’t nearly as chummy as we look in this photo”


Recordings: (selection)


Eileen Farrell - Opera Arias & Songs (Alceste, Oberon, Ernani, La Gioconda, Jeanne d’Arc, Hérodiade, L’Enfant Prodigue, The Consul. Songs)


Wagner - Wesendonck-Lieder. Excerpts from Tristan, Götterdämmerung (Bernstein live 1961)


Verdi Duets with Richard Tucker

Sony Heritage

Richard Tucker (duets)


Eileen Farrell sings Verdi

Sony Heritage

Set Svanholm (duets)


I gotta right to sing the Blues (The E. Farrell Album)


Carols for Christmas Eve


The Christmas Album


Classics for Children



Berg - Wozzeck (Mitropoulos live 1951/Harrell, Jagel)

Sony Heritage

Donizetti - Maria Stuarda (Ceccato live 1971/Sills, Burrows, du Plessis, Quilico)


Oratorios and Orchestral Songs:

Beethoven - Symphony 9 (Toscanini)


Beethoven - Missa Solemnis (Bernstein)


Handel - Messias (Ormandy)


Vaughan Williams - Symphony 4 (Bernstein)



A 1940’s Radio Hour Vol. 1


A 1940’s Radio Hour Vol. 2


Opera Stars sing on Radio Vol. 2

The 40ies


“With members of Louis Armstrong’s band, singing “Sunny Side of the Street,” Spleto, Italy 1959. It was such a hit that it led to a second career as a pop singer”


“Giving pointers to one of my students, Lynell Frankforter, at an Indiana University opera rehearsal”


Eileen Farrell is what I call a “natural” singer, and in her case it is a statement of greatest admiration! No doubt that she belongs to the greatest dramatic sopranos of the 20th century.

Hers is a huge and powerful voice but she had the capability to soften and sweeten the tone (listen to her version of Brünnhilde’s Immolation scene).  Her excellent breathing technique (she considered breathing support the most important feature she learnt from her second teacher) allowed her to produce a controlled mezza voce. Her voice is warm and womanly in timbre. She is at home in Wagner, Verdi, Menotti, Berg, Weber, the Verist composers, Meyerbeer, American songs, Blues, Jazz and even Pop.


As Gioconda

My favorite recordings:

- Ozean, du Ungeheuer (Rezia in Oberon / Weber / 1957)

- L’année en vain...Azalël! Pourquoi mas-tu quitée (Lia in L’Enfant de Prodigue / Debussy / 1957)

 To this we’ve come - Act II (Magda Sorel in The Consul / Menotti / 1957)

- Summertime (Bess in Porgy and Bess / Gershwin / 1957)

- Sing to me, sing, op. 28 (Henley-Homer / 1957)

- A Dream, op. 48 No. 6 (Bodenstedt&Baker-Grieg / 1957)

- Danny Boy (Weatherly-trad. arr. Weatherly / 1957

- Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort auf (Brünnhilde in Die Walküre / Wagner / 1962)

- Come in quest’ora bruna (Maria in Simon Boccanegra / Verdi / 1960)

- Ma dall’arido stelo divulsa (Amelia in Un Ballo in Maschera / Verdi / 1960)

One of the most thrilling performances of Berg’s Wozzeck is conducted by Dimitri Mitropoulos. Wagner’s Wesendonck songs are conducted by Leonard Bernstein. She is vocally at her best, but  her singing lacks depth and inwardness.



Pictures taken from her enjoyable autobiogaphy:

Can’t Help Singing: The Life of Eileen Farrell, Northeastern University Press, 1999