RTÉ lyric fm presenter Evelyn Grant pays tribute to her friend Cara O'Sullivan, following the esteemed Cork Soprano's death earlier this week. 

Audiences loved soprano Cara O'Sullivan – and she loved her audiences in equal measure. News of her untimely death, at the age of 58, shocked family, friends and fans.

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Watch: Irish soprano Cara O'Sullivan dies at 59, via RTÉ News

Renowned for the beauty of her voice, and a wonderful technical mastery of her instrument, Cara had an extraordinary sense of fun and a way of connecting with an audience. Such a huge personality!

I can remember hearing her voice for the first time, at the Cork School of Music, when her teacher, Bob Beare,(who sadly passed away just a few months ago) proudly introduced her as a student with exceptional talent.

Sopranos Majella Cullagh and Mary Hegarty were emerging talents at the same time, and together with pianist Eleanor Malone, lifelong friendships were forged.

Competition successes in the 1990s were followed by debut roles in major international opera houses. But Cork remained her bedrock, her lodestar. Cara once said "Singing a great aria in a famous opera house is always a thrill and a challenge, but I do love to perform in a more individual way, too, and engage with the audience on a personal level".

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It was in 2002, shortly after her mother’s death, that Cara recorded her CD Cara Diva, to raise funds for Marymount Hospice, in Cork, with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra and Prionnsias O’Duinn. She loved working with this orchestra. So, after the shock of her diagnosis of early-onset dementia in 2018, there was an instant ‘yes’ from the RTE Concert Orchestra and from orchestral musicians in Cork, along with offers from so many of Cara’s colleagues from the world of opera, to perform at three sold-out performances at Cork Opera House; City Hall, Cork (April 2019), and at the National Concert Hall, Dublin (Sept 2019). These concerts were a testament to the esteem in which Cara is held as an artist, a friend, and a colleague.

She adored her daughter, Christine, and received much support from her close-knit family throughout her career. As we shed tears over the loss of a great friend, we cannot but smile at the shared memories, and hope that the outpouring of love and support from Cara’s fans on RTÉ lyric fm will comfort her family at this sad time.

We hope that our listeners will stay home and join us in lighting a candle in Cara's memory, during her funeral mass on Friday, January 29th, which will be streamed from The Lough Church, Cork City at 2.00 pm.

RTÉ lyric fm will present a special Lyric Concert on Friday 6th February at 7 pm: Paul Herriott is joined by presenters Marty Whelan, Evelyn Grant, George Hamilton, Liz Nolan, Niall Carroll and Aedin Gormley as they pay tribute to Cara in a special Lyric Concert - Cara Remembered looks back at two of Cara's performances with the RTÉ Concert Orchestra; a lunchtime concert from 2009 with hits including Moon River, Bill from Showboat, Di Capua's popular O Solo Mio and also highlights from Cara's last concert performance, with tenor Noah Stewart from June 2018. 

Evelyn Grant is the presenter of Weekend Drive on RTÉ lyric fm. Cara Remembered: The Lyric Concert with Paul Herriott, RTÉ lyric fm, Friday 6th February, 7 pm - listen back after boadcast here.