Miriam Meets.... Cara O'Sullivan and Nuala O'Sullivan
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This week, Miriam O'Callaghan talks to Cork sisters Cara and Nuala O Sullivan. Cara is an internationally renowned opera singer, her sister Nuala, once a Cork Rose, now works for a weight management clinic.
The sisters recall growing up in The Lough area of Cork city. Theirs was a musical household. Nuala recalls the Sunday evening sing songs. She says that their mother Anne was always singing: "She would sing when she was happy, she would sing when she was sad."
Cara remembers that her eldest sister Aoife said that Cara developed "this big woman's voice at the age of twelve." While encouraged in their singing, the girls were never pushed by their parents.
The sisters weren't close as children . Nuala says "I tried to ignore her when she was small" Cara explains: "I never saw the light of day with Nuala until I was a grown woman!"
Nuala was the Cork Rose in the Rose of Tralee festival in the 1980s. Nuala remembers "It was a fabulous experience. Meeting Gary Byrne was the nicest part of it. He was fabulous." For a long time afterwards, Cara was known around Cork as Nuala's sister. But since Cara has achieved internation acclaim as an opera singer, Nuala is now known as Cara's sister!
Nuala and Cara both had daughters around the same time. Cara was not married and she explains to Miriam how important the support of her family was in allowing her to continue her career. "The hands - on help that my Mum and Dad gave me was so important. I couldn't have taken on the business of singing without their help.
Cara's singing career started at the Cork School of Music where her talent was spotted early. When she was seventeen, Jack Murphy - then the head of the school - told her parents "She can go anywhere in the world, she can be anything she wants to be, she can go to the very top......My parents were fazed by this, she recalls.
Cara's big break came when she got the role of Dona Anna in Don Giovanni with Welsh National Opera. She was hleped hugely by Veronica Dunne who arranged a masterclass with Dame Joan Sutherland to help her prepare for the role. But just before she left for rehearsals in Wales, Cara was diagnosed with cancer. With the help of her doctor in Cork, Cara was able to get her cancer treatment in Wales while rehearsing for her opera. "So every morning I tottered along to the hopsital for my treatment and went on to work afterwards."
Nuala is the person that Cara will call on in a crisis. Like their late father, she is very good in difficult situations.
But international success for opera singers comes at a personal price. "Very few have a long term relationship.... The only constant in my life is Mister Puccini and Mister Verdi"
The music for this programme was recorded specially and features Cara O'Sullivan singing, accompanied by the ladies and gentlemen of the RTE Concert Orchestra, lead by Mia Cooper and conducted by David Brophy.