Opera Scotland

Pauline Tinsley Suggest updates

Pauline Cecilia Tinsley;  Mrs George Neighbour.

Born Wigan, 27 March 1928.

Died 10 May 2021.

English soprano.

Pauline Tinsley had an important international career as a versatile dramatic soprano, making an indelible impression as a singing actress in a wide range of repertoire,

She studied in Manchester at the Northern School of Music, then in London with Joan Cross, Roy Henderson and Dame Eva Turner.

Her debut in 1961 was at the Camden Festival in London, as Desdemona (Rossini's Otello). Later performances there included Irene (Wagner's Rienzi) and several Verdi roles (Amalia I masnadieri, Elvira Ernani, Gulnara Il corsaro, Lucrezia I due Foscari), the last two in concerts mounted by the BBC.

She made her first appearance with Welsh National Opera in 1962, and with Sadler's Wells the following year. Those two companies would be her base throughout her career. 

Her work with WNO included Mozart (Susanna, Donna Elvira); Rossini (Sinaïde in Moses); Wagner (Elsa); Verdi (Abigail, Lady Macbeth, Aïda); Puccini (Tosca, Turandot); Strauss (Elektra, Dyer's Wife) and Janáček (Kostelnička).

With Sadler's Wells (later ENO) she appeared in Mozart (Countess Almaviva, Donna Elvira, Fiordiligi, Queen of Night), Beethoven (both Fidelio and the earlier Leonora variant); Donizetti (Elisabeth, opposite Janet Baker's Mary Stuart); Verdi (Elvira Ernani, Leonora Force of Destiny), Humperdinck (Mother and Witch combined) and Janáček (Kabanicha).

She worked at the Royal Opera from 1965, generally in short roles such as Overseer Elektra, Helmwige Die Walküre and Third Norn Götterdämmerung. Presumably she was covering major roles in those pieces.  However she did sing Amelia in a single performance of Un ballo in maschera, as a late replacement.  She also sang Santuzza in a memorably dramatic 1976 revival of the famous Franco Zeffirelli staging of Cavalleria Rusticana opposite Domingo.  The failure of the Royal Opera to employ her regularly in major roles remained mystifying.

An unexpected flair for comedy was revealed when she sang Lady Billows Albert Herring with the English Opera Group and Fata Morgana in The Love for Three Oranges with Opera North. She also worked regularly with the Handel Opera Society in parts such as Nitocris (Belshazzar).

Her appearances with Scottish Opera were as Lady Macbeth and Kostelnička. A proposed 1979 production of Parsifal, to be directed by Elijah Moshinsky, in which she was announced as Kundry, was unfortunately cancelled for financial reasons and never reinstated in the schedule.

Her appearances in the USA included Santa Fe (Anna Bolena, Senta); New York City Opera (Elisabetta in Maria Stuarda with Beverly Sills) and San Diego (Elektra). At St Louis she sang Lady Billows and created the role of Candace in The Village Singer (Stephen Paulus 1979).

She worked frequently on the continent, in Italy at La Scala (Dyer's Wife) and Reggio Emilia (Lady Billows); in the Netherlands at Amsterdam (Aïda, Elektra); in Switzerland at Basle (Elektra) and Geneva (Fortune-Teller in The Fiery Angel) and in Spain at Barcelona (Dyer's Wife). Her appearances in Germany included Isolde at Gelsenkirchen, and Elektra at Mannheim and Düsseldorf. Her Wagner repertoire also included Brünnhilde (Die Walküre), Ortrud and Kundry.

Her recordings are few.  On Colin Davis's first Idomeneo she sings Elettra in a cast including George Shirly,  Ryland Davies and Margherita Rinaldi, sadly never issued on CD.  On Georg Solti's recording of Elektra with Birgit Nilsson, she sings the Overseer.  Live recordings have been made available of the Camden performance of Il corsaro and the Sadler's Wells Ernani

Roles in Scotland

Queen of Night
Zauberflöte 1963
Fiordiligi a young lady from Ferrara, engaged to Guglielmo
Così fan tutte 1964
Elvira Silva's niece
Ernani 1967
Lady Macbeth
Macbeth 1976
Macbeth 1977
Kostelnička Buryjovka Jenůfa's stepmother
Jenůfa 1977
Jenůfa 1978
Jenůfa 1989
Elektra daughter of Klytämnestra and Agamemnon
Elektra 1979

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