B0190. (MAGGIE TEYTE) Garry O'Connor. The Pursuit of Perfection, a Life of Maggie Teyte. London, Gollancz, 1979, First Edition. 327pp. Index; Discography; Chronology; Operatic & Light Operatic Repertoire; Photos; DJ. Final Copy! - 0-575-2562-X
"The author and playwright, Garry O'Connor, has the advantage of being a great-nephew....This gave him the advantage of personal recollection, access to family papers, the earlier memories of his parents plus access to people who had contact with Maggie. This has enabled him to give a much fuller account than appeared in her own 'STAR ON THE DOOR'....There are six appendices, four by Maggie herself, a really model discography of astonishing length, and the book is well indexed....A very welcome addition to the record collector's bookshelf."
- James Dennis, THE RECORD COLLECTOR, 1979
“Dame Maggie Teyte was born on 17 April, 1888, in Wolfverhampton, England. After studies at home, she went to Paris where she became a pupil of the celebrated tenor Jean de Reszke who had given up his career in 1900 to teach. In March 1906, she made her début in a series of Mozart concerts conducted by Reynaldo Hahn, and in 1907 became a member of the Paris Opéra-Comique. After a few small parts, she was cast as Mélisande, replacing the celebrated originator of the rôle, Mary Garden. To prepare for PELLÉAS ET MÉLISANDE, Teyte was sent to study with Debussy himself, every day for six months! By reputation he was a terror and a martinet, but according to Teyte, he rarely corrected her; in fact he hardly spoke to her at all (!). Clearly he appreciated her talents, both the natural beauty of her voice and her instinctive interpretation of his music. In 1910, she conquered London audiences with her portrayals of Cherubino in MARRIAGE OF FIGARO, Blonde in ABDUCTION FROM THE SERAGLIO, and Mélisande, all under the baton of Sir Thomas Beecham. When Sir Paolo Tosti was asked his impression of the young soprano, he replied: ‘she is the only singer today who can sing’. Rare praise in an era when Melba and Caruso were still in their prime!
Despite her early successes, Teyte had a difficult time finding a place for herself in the main opera houses of the world. She developed a following in Chicago, Boston, and Philadelphia, and sang in America through the end of World War I, but did not appear in New York. She married in 1921 and went into a period of semi-retirement. Upon the disruption of her marriage in the early 1930s, Teyte faced difficulties of resuming her career after an absence of nearly a decade.
Maggie Teyte’s career was revived in 1936 by a set of recordings she made for EMI of Debussy songs accompanied by Alfred Cortot. Though the outbreak of the Second World War interrupted the progress of her ‘second career’, her recordings established her reputation in England and the United States as the leading French art singer of her time. In 1948, she made her first New York appearances: a Town Hall recital followed by a series of performances of PELLÉAS at the City Center Opera. Teyte continued performing in opera until 1951 and on the concert stage until her retirement in 1955 (at age 67). In 1958 she was made a Dame Commander of the Order of the British Empire. She died in London on 26 May, 1976.
Her voice is of exquisite purity, perfect placement; there is spontaneity and distinction. Hers is a voice of a ‘femme fragile’, perfectly adapted for French mélodies. She had a conscientious and painstaking approach to the art of interpretation. Maggie Teyte’s recordings are indispensable for lovers of French music.”
- Edward Blickstein