‘Give up teaching? I wouldn’t live six months’ - Podcast

Approaching 90, Veronica Dunne, the doyenne of Irish opera talks to Róisín Ingle

"I love it. If I had to give it up, I'd say I wouldn't live six months," says 89-year-old Veronica Dunne of her 56 years teaching opera singers their craft.

"I love what I do, I love teaching and I love young people. I wake up at 6.45am every morning and I think to myself: thank God I can work all day," she told Róisín Ingle, on the latest Róisín Meets podcast.

In 1946, at the age of 18, Veronica Dunne sold her pony and moved from her family home in Dublin to Rome to learn how to sing opera, where she would sing alongside future stars including Maria Callas.

Never mind that though, the real highlight of her time in Italy was spotting the local talent.

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“Looking at the most handsome men I’d ever seen, to be quite honest. I couldn’t believe it…This gorgeous man would be looking at you and you’d start sweating all over. My lord, when I think of it!”

But 18-year-old Veronica was forbidden from going near the Italian men by her strict guardian in Rome, Monsignor Hugh O'Flaherty, an Irish priest revered for his work in the Vatican during the second World War, saving thousands of Allied lives.

He had a “secret service of priests on Lambrettas” keeping him informed of her comings and goings, she said, and the threat of being sent back to Ireland was enough to keep her mind focused on her singing.

In 1961, married and with small children, Veronica left her singing career behind and began teaching. In the decades since, she has been responsible for fostering the operatic talents of countless young Irish singers.

Now, with her 90th birthday approaching this August, Veronica is still teaching every day at Royal Irish Academy of Music and will be honoured by them at The Great Music in Irish Houses festival which runs from the 13th to the 18th of June.

For more information visit www.greatmusicinirishhouses.com.To listen to the conversation between Veronica Dunne and Róisín Ingle, go to irishtimes.com/podcasts, iTunes, Soundcloud or your preferred podcast app.