Renowned soprano Cara O'Sullivan who died this week at the age of 58 was a treasured daughter of Cork who will be remembered as much for her generosity to charities as her glittering talent and career, her funeral Mass heard.
Canon Jim O’Donovan told mourners at the Church of the Immaculate Conception in the Lough in Cork on Friday that the mother of one was a “colossus of a lady”.
He said she had a very warm personality, enormous talent and was “blessed with a very special voice of beauty and splendour which brought much happiness and delight to so many people. She had a big and generous heart.”
She had performed in churches, school halls, parish halls, and theatres in addition to prestigious venues such as Sydney Opera House and the Royal Albert Hall in London, he said.
"And of course [she sang] on the green sod of our major sporting stadium. Not forgetting as well the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff ... and her special grá and love for Thomond Park, the home of Munster Rugby, which was so dear to her heart."
He said he was moved by former Ireland and Munster rugby player Donncha O'Callaghan's tribute to her. "He [Donncha] said: 'We will never forget the emotional energy that she created before our games. Until you hear that bell, that final bell, stand up and fight like hell,' in reference to her renditions of Stand up and Fight."
Canon O’Donovan said this sentiment also summed up the last years of her life when all of Cara’s stamina was needed to “fight like hell”.
Ms O’Sullivan, who grew up in a musical family in the Lough in Cork, died at Marymount Hospice in the city on Tuesday afternoon. She had been diagnosed with early onset dementia two years ago.
Show of support
Her daughter, Christine, said she had been hugely uplifted by the great show of support received by her family not only since her mother’s death but in the aftermath of her diagnosis with dementia.
When she was diagnosed, Ms O’Sullivan was honoured with three fundraising concerts which assisted in the cost of her care.
Then lord mayor of Cork, Cllr Mick Finn, also chose her as the inaugural recipient of a new cultural award to mark her outstanding contribution to the artistic and cultural life of the city.
Her daughter said one of her mother’s proudest achievements was being asked to sing the famous Munster rugby anthem, Stand Up and Fight.
"It was a very special time – in 2005 Mum was asked to sing Stand Up and Fight at Thomond Park for Munster Rugby. She was so thrilled to be asked. She was asked to sing at other games over the season and went on to the Heineken Cup final in May 2006 in Cardiff and sang at halftime. It was a really special day for us and one we will always remember. She continued to sing Stand Up and Fight for over 10 years and really made it her own."
Her mother, she said, had “packed an awful lot” into her 58 years while never being less than a kind and thoughtful person.
In 2006 her mother achieved first class honours after completing an MA in music. A medal she received for coming first in her MA class at the Cork School of Music was among the offertory gifts which also included a picture of Ms O’Sullivan with her dogs, two of her CDs and her Cork City Cultural Award.
Ms O’Sullivan began training as a singer when a teenager at the Cork School of Music. She paused her training to raise her daughter but secured her first major role in 1996 as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni with the Welsh National Opera. She was renowned for the beauty of her voice and her technical mastery of her instrument.
She is survived by her daughter, Christine, siblings Aoife, Nuala and Jim, extended family and a wide circle of friends.