19th Century - Operatic Biography         

Catherine  Hayes

The Hibernian (Irish) Prima Donna   

by Basil Walsh

Foreword by conductor, Richard Bonynge 

  (372 page Biography, with photos and a chronology of her travels and performances

All content of www.catherinehayes.com is ©Basil Walsh.
Contact: basilwalsh[at]msn[dot]com


Catherine Hayes and her career - brief overview:   

This distinguished young Irish soprano, performs around the Globe in Europe, Britain, Ireland, America (45 cities/towns), Canada, Chile, Peru, Hawaii, Australia, India, Singapore, Java and elsewhere, during the nineteenth-century.  

1818 born in Limerick, Ireland located at the mouth of the River Shannon.
1841 in Dublin she shares the concert platform with the great pianist Franz Liszt.
1845 in Milan she becomes the reigning prima donna at La Scala with Verdi in the audience.   
1849 in London at the Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden she is a sensation.            
1849 in London this young Irish soprano sings at Buckingham Palace for Queen Victoria and 500 guests.
1849 in Dublin, Cork and Limerick she is the returning great international prima donna of the opera.
1851 in Boston she sang for Daniel Webster and his family.            
1852 in Washington DC she sang for the president of the United States and his family.
1853 in the Goldfields around Sacramento she sings for the miners and diggers.            
1854 in the Hawaiian Islands she sings for King Kamehameha II with great success and amusement.
1854 in Sydney, Australia she becomes the first great European opera singer to perform there.
1855 in Calcutta, India, she entertains the British Army and their wives with great éclat. 
1855 in Hobart, Tasmania where she gives concerts with great success.
1856 departs Sydney to return to England via the Cape of Good Hope in Africa. 
1856-1861 gives concerts in England and Ireland.         


Welcome to the Catherine Hayes web site - Ireland's First Great International Prima Donna!

The book "Catherine Hayes: The Hibernian Prima Donna," by Basil Walsh, is published by Irish Academic Press, with distribution in Europe, North America, Australia and New Zealand. 

This is a remarkable story of a unique young Irishwoman who traveled the globe during the 19th century, singing opera and songs with great passion and success everywhere. Perhaps her greatest moment came in Buckingham Palace, London in 1849... after an evening of singing Italian operatic arias for Queen Victoria and 500 guests she responded to the Queen's request for an encore by singing the beautiful Irish song, "Kathleen Mavourneen." The Queen was so impressed, that she recorded her comments on the Irish Prima Donna's performance for posterity in her diary the next day. The Queen was very complimentary!

Read what the critics in Europe and America said about the Biography

Daily Express - (UK) " A rags to riches tale... Hayes was the "Madonna" of her day, she was the 19th-century operatic equivalent of the world's most famous pop star... Catherine Hayes had it all, a voice that captivated her public, financial rewards and a man she loved... then tragedy"

Classical Music Magazine - (UK)  "Basil Walsh has drawn on letters, theatrical memorabilia and newspaper reviews to build a picture of her career... his affectionate portrait offers fascinating glimpses into the social and musical world of 150 years ago..."

OperaNow - (UK) "Thanks to Basil Walsh's extensively researched biography... Catherine Hayes is at last receiving the historical and musical recognition she deserves"

Donizetti Society Newsletter - (UK)  " A long overdue study of a fascinating Irish artist, a famous Lucia and Linda, a beautiful angelic redhead soprano who took Italy by storm, a great star.  A fine and exhaustive biography by Basil Walsh... immaculate presentation, indexed, chronology, repertoire..."

The World of Hibernia Magazine - (USA)   " Thank you Mr. Walsh for extending our horizons with this delightful story... Basil Walsh has worked hard to inform us of this enigmatic woman, her fabulous voice, her devoted family loyalty and her charitable nature, he gives facts, meticulous footnotes and rare illustrations, which all together create a vivid picture of Catherine Hayes"

Sunday Independent (Ireland)    In the absence of recording evidence [Catherine Hayes' 'time was long before gramophone records were invented] it is impossible to assess the merit of operatic voices of the past with the result that we rely on their biographers which isn't 'always satisfactory. However, in the case of Basil Walsh, a Dublin author living in Florida, such is his detailed research in numerous countries that one is left in no doubt that his subject, the diva Catherine Hayes, enjoyed a glittering career..."

The Sunday Tribune - (Ireland)   "Catherine Hayes packed a great deal into her four decades at a time when travel was difficult and dangerous... We are greatly indebted to Basil Walsh for this magnificent, entertaining and beautifully illustrated book. It makes excellent reading" 

The Dublin Historical Record (Ireland)   "Basil Walsh has performed a great service to Irish operatic history with this excellently researched volume... It also has a most valuable chronology of her [Catherine Hayes'] performances and travels throughout the world which further services the student of this fascinating woman who deserves to be better known to her compatriots."



Catherine Hayes performed before Queen Victoria and 500 guests
at Buckingham Palace, London in 1849. 



Catherine Hayes and British tenor Sims Reeves at La Scala,
Milan in Donizetti's Lucia di Lammermoor in 1846.

The Royal Italian Opera, Covent Garden where Catherine made her London debut in April 1849


                                                                          Lucia di Lammermoor, Vienna 1846                                                   Le Prophete, London 1849


The Biography contains, 35 illustrations, a chronology of the Prima Donna's operatic and concert performances, her travels around the Globe to 15 countries, including, France, Italy, Britain, Ireland, America (45 cities), Canada, Peru, Chile, Hawaii, Australia, India, Singapore, Java, etc., during the middle of the 19th century. Her relationships with leading singers, composers and personalities of the times. Her romantic encounters in Europe, America and Australia and her successes which included phenomenal earnings and the great tragedy she experienced in her final years.




      To place an order for the book
"Catherine Hayes: The Hibernian Prima Donna"

by Basil Walsh 
                   (ISBN No. 0 7165 2662 X)

Click on the Amazon link below and search for "Catherine Hayes + Basil Walsh"  

  In Association with Amazon.com    


    NORTH AMERICA:  ISBS,  Portland, Oregon and Elsewhere, at, marketing[at]isbs.com   - 1 800 944 6190

EUROPE: (Irish Academic Press, Dublin) www.iap.ie
  or any major bookseller.

ENGLAND/UK - contact any Waterstone's bookshops in any city in the UK

Film/TV Options available on the Catherine Hayes biography:

Contact Basil Walsh - basilwalsh[at]msn[dot]com




The latest work from Basil Walsh was published in 2007.    

              Biography: "Michael W. Balfe: A Unique Victorian Composer"
by Basil Walsh 

Published by Irish Academic Press in association with the Arts Council of Ireland, 
for Balfe's bicentennial year 2008.

Please visit:  www.britishandirishworld.com

M. W. Balfe's, 21 "Continental" Operas please visit

Irish classical music pioneers musicians who made a difference please visit


All content of www.catherinehayes.com is ©Basil Walsh.
Contact: basilwalsh[at]msn[dot]com