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 Lily Pons

Lily Pons

Birth
Draguignan, Departement du Var, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
Death 13 Feb 1976 (aged 77)
Dallas, Dallas County, Texas, USA
Burial Cannes, Departement des Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France
Memorial ID 6757 · View Source
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Opera Singer. Over a career of roughly 30 years she was probably her generation's leading coloratura soprano. Born Alice Josephine Pons, she was raised near Cannes and showed an early affinity for music, studying voice and piano at the Paris Conservatory where she won a top prize at 15. During World War I Lily performed for troops in field hospitals though her operatic debut did not come until 1928 when she sang the title lead of Leo Delibes' "Lakme" at Mulhouse. Spotted by tenor Giovanni Zenatello she was sent for an audition at New York's Metropolitan Opera which was desperate for a coloratura after Amelita Galli-Curci's retirement. Lily made her debut on January 3, 1931, as the title heroine of Donizetti's "Lucia di Lammermoor" and was an instant success, becoming the Metropolitan's reigning coloratura. Giving around 300 performances there over her career, her most popular roles were Lucia (sung 93 times), Lakme (50), the doomed Gilda from Verdi's "Rigoletto" (49), and Rosina in Rossini's comic masterpiece "The Barber of Seville" (33). Lily's other portrayals included the doll Olympia in Jacques Offenbach's "The Tales of Hoffman", Philine from Ambrose Thomas' "Mignon", Amina of Vincenzo Bellini's "La Sonnambula", the title lead of Donizetti's "Linda di Chamounix, and Violetta from Verdi's "La Traviata"; her farewell to the Metropolitan came in a gala on December 14, 1960, singing the aria "Caro nome" from "Rigoletto". She also traveled extensively appearing at the Opera Garnier in Paris, London's Covent Garden, the Teatro Colon of Buenos Aires, and at the Chicago and San Francisco Opera Houses, the last named being the only venue to hear her as Violetta. In the late 1930s Lily made three movies for RKO, the first of them 1935's "I Dream Too Much" with Henry Fonda. Becoming an American citizen in 1940 she devoted her full time to the USO during World War II giving numerous performances for soldiers in North Africa, Europe, and the Pacific; for this service her native land awarded her the Croix de Lorraine and the Legion d'Honneur. After retiring from the operatic stage she continued to give concerts until 1973. From 1938 until 1958 she was married to conductor Andre Kostelanetz who toured with her during the war; neither the first nor the last attractive show business lady to lie about her age, Lily variously listed her birth year as 1902 or 1904, though reliable records confirm the date above. She died of pancreatic carcinoma leaving a large legacy of recordings, mostly on the RCA label, many of which are available on CD. A village in Frederick County, Maryland, carries her name as does a white and yellow rose and as once did a steam engine on the Boston and Maine Railroad; a piece of music in her honor left unfinished by George Gershwin at his death was completed by Michael Tilson Thomas.

Bio by: Bob Hufford


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 25 Oct 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6757
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Lily Pons (12 Apr 1898–13 Feb 1976), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6757, citing Cimetière du Grand Jas de Cannes, Cannes, Departement des Alpes-Maritimes, Provence-Alpes-Côte d'Azur, France ; Maintained by Find A Grave .