(April 12, 1898 – February 13, 1976)
Lily Pons was a French-American coloratura soprano.
She made her operatic debut as Lakme in Léo Delibes' opera at Mulhouse in 1928. Following this highly successful debut she went on to sing several other coloratura roles in French provincial opera houses.
Discovered by dramatic tenor/impresario Giovanni Zenatello, he took her to New York to audition for the Metropolitan Opera.
Amelita Galli-Curci had retired in 1930 and the Met was desperate to find a new coloratura soprano, so she was accepted and although unknown in the USA a production of Lucia di Lammermoor was scheduled for her debut.
It was a sensation and she received tremendous acclaim and became a star overnight and virtually inherited most of Galli-Curci's most important coloratura roles. She was also given a recording contract with the giant RCA Victor Records.
Lily Pons went on to be the principal soprano at the Met for the next thirty years. She appeared no less than 300 times in ten roles from 1931 until 1960.
Her most frequent performances were as Lucia (93 performances), Lakmé (50 performances), Gilda in Verdi's Rigoletto (49 performances), and Rosina in Rossini's The Barber of Seville (33 performances).
During the war, she and her husband Andre Kostelanetz the orchestra conductor entertained the troops before returning home and playing to full halls and stadiums.
Other roles she became famous for included Olympia in Offenbach's The Tales of Hoffman, Philine in Ambroise Thomas's Mignon, Amina in Bellini's La Sonnambula, Marie in Donizetti's The Daughter of the Regiment, the title role in Delibes' Lakmé, the Queen in Rimsky-Korsakov's The Golden Cockerel, and the title role in Donizetti's Linda di Chamounix, (a role she sang in the opera's Met premiere on March 1, 1934).
The last major new role Lily Pons performed was Violetta in La Traviata, which she sang at the San Francisco Opera.
She had learned Melisande in Debussy's opera "Pelleas et Melisande" but decided not to sing it because she felt that the soprano, Bidu Sayao, owned the role.
At a farewell gala at the Metropolitan she sang Caro Nome from Rigoletto.
Other guest appearances she made at other houses included the Opéra Garnier in Paris, the Royal Opera in London, La Monnaie in Brussels, Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires, the Chicago Opera and the San Francisco Opera.
After leaving the opera stage for the last time she continued to sing in concerts up until 1973.
During her career she also appeared on TV shows and also starred in three films - I Dream Too Much (1935) That Girl From Paris (1936) and Hitting a New High (1937).
She died of pancreatic cancer at the age of 77 and her remains were taken back to France for burial.
Lily Pons is one of the featured stars on our "Legends" product range.