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Lily Pons (1904 - 1976)

Pons (original names Alice Joséphine) was the child of a French father and an Italian mother who, wanting a musician in her family, provided her daughter with both a piano and a teacher. She displayed considerable musical talent, entering the Paris Conservatoire at the age of thirteen and winning the first prize in the piano class two years later; but she was too nervous to pursue a concert career as a pianist. After moving with her family to Cannes in 1914, Pons played the piano and sang for convalescing French soldiers in the hospital where her mother worked as a nurse; and realized from the reactions of her audiences that she had a voice with potential.

Although Pons married her first husband, a successful publisher, in 1921 and for the next few years was a housewife, she was encouraged to take singing lessons by the soprano Dyna Beumer. Her husband was happy to fund this pursuit of a singing career and Pons began to study singing formally in 1925 with Alberto de Gorostiaga in Paris. She made her operatic stage debut in the title role of Lakmé at Mulhouse in 1928 with Reynaldo Hahn conducting and then sang much of the coloratura soprano repertoire in French provincial opera houses: the title roles in Lakmé and Lucia di Lammermoor, Gilda / Rigoletto, Olympia / Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Philene / Mignon, Mimì / La Bohème and Cherubino / Le nozze di Figaro. She also made some recordings for the Odeon label.




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