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Subject: Re: Lily Pons
From: tom ponti <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:tom ponti <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Sat, 10 Nov 2018 00:58:42 +0000
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James, I am one of the few if any here, who has defended Pons as a singer and operatic super star. The fact IS, however, Lily was NEVER more popular in the US than Crosby, who by far had more number one hits than ANY other singer or pop singer groups. The fact also IS that Crosby was the number Movie Box Office stat for at least three consecutive years in the forties.  It is true that Lily filled the Hollywood Bowl, and according to Wikipedia, performed before many thousands in the main Chicago's Grant Park. Whether all those people came to see just her, I am not sure. Whatever, as big a star as Pons was as an opera singer, she was never nearly a popular or known world wide, as Bing Crosby or other major movie stars or pop singers. Sorry, but facts ARE facts, whether one likes them or not.
________________________________
From: Discussion of opera and related issues <[log in to unmask]> on behalf of James Camner <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Friday, November 9, 2018 6:34 PM
To: [log in to unmask]
Subject: Re: [OPERA-L] Lily Pons

I finally read this (I'm just now decompressing after the election - yes we got our
candidate Katie Hill into the Congress!!).

What you write shows that you have scant understanding of how prestigious an
opera singer was in Pons's time.  Opera singers occupied a higher plane of prestige
than any pop singer including Crosby. That of course is no longer true, but it was in
the 1930s up through Pons's heyday although it ended just after. This is partly the
reason why Pons drew more people to the Hollywood Bowl than even the Beatles
would. But the main reason she drew so many people is that she was Lily Pons and
in her heyday, she was at the pinnacle.

In her time, Pons's name was synonymous in the United States with opera just as
Caruso's had been in his time and as Callas was in hers and Netrebko's is today.

For someone like Lily Pons, or Lawrence Tibbett, or Beniamino Gigli making movies
was a lark, something to do when they weren't at their main business of opera. The
same went for an operatic supernova like Geraldine Farrar who did have an
important movie career.

Regarding the earlier diva, one can read in John Barrymore's autobiography
"Confessions of An Actor" how he approached Geraldine Farrar nervously in order to
ask for her autograph. At the time Barrymore himself, a member of an illustrious
theatrical family was already a Broadway star. But opera singers had their own
special divinity (although even the expression "Diva" now applies more correctly to
pop singers today) None of us born after WWII can conceive of just how opera
singers were worshiped by the public, even the parts of a public who had little
interest in opera per se.

Here's another example of how opera stars were in a class by themselves, when
Rodgers and Hammerstein heard that Ezio Pinza might be available, they created
South Pacific for him. It was Pinza, not Mary Martin who was the catalyst for this
masterpiece even though he barely sang more than 15 minutes of the music.

Undoubtedly Crosby was the most ubiquitous and probably richest pop singer after
Gene Autry (through his breath of activity), but I don't believe he was ever the
number one box office movie star. That honor went to such as Shirley Temple, Will
Rogers,  Rin Tin Tin (the dog), Deanna Durbin (in her prime far bigger than Judy
Garland) and Ronald Reagan.

The revisionist trashing of Pons's posthumous reputation was accomplished mainly
(but not exclusively) through British writers who were jealous (and still are) of the
United States's hegemony in cultural matters. Of course it wasn't just Pons. For
example, the noted record collector Richard Bebb told me that Harold Rosenthal
called Rosa Ponselle a "cow" (after she sang Norma at Covent Garden). I could also
reference Scott's "Record of Singing" which also IMHO, endlessly distorts and skews
the history of what he is supposedly chronicling. And so it goes.

Here's a question: has any singer ever "dined out" more successfully on the basis of
one (admittedly excellent) 78 RPM recording than Eva Turner?

James Camner

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DZjwRN6v9bE

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