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Subject: Re: Lily Pons
From: Paul Ricchi <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Paul Ricchi <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 9 Nov 2018 21:05:07 -0500
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James, I share your views, generally, although I migh have added Helen
Traubel to the mix.

But as for this:

“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”

I think you tried too hard to get a living singer into the analogy. Pons
and Caruso were instantly recognizable names, Netrebko - not so much.
Olympic gymnast? Figure skater? “Yes, it’s Olga, I think. I am familiar
with the name, but I am not quite sure who she was...did she dance with the
Bolshoi? She defected in 1962, right? She was very pretty. What ever
happened to her - she must be in her late 70’s by now.”



On Fri, Nov 9, 2018 at 6:34 PM James Camner <[log in to unmask]> wrote:

> 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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