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Subject: Fwd: Re: Lily Pons
From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Fri, 9 Nov 2018 20:12:23 -0600

text/plain (91 lines)

> ---------- Original Message ----------
> From: Les Mitnick <[log in to unmask]>
> To: James Camner <[log in to unmask]>
> Date: November 9, 2018 at 7:47 PM
> Subject: Re: Lily Pons
> Deanna Durbin??????????
> I'm sure we've all heard Deanna Durbin, and while it was a novel experience to hear such a young girl (not yet twenty) sing arias from Trovatore, Rigoletto, and other operas, it's significant to note that when both of their respective contracts expired at the same time at MGM, it was Judy Garland whom MGM chose to retain.  Deanna Durbin's career was effectively over by 1940, while Judy Garland became the greatest musical star of the 1940's, and then in the following decade, became the greatest entertainer since Al Jolson.  I don't see how you can even compare the promise Deanna Durbin undoubtedly exhibited to the impact and electricity that Judy Garland came to represent.  Judy Garland hit her peak in around 1945, and when she was terminated by MGM, she went on to concertizing all over the U.S. and Europe for years and years ---- despite her personal trials and tribulations.  She was also an excellent actress, as evidenced by her non-singing roles in "The Clock", "A Child is Waiting", and "Judgement at Nuremberg.  She put her acting chops and her voice together in her 1954 version of "A Star is Born", which was/still is Prime Garland.  And of course there was that legendary Carnegie Hall concert in 1961.
>     Deanna Durbin was a "flash in the pan" compared to what Judy Garland became.  Teenagers singing in opera (remember Marion Talley at the Met?) never were able to make it into the "big time".  The days of Malibran, Patti, and others were long gone ---------------even by 1940.
> > On November 9, 2018 at 5:34 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
> > 
> >
> > 
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