The diva did Dallas! Opera singer Lily Pons, in her ’60s Dallas lair

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One of the most renowned opera singers ever left her beloved New York — the Met, the madness, all of it — and moved to Dallas in 1960. To her second-floor apartment near Northwest Highway and Preston Road, she brought in parquet floors, priceless antiques and, oh, a few good paintings — think Braque, Degas, Dufy, Matisse and Renoir. Why did the elegant, irrepressible Lily Pons come here? We reverse time — and discover

edited by ROB BRINKLEY| photographs by DORIS JACOBY for The Dallas Morning News, January 1962

SEPTEMBER 1985“In her day, Pons had been a major international celebrity. She ate barbecue with Dwight Eisenhower in the White House. She was presented the French Legion of Honor by Charles de Gaulle. When she died, mementos of her glamorous life were disposed of in a giant estate sale that was open to the public. A picture of her partying with actor Humphrey Bogart went for 50 cents. Chatty letters from Princess Grace and Prince Rainier went for $5, as did a personal note from Princess Elizabeth thanking Pons for a wedding present.” — The Dallas Morning News

1962: “Lily Pons relaxes in her Dallas apartment, filled with rare French and Far Eastern furnishings and a handsome art collection, including a gift from the artist Utrillo.

 

MAY 1976“The renowned soprano, Lily Pons (1898-1976), was born Alice Joséphine Pons in Draguignan, France, near Cannes. She made her operatic debut in 1928 singing the title role in Lakmé by Léo Delibes and went on to sing coloratura soprano roles in provincial opera houses throughout France. … In a career that spanned three decades, she appeared 300 times in leading roles, most notably Lucia, Lakmé and Gilda in Verdi’s Rigoletto. In 1944 and ’45, Lily Pons took a break from her operatic performances and joined the USO to perform for the troops at military bases throughout Europe, the Middle East, India and China. By then a naturalized U.S. citizen, she was accompanied on these trips by her husband, the famous conductor Andre Kostelanetz, who led a band composed entirely of American soldiers. In addition to opera, Lily Pons appeared in three films for RKO during the 1930s, including I Dream Too Much with Henry Fonda. She also enjoyed a recording contract with RCA Victor and Columbia and left a vast legacy of recordings. Other honors include a Time magazine cover in December of 1940 and a U.S. postage stamp with her image. From France, the country of her birth, she was awarded the Croix de Lorraine and the Légion d’honneur.” — Sotheby’s, “Property formerly from the Collection of Lily Pons”

FEBRUARY 14, 1976“Lily Pons, one of opera’s most glamorous and renowned stars, died Friday morning at St. Paul Hospital here following a lengthy illness. Funeral services will be held at 9:50 a.m. Monday at Sparkman-Hillcrest Funeral Chapel, 5405 W. Northwest Highway. Burial will be in Cannes, France, where Miss Pons was born in [1898].”

The Dallas Morning News

 

SEPTEMBER 1964“The petite, pretty woman who answered the door wore a Japanese blouse and could have been Madame Butterfly in person. … Miss Pons divides her time between residences in Palm Springs, Calif., and Dallas. She lives in quiet, comfortable surroundings of beauty and art. A tour of Miss Pons’ apartment reveals a handsome collection of art. On one wall is Renoir’s Girl Sitting in a Field. ‘I spend some time each day in front of that painting,’ she said. The other artworks include two Degas and Lautrec (the only such joint work of the two artists) and an Utrillo. Behind each painting, there is an anecdote and the Utrillo — a still life vase of flowers — has a personal dedication written on the back.” — United Press International

NOVEMBER 1960“Petite Lily Pons, the great lady of Metropolitan Opera, turned in a superb performance as hostess Tuesday at her first party in Dallas. The famous opera star has resided in Dallas since March, but this was her first entertainment for Texas friends. … Cocktails were served on the terrace of her second-floor home. … A veritable showcase of treasures, the party setting provided ample conversation topics — rare paintings on every wall, beginning with impressionist Matisse collection in the foyer; a harp belonging to Marie Antoinette; tapestries, antiques and rare books lining two walls of the living area, and even the parquet floor which Miss Pons had sent from the Orient because carpets ‘just wouldn’t do’ with her furnishings. In the midst of the gay chatter could be heard French, German, Italian, Spanish, and of course, ‘Ingles.’ The atmosphere was, indeed, flavorfully continental, as it should have been for the world-famous hostess, the diminutive French prima donna of the Met.” — The Dallas Morning News

1962: The dainty coloratura is wearing one of her favorite 56 MAY 2013 Oriental leisure outfits.” —The Dallas Morning News

 

APRIL 1960“Two pairs of Longhorn horns came home to Texas Tuesday in the unlikeliest company imaginable. ‘They have come back to their place,’ trilled opera star Lily Pons as she stood outside her new North Dallas apartment. ‘I use them for feet on a ruby bench,’ explained the tiny singer (she’s five feet, one inch tall), almost dwarfed by the huge pair of horns she cradled in her arms. She stood in bright sunlight directing movers struggling under, among other things, a harp once painted by Boucher, and two 18th-century statues that once belonged to Marie Antoinette. Her speech still laden with a melodious French accent, she gasped as one mover lifted a heavy crate. ‘I don’t know how to speak “don’t break your back.”’ Moments later she clasped a hand to her forehead with a soft ‘ooooh’ as a box banged to the floor of the moving van.” — The Dallas Morning News

APRIL 1960“DALLAS, Tex. — Lily Pons, the opera singer, has moved into a swank Dallas apartment and announced that from now on this will be her home. ‘But of course I will keep my Palm Springs home. I expect to spend the winter there,’ she said Wednesday. Her furniture was trucked from New York, where Miss Pons lived for 15 years. ‘Why am I moving to Dallas? I love Dallas,’ she said. ‘I have many friends here. And I like the nature — the flowers and the plants.’” — Wire story

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1 Comment

  1. I finally have been given the opportunity to read and see even if its just a picture of the great woman I heard so much about as a child by my grandmother, She past away my grandmother and it was then that they had said she had the role as personal chef to the “Great Lilly Pons.” Mary Tarozzi was my grandmother she resided and lived in Plm Springs all her life she past away at the age of 96 and Miss Pons You were so admired up to her death , Thank you for the beauty and profoundness you allowed my grandmother too be. I adore you Miss Pons

    Signed Grandaughter

    of Mary Tarozzi

    GG