Forgotten Opera Singers

Forgotten Opera Singers

Dec 22, 2015

Lily Pons (Soprano) ( Draguignan near Cannes, France April 12, 1898 – Dallas, Texas, USA February 13, 1976)

                                                       with tenor Joseph Bentonelli

Her real name was Alice Joséphine Pons. At the age of 13 she came to the Conservatoire National de Paris, where first she studied piano. she Then trained her voice and was a pupil of Dyna Beumer in Cannes and Albert di Gorostiaga in Paris and already in 1917 gave a concert in Paris. In 1924 she appeared at the Paris Théâtre des Variétés in an operetta. She made her stage debut in 1927 at the Municipal Theater of Mulhouse (Alsace) in ‘’Lakmé’’ of L. Delibes. She was heard in Montpellier by Giovanni Zenatello and his wife, Maria Gay. It was on their recommendation that she came to the Metropolitan opera where she enjoyed a 30-year career.

Chronology of some appearances

1931-1960 New York Metropolitan Opera
1932 Buenos Aires Teatro Colón
1932-1951 San Francisco Opera
1934  Buenos Aires Teatro Colón
1935 London Covent Garden
1936-1941 Chicago Opera 


Odeon, Paris 1928-12-19
Rigoletto (Verdi): T'amo with Enrico di Mazzei 123.597
Rigoletto (Verdi): Addio, addio with Enrico di Mazzei 123.597
Bohème (Puccini): Entrée de Mimi with Enrico di Mazzei 123.598 XXP6771
Bohème (Puccini): O douce jeune fille with Enrico di Mazzei 123.598 XXP6772

Odeon, Paris 1929-02-20
Mireille (Gounod): O légère hirondelle 188.642 Ki-2199
Contes d'Hoffmann (Offenbach): Les oiseaux dans la charmille 188.642 Ki-2221 

Odeon, Paris 1929-02-21
Lakmé (Delibes): Pourquoi dans les grands bois? 188.640 Ki-2204
Lakmé (Delibes): Air des clochettes, pt 1 188.641 Ki-2205
Lakmé (Delibes): Air des clochettes, pt 2 188.641 Ki-2206
Lakmé (Delibes): Dans la forêt près de nous 188.640 Ki-2207

Odeon, Paris 1929-02-26 
Zauberflöte (Mozart): Air de la reine de la nuit 188.644 Ki-2229 
Parysatis (Saint-Saëns): Le rossignol et la rose 188.645 Ki-2276
Variations (Proch) 188.645 Ki-2277
Rigoletto (Verdi): Air de Gilda 123.623 XXP6832
Zauberflöte (Mozart): Air de Pamina 123.624 XXP6831 
Bohème (Puccini): Om m'appelle Mimi XXP6830 123.623

Odeon, Paris 1929-03-21
Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini): Air de Rosine, pt 1 188.646 Ki-2278
Barbiere di Siviglia (Rossini): Air de Rosine, pt 2 188.646 Ki-2279

Odeon, Paris 1929-07-06
Nozze di Figaro (Mozart): Mon coeur soupire 188.644
Entführung aus dem Serail (Mozart): Air de Blondine 123.624  XXP6925

Dec 19, 2015

Ida Abry (Soprano) (Rome, Italy 1895 - ?)

She studied singing at Milan under Antonio (or Nino) Cairone. First she appeared with great success in operettas. She made her operatic debut in 1916 at the Teatro Ponchielli at Cremona. She made also some successful guest appearances in Egypt and Switzerland. She retired from the stage in 1926.

Chronology of some appearances

1916  Cremona Teatro Ponchielli  Andrea Chenier (Maddalena)
1918 Torino  Politeama Chiarella  Loreley (Loreley)
1920 Venezia Teatro Malibran Carmen (Carmen)
1922 Milano Teatro Carcano Andrea Chenier (Maddalena)
1924 Catania  Teatro Bellini Adriana Lecouvreur (Adriana)
1925 Alessandria d'Egitto  Teatro Alhambra Adriana Lecouvreur (Adriana)
1926 Zurich Mefistofele (Elena)

Hermann Kaufmann (Tenor)

About this singer I have no information.


L'Ebrea (Halevy): Rachele allor che iddio  B 62208 695 bm
Aida (Verdi): Celeste Aida  B 62207 694 1/2 bm

Rachel Morton (Soprano) (Webster, Massachusetts 1889 - Carmel, California 13 April 1982)

She had a Canadian mother and Yorkshire-born father who emigrated to the US from Canada. In 1912 she auditioned in Berlin for Lilli Lehmann, who recommended that she study with Clara Willenbucher. She also trained under Gertrude Miller, Frank King-Clark, and Frau Niklaus Kempner, the teacher of Frieda Hempel. After auditioning for Gatti-Casazza at the New York Met, she returned to Europe to study with Jean de Reszke. Her operatic debut in December 1924 was in Nice, as Donna Anna followed by Sieglinde. This success led to Frederic Austin offering a contract with BNOC, and she made her debut as Tosca in 1925. The cast also included Tudor Davies and Percy Heming, conducted by Malcolm Sargent. She remained with BNOC until 1928 singing Tosca, Aïda, Elsa, Elisabeth, Eva, Sieglinde, Kundry and finally Isolde under Adrian Boult. In 1928 she returned to America where she sang Isolde in a concert performance with Rudolf Laubenthal as Tristan.  In 1929, back in London, she opened the Promenade Concert season at the Queen's Hall and then toured with the Covent Garden Opera Company. She then returned to New York where she opened a vocal studio and continued her concert career. In 1940 she moved from New York to Long Beach, California, where, as well as teaching, she was music critic for the local paper for eight years.  From 1967 until her death, aged 93, she taught in Carmel, California (Obituary Opera Dec 1984). Opera August 1984 quotes Neville Cardus as thinking her rather dull, and not a good actress.

Chronology of some appearances

1924 Nice Opera Don Giovanni (Donna Anna)
1924 Nice Opera Walküre (Sieglinde)


HMV, Hayes 1926-04-22
Carmen (Bizet): Près des rempart de Séville (Seguidille) E447 (7-33081)

HMV, London 1926-09-13
Carmen (Bizet): Habanera E440 (3-3110)
Tosca (Puccini): Love and music E440 (3-3109)
Faust (Gounod): He loves me E447 (3-3108)

HMV, London 1927-04-27
Messiah (Händel): I know that my Redeemer liveth D1247 (03900)
La serenata (Tosti) E457 (3-3168)
Messiah (Händel): Come unto Him D1247 (03901)
Sadko (Rimsky-Korsakov): Chanson hindoue E457 (3-3173)

Frank Titterton (Tenor) (Handsworth 31 December 1893 – London 24 November 1956)

First he became an actor and belonged to the Pilgrim Players under Sir Barry Jackson. Then he appeared at Birmingham in operettas of Gilbert and Sullivan. He studied singing under Baraldi and Charles Victor. Titterton's career was mainly in the concert hall. Like many British singers of his era he spent much time touring the United Kingdom, appearing in popular oratorios, rather than performing in operas or giving lieder recitals. Along with fellow-tenors Heddle Nash, Walter Widdop and Parry Jones, Titterton was chosen as one of the sixteen soloists for the first performance, and subsequent recording, of Vaughan Williams’s Serenade to Music in 1938.


Vocalion, London 1922-03?
Lily of Killarney (Benedict): The moon hath raised with McEachern D-02053 02680

Decca, London 1929-09-24
Tosca (Puccini): When the stars were brightly shining  F1653 MB484-2AXX
Tosca (Puccini): Strange harmony  F1653 MB483-2AXX

Decca, London 1930
Cavalleria Rusticana (Mascagni): Siciliana F1739 MB1181-1A
Pagliacci (Leoncavallo): On with the motley F1739 MB1180-2A
Come into the garden Maud (Balfe) F2231 GB2075-2A

Decca, London 1931-07?
Jephta (Händel): Deeper and deeper still K616 GA2914-2DJ
Jephta (Händel): Waft her angels K616 GA2915-2DJ

HMV, London 1943-07-01
The dear little Rose of Old England (Michael) (pf: Michael) BD1051 0EA10018

Kathleen Destournel (Soprano) (b. 30 July 1890, aylsham, Norfolk, England; d. 11 March 1972, Aylsham, Norfolk, England)

Kathleen Starling was born on July 30th 1890 in Aylsham and was the youngest of four girls. Her father was William Frederick Starling (he left his memories of Aylsham which has been published by the society) and her mother was Katherine Annie Rees Starling, nee Corney.
Kathleen became an opera singer, her father paying for many singing lessons as she grew up. According to Dad some of these singing lessons were undertaken in France.
She had a stage name, it was Kathleen Destournel (French for Starling) and she kept that name for all her public performances. Apparently she did start her career using her name, Kathleen Starling but later changed it to Kathleen Destournel and it was then that she had success.
Dame Nellie Melba (an Australian opera singer) brought Kathleen to Australia to sing. Kathleen's autograph book seems to confirm that she did come to Australia to perform. There is an autograph in the book indicating she sang at 'Her Majesty's Theatre' in Melbourne during March 1911. At this stage none of her family had immigrated to Australia. Her sister, my grandmother, did not come to Australia until 1926.
Kathleen certainly sang in operas with Dame Nellie Melba. She appeared in a number of operas at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden including 'La Boheme' in 1919 where she sang with Melba in front of the King and Queen. She had the part of the musette in the second act.
Kathleen also played in a number of benefits and Murray Keable (her nephew-my fahter) stated that she gave a performance in their barn on their farm, 'The Grove' at Horning for troops during WW1.
Kathleen continued to sing and perform in a range of theatres and eventually married an American, Robert Taylor. Robert or Bob as Kathleen called him was an American entertainer. In 1939 Bob joined The Entertainment National Services Association- ENSA and he and Kathleen entertained British Forces in England.
In 1942 they were asked to organise a concert party to go overseas. They left London on the 'Monarch of Bermuda' during an air raid. It was a ship that normally took 360 passengers but on this trip there were 5,000 personnel. They gave three concerts below deck.
They stopped in Capetown, South Africa for three days and then continued on their trip. They disembarked near Suez and took the train to Cairo. Altogether there were 42 artistes. Kathleen and the other artistes performed at camps near Cairo and then went to Alexandria. From there they travelled throughout North Africa in very trying circumstances at times.
According to Kathleen, "My husband would always arrange to place the stage in a hollow so that the audience would be raised on the sand hills." Often the lights would fail and Kathleen would have to finish her songs in the dark. Every time the entourage would arrive at a camp, there would be a tremendous cheer when the women stepped out. It was the first time in years that some of the men had seen women from home.
Kathleen continued to travel around Egypt and experienced bombings, travelled on buses riddled with bullets and with no windows to get to the camps in order to perform.
She stated that they usually zigzagged to avoid holes but on one occasion they couldn't avoid the holes and they felt everyone one of them as they drove to the next camp. She thought it would be much better to be on a camel. At one stop Kathleen discovered their billet had originally been Rommel's headquarters during the German occupation. Kathleen's group also entertained the American troops as they travelled around as part of an arrangement with the USO.
Eventually, Kathleen's husband became ill and the doctors said he should return to Cairo. However, the troop carriers were congested and it was difficult to arrange. Not only did Kathleen get to take her husband back to Cairo but she bullied, pleaded and eventually managed to persuade the officials to transport all her costumes with them.
It was whilst Bob was in hospital in Cairo that he read the book written by his sister in law Rosemary Taylor. It was called 'Chicken every Sunday' and he decided that he would retire to where his brother and sister in law lived in America. Incidentally, this book was made into a movie.
In 1946 Kathleen and Bob went to America via India and settled in Tueson, Arizona.
Kathleen remained there until Bob's death and then she returned to England and to Aylsham where she lived with her sisters until their deaths and then on her own until her own death.
She also had another stage name and that was Kathleen Reilly.

Chronology of some appearances

1919 London Covent Garden Boheme (Musetta)
1919 London Covent Garden Madama Butterfly (Suzuki)


Vocalion, London 1924-05?
Trovatore (Verdi): The night was calm D-02154 03518
Bohème (Puccini): They call me Mimi D-02154