OP0731. IL BARBIERE DI SIVIGLIA, Live Performance, 16 Dec., 1950, w.Erede Cond. Met Opera Ensemble; Giuseppe di Stefano, Giuseppe Valdengo, Lily Pons, Jerome Hines, Salvatore Baccaloni, etc. 2-Sony 88697 80462. Final copy! - 886978046222
"The happy memory of [di Stefano's] artful Fenton from Johnson's last season lingers in the ear and is nourished, on this afternoon, by his flirtations with mezza voce in the opening aria....As Figaro, Giuseppe Valdengo validates his consecration by Toscanini, for whom he played Iago and Falstaff on NBC Symphony broadcasts. His finely honed baritone has a near-ideal quality and size for the mercurial barber."
- Paul Jackson, SIGN-OFF FOR THE OLD MET, pp.16-17
“Lily Pons made her début in 1917 in a concert at Paris. She continued studying for 10 more years, making her operatic début in Mulhouse as Lakmé. Because of her youthful beauty, she lied about her age in all interviews saying that she was born in 1904. The ruse was not discovered until after her retirement. She appeared in many provincial French opera houses where she came to the attention of the Italian tenor Giovanni Zenatello and his wife Maria Gay. They assisted Pons in obtaining an audition with the Metropolitan Opera and in 1931 she made her début as Lucia di Lammermoor, the role with which she was to be associated throughout her career and which marked her farewell in 1962. The Metropolitan Opera became her home base, but she continued to appear at the Paris Opéra, Royal Opera Covent Garden in London, Chicago Lyric Opera, San Francisco Opera, and Teatro Colón Buenos Aires. She concentrated her appearances on a few well chosen roles which fit her style and temperament perfectly. In 1951, however, she sang two performances of Violetta in LA TRAVIATA, but this excursion into a more dramatic repertoire was never repeated.
Pons traveled for several months every year, giving recitals and concerts. She was always a welcome visitor for she embodied the essence of the prima donna. She was always made up perfectly and her gowns were created by the finest fashion designers. During World War II, she toured many of the battle theaters, often near the front lines, and even under those difficult conditions she insisted that she look her best in order to lift the spirits of the military personnel. Although her orchestral concerts usually concentrated on famous arias and coloratura showpieces, she did sing the première of ‘Les Chansons de Ronsard’ by Milhaud. In her recitals, she often sang songs of Fauré and Debussy. Her last public performance was with the New York Philharmonic under the direction of Andre Kostelanetz in May 1972.
The voice of Pons was a very high, light coloratura soprano. She was a very small woman, about five feet tall and very slight, so she always appeared fragile, and yet she was always in total control of her life and career. She married the conductor Andre Kostelanetz in 1938, but the union dissolved in 1958. She was one of the most popular classical singers of her era.”
- Richard LeSueur, allmusic.com