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Blanche Thebom 1915-2010: Legenday Diva Makes Final Bow In Eugene

  • Mar 31, 2010

American opera singer Blanche Thebom, center, is seen in London in 1957 with Mary Elizabeth Maugham, left, and French actress Leslie Caron after the premiere of an opera based on the Somerset Maugham novel The Moon And Sixpence. (Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
Blanche Thebom, star at the Metropolitan Opera, died last week at her home in San Francisco. One of her last public appearances was an interview at the 2004 Oregon Bach Festival. Legenday Diva Made Final Bow In Eugene By Phyllis Villec In 2004, at the invitation of Royce Saltzman of the Oregon Bach Festival, mezzo-soprano Blanche Thebom visited Eugene to be featured in an OBF program titled Date with a Diva. A sizable number of people filled Beall Hall at the University of Oregon to enjoy her interview with the local music director of KWAX, Caitriona Bolster. She spoke at length about incidents in her operatic career, during which she sang for twenty-two years at the Metropolitan Opera and all over the world. She was the first American singer to sing behind the Iron Curtain, at the invitation of the U.S. State Department. Thebom was best-known for her blazing vocal talent and acting ability, as well as thick chestnut tresses that reached to her ankles. Her roles at the Metropolitan included everything from Mozart, Wagner, and Verdi to being the first Baba the Turk in Stravinsky’s modern opera, The Rake’s Progress. One reporter, after a concert, called her “The Bomb” because she always excited audiences with her deep musicality and charm.
Caitriona Bolster, Blanche Thebom, Phyllis Villec
Blanche Thebom visited Eugene several times as a guest of Harry and Phyllis Villec. When visiting during the Bach Festival, she once wore a medal of the Order of Vasa from the King of Sweden—her parents were immigrants from Sweden. At the time she appeared in the Bach Festival, Thebom (1915-2010) was eighty-eight years old, and has died this past week in San Francisco at the age of ninety-four. Her visit to Beall Hall was her final public appearance. Phyllis Villec is a volunteer and supporter of the Oregon Bach Festival. She is also a personal friend of Blanche Thebom’s and helped arrange her visit. Here is a clip of Blanche Thebom performing in the 1944 movie, "Irish Eyes Are Smiling"… Click here for her obituary in The New York Times. Read All