In the 100-year history of Glendale High School, no graduate has
reached such world-renowned acclaim in music as Mary Costa, Class of
Still looking like a youngish performing arts star, Mary celebrated
her birthday April 5. Her career has included the leads in many operas,
especially as Violetta in "La Traviata"(Verdi), which, in her debut at
the Metropolitan Opera Company, elicited one of the great audience
reactions in the history of the Met.
Costa tells how important it was that she and her family came to visit
our area in 1946: "When I was a teenager in Knoxville, Tenn., my mom and
dad and I visited relatives in Los Angeles. My aunt gave a party and a
group of us were singing informally around the piano. Mrs. Leland
Atherton Irish, a prominent supporter of opera, took my mother aside and
told her that I had singing possibilities.
"She suggested that the family move to Los Angeles and that she would
arrange for me to spend the last part of each school day studying voice
at the Los Angeles Conservatory. She also advised us that Glendale was a
perfect residential community. "When we got back to Knoxville, we
talked it over, and my Dad was persuaded to make the move. We stayed with
relatives in La Crescenta for awhile, and later settled in on Eden
Avenue, where the [Glendale] 2 Freeway now passes over Glenoaks."
At Glendale High School, as a junior, Mary auditioned and was awarded
the leading role in a revival of the 1902 operetta, "The Prince of
Pilsen." Her singing had won her the role, but the first dialogue
rehearsal was a disaster. Singing may disguise an accent, but dialogue
does not, and her strange Tennessee speech habits were totally improper
for the part.
"Drama teachers helped," she said. "By opening night I could say every
word in the script without an accent. I also was wearing a hat and other
clothes I normally never would wear. So my Dad, in the audience, nudged
my mother and said, 'When's Mary coming on?' Mom pointed to me and said,
'Hush, John. She's been onstage for 10 minutes.' "
"'Dad's reply was, 'Where'd she get that funny accent?' "