Juan Pons’ Forays Into Rare Operas of Respighi, Giordano, Verdi

By David Salazar

Juan Pons, born on August 8, 1946, became one of the greatest underrated baritones of all time, his career associated with a number of major Italian operas such as “Andrea Chénier,” “Aida” and “Rigoletto.” He was always heavily reliable and put together some truly memorable vocal displays during his peak years. He also gave us some great stories, none more famous than his Met “Tosca,” during which he accidentally dislocated Eva Marton’s jaw during a second-act tussle.

But Pons also had another interesting claim to fame – he was a support of very rare operas throughout his career. Here is a look at some operas that he championed that you might not have known.

La Fiamma

The baritone appeared in the1989 Barcelona production of the rare Respighi opera, alongside Montserrat Caballé, Vera Baniewicz, Martha Szirmay, and Antonio Ordoñez, among others.


The baritone stood toe to toe with Plácido Domingo and Maria Guleghina in the Met Opera premiere of Wolf-Ferrari’s “Sly,” and earned solid reviews. Of his performance, NY Times critic Anthony Tommasini wrote, “Baritone Juan Pons makes a suitably huffy count.”

La Cena delle Beffe

The late Giordano work is rarely performed, but Pons made sure to bring it to the forefront in the late 90s, singing it in Bologna alongside Daniela Dessi among others in a production by Liliana Cavani.


Pons was part of an all-star cast for the Massenet opera recording, which also included Domingo, Renée Fleming, Dolora Zajick, and conductor Valery Gergiev.


The rare Verdi opera (a reworking of his earlier “Stifellio) is rarely performed, much less recorded. But one of the famous recordings of the opera features Montserrat Caballé with Pons also in the mix.


In 2005, the baritone joined forces with Domingo for a rare recording of the early Puccini opera, under the direction of Alberto Veronesi.



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