Lili Chookasian

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Lili Chookasian (born August 1, 1921) is an American contralto of international renown who has appeared with many of the world's major symphony orchestras and opera houses. She began her career in the 1940s as a concert singer but did not draw wider acclaim until she began singing opera in her late thirties. She arose as one of the world's leading contraltos during the 1960s and 1970s, and notably had a long and celebrated career at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City from 1962 through 1986. She was admired for her sonorous, focused tone as well as her excellent musicianship. She often chose—against tradition—to sing oratorios from memory.

Early life and concert career:1921-1958

Chookasian was born in Chicago, the youngest of three children to immigrants from Armenia. Her family had immigrated to the United States shortly after the Armenian Genocide of 1915 which claimed the lives of two of Chookasian's grandparents and several members of her extended family. Chookasian's first language was Armenian, as her parents spoke that language in the home. She only became proficient speaking English through attending school as a child.

Chookasian first became involved with music through singing at local churches and in musical programs at her high school, notably appearing as Buttercup in her school's production of H.M.S. Pinafore. After high school she began studying singing seriously with Philip Manuel with whom she took...
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