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BIOGRAPHY

A songbird named Dolores
by Rafael Remón, 2005

The great Spanish soprano DOLORES PÉREZ,  aka LILY BERCHMAN, was born in Madrid on May 27, 1928.  The offspring of artist parents, her father, Juan Pérez Berchman was a baritone who sang throughout Europe, and her mother, Purificación Cayuela was  a celebrated stage actress.  Her parents were her first teachers. From  early childhood Dolores became fascinated with the theatre and with performing. By age eleven she had already given her first recital, displaying such talent, that her parents decided that intense musical and dramatic studies were warranted.   She thus became a pupil of Carmen Seco at the Escuela de Arte Dramático, later traveling to Italy for further vocal training.
       While there, she won several prizes in competitions and sang in Milanese and Neapolitan theatres.  An audition for Maestro Annovazzi resulted in a recommendation to the impresario Barnú of the Opera Italiana who placed her under contract.  Barnú thought that Dolores Pérez Cayuela was not a name fit for an opera diva, so the name Lily Berchman was chosen, as it was definitely more exotic sounding.  This is the name she used professionally  during the first few years of her career.  At some point in mid-career she decided to stop using it and reverted to using her Christian name of Dolores Pérez as her professional name.    

 She made her debut at the Rosalía De Castro theatre in La Coruña as Madama Butterfly. Leading roles in La Bohème, I Pagliacci,  Faust, and  Mefistofele followed in quick succession.  In 1953 she won first prize at the international Vercelli competition among representatives from thirty eight different countries.  Along with first prize, she was given a seasonal contract for all of 1954, which included performances of La Vida Breve and Faust at the prestigious Teatro alla Scala in Milan.  On January 22, 1954 she sang the leading role in Franco Alfano's opera Sakuntala at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. The production had been stalled due to Maestro Alfano's inability to find a soprano who could tackle the demanding  role until she came along , winning raves from the Italian critics as well as from Maestro Alfano himself. A recording contract afforded her the opportunity to reach a worldwide audience in what, over time, became a very prolific recording career.   

During the 1956-57 season she made her debut at Barcelona's famed Teatro del Liceo in the opera Goyescas by Enrique Granados. The following season she again sang there in Gianni Schicchi with Renato Capecchi, returning in 1965 for Liù in Turandot.  In May of that same year she sang the leading soprano role in Guridi's Amaya with Pedro Lavirgen, Pablo Vidal, and Inés Rivadeneira at the Teatro de la Zarzuela in Madrid. In successive years she moved into the mezzo-soprano repertoire, having great acclaim as Aurora La Beltrana in Doña Francisquita.  She retired from singing in the late seventies to become a full time voice
teacher.  She died in Alicante on August 27, 1983.
This historic photograph was taken at the Gran Teatro del Liceo de Barcelona during a performance of
Granado's GOYESCAS directed by Maestro Eduardo Toldrá on January 29, 1957.    
The cast pose in the opera's customs, from left to right:
 Ginés Torrano, Pablo Civil, Dolores Pérez, Eduardo Toldrá, Rosario Gómez and Teerán.
(Courtesy of Antonio Mañogil)
If you have data to contribute to this biography please email me
Dolores Pérez
- Romanza -
ROSA LA CHINA
(Ernesto Lecuona)
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