Irene Dalis – Farewell to a San Jose Legend

Irene Dalis, Farewell, San Jose Legend, italian culture, italian heritage, italian american, italian news, italian traditions

Legendary mezzo-soprano Irene Dalis


The community will say farewell to the San Jose native and legend, Irene Dalis, the founder and driving force of Opera San Jose, as she prepares to retire. It seems only fitting that her Farewell Tribute will be held immediately following the Eighth Annual Irene Dalis Vocal Competition, on Friday May 10.
A competition that was initiated through the generosity of a very gracious, anonymous donor who wanted to honor the legacy of world-renowned, legendary mezzo-soprano Irene Dalis. And so we follow suit in honoring her today.
Miss Dalis was born Yvonne Dalis in 1925, she later changed her name to Irene on a suggestion from an early mentor. Her father immigrated from Greece at the age of fourteen and was a hat maker in downtown San Jose, her mother was Italian, a perfect balance of cultures that was to provide the foundation for an amazing life . She began her musical career as a pianist, received her bachelor’s degree from San Jose State College (now San Jose State University), and went on to sing as a mezzo-soprano on the world's great opera stages.
She was a principal artist at New York’s Metropolitan Opera for twenty consecutive seasons, and a recurrent performer at major opera houses in Europe and the U.S. She has performed in every major opera house from Naples to San Francisco, a genuine grand dame in the world of opera.
In 1957, she married George Loinaz, a Cuban-born book editor with McGraw-Hill, who passed away in 1990. Miss Dalis once said he was "the most handsome man I'd ever met." They had one daughter and two grandsons.
After her retirement from the stage in 1977, Miss Dalis returned to her native San Jose where she was appointed a full Professor of Music by the President of San José State University. Most of her attention at SJSU was focused on the opera program. The perfect complement to her distinguished career. With her guidance and experience, the quality of production improved so dramatically it took the SJSU opera program soaring to new heights. It created such a large number of young inspiring performers that Miss Dalis was able to establish a professional, regional company, Opera San Jose, in 1984.
Opera San Jose is concluding its 2013 – 2014 season, celebrating its 30th anniversary. By the conclusion of the last year’s season, Opera San Jose will have presented 124 opera productions in downtown San Jose, including four world premieres among the fifty-six titles in its repertoire. Opera San Jose also has a 
far reaching community outreach program, with almost 3,000 in-school performances. Community programming also includes adult audiences which total nearly 2,900 performances.
Miss Delia’s talents off the stage are equal to any that she performed on stage. Her management and attention to every detail, produced one of the most successful opera houses in the United States. Opera San Jose has never had a deficit in its budget. In fact, in 2010, at the age of 85, Delia was in a serious car accident. Her injuries were quite severe. She endured multiple surgeries and months of recovery, yet she still had the company’s financial reports brought to her so she could continue to guide the company through the tough economic times.
Irene Dalis, is a truly elegant grand dame. An iconic, tour de force that one only reads about in books. She is the little girl who left home and made it big. She is a survivor with an iron will and a golden heart. Dalis built a legacy of culture and sophistication with Opera San Jose. She has inspired many and set a standard for excellence in San Jose which will last for generations. Her incredible legacy will live on but it’s her smile, talent and larger than life personality that people will hold in their hearts.
Happy retirement Miss Dalis. You leave an enormous chasm in the art community and all of Santa Clara Valley will miss you.

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