Lili Chookasian, a renowned contralto who sang at the Metropolitan Opera and taught at the Yale School of Music, died peacefully in her sleep on April 10, 2012.
Chookasian was born in Chicago, on August 1, 1921 and celebrated her 90th birthday last summer. In her career, she appeared with many of the world’s major conductors, symphony orchestras, and recording and opera companies.
After retiring from the stage in 1986, Chookasian joined the voice faculty of the Yale School of Music. In 2002 she was awarded the Sanford Medal, the School of Music’s highest honor. She was named Professor Emerita of the School of Music in 2010.
Robert Blocker, Dean of the School, wrote: “Lili was a source of joy and inspiration to all of us and to countless generations of students. Her career can only be described as magnificent, as she was one of America’s greatest singers. Her life exemplified extraordinary gifts of love, compassion, and grace for her family, friends, and colleagues. We were enlarged by her presence, and we celebrate the gifts she freely gave to each of us and to our School.”
Wrote Brian Kellow in Opera News: “Physically, Lili Chookasian was a woman of small stature, but the sound that emerged from that body was enormous — dark, with a power and cut that were exhilarating and, when she sang Menotti’s The Medium or Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera, quite terrifying.”