I found this wonderful photo on the Internet today. It is of my high school flute teacher, Frank Versaci, with the Metropolitan Opera star, Lily Pons during a USO show at 21st Field Hospital, Paoshan, China, January 31, 1945. This show was part of an extensive tour of the China-Burma-India theater during WWII with pianist Theodore Paxson, conductor Andrea Kostelanetz and orchestra.
I am spending some time this summer researching the lives and careers of my two flute teachers who have passed away - Frank Versaci and John Krell. I have prepared a biography for John Krell's Lifetime Acheivement Award which is in the process of being edited by the National Flute Association and his Wikipedia page whose review is pending. I am now turning my attention to research Frank Versaci's two International USO tours with Lily Pons and Andrea Kostelanetz and North American recital tours with Lily and pianist Frank La Forge.
Growing up I was told by a number of people that while Lily had a few flutists accompany her throughout her career, Mr. Versaci was her favorite. In our lessons he used to have me practice cadenzas in varying speeds and fluctuating timing. Sometimes he had me play the flute part to a duet while he would play the soprano line. He would then take me on a wild ride- slowing down, speeding up, twisting, turning, halting, holding - both together and in imitation - and I would have to stick to him like glue. I later understood this ability that he had to follow Lily Pons in the manner he taught me was a large part of what she liked so much about him. He told a friend that there was no reason to rehearse (even though they did so often), as Lily Pons would never sing an art song the same way twice.