Obituary: Longtime Wilton Resident, Opera Singer Betty Jones, 89
Longtime Wilton resident, opera singer Betty Jones, 89, died on Nov. 7, 2019 at Norwalk Hospital with her loving family by her side. Born in Plainfield, NJ, on Jan. 25, 1930, the daughter of William and Mary Powell, she graduated from Plainfield High School in 1947, Sarah Lawrence College in 1951 and received an Honorary Doctorate from Green Mountain College in 1992. While at Sarah Lawrence, she met the love of her life, Eugene (Doug) Jones.
Shortly after getting married in 1954, Betty and Doug moved to Wilton, CT where they recently celebrated their 65th Wedding Anniversary. Armed with a degree in art, she started painting at home, appeared in numerous Wilton Playshop musical productions and became the soprano soloist at the Wilton Congregational Church. In 1970, CT’s Governor John Dempsey appointed Betty as the first black woman on the University of Connecticut’s Board of Trustees.
A Wilton neighbor heard her sing and arranged for an audition with the Boston Opera Company. As a result, on Mar. 12, 1971, Betty made her first professional opera appearance in Boston at the age of 41, singing two small roles in Louise. Her first major role was Aida with the Seattle Opera Company in 1972. Among the other major Opera companies with which she appeared included San Fransisco, Chicago Lyric, Mexico City, New York City, Chautaugua, and Washington DC, as well as companies in Italy, Germany, England and Australia.
In 1978, on exactly five hours notice, Betty substituted for an indisposed Roberta Knie to sing the leading role of Reiza in a concert version of Oberon at Carnegie Hall opposite Nicolai Gedda. Two days later as she was packing to leave for Wiesbaden, Germany to sing Tosca, she was offered a contract with the Metropolitan Opera to cover Leonie Rysanek as the “Empress” in their new production of Die Frau Ohne Schatten.
In 1986, the Connecticut Commission on the Arts presented Betty Jones with its coveted Arts Award and a 30 minute television special on her life was shown on CT Public Television throughout the state. Past recipients include the legendary contralto Marion Anderson, jazz pianist and fellow Wilton resident, Dave Brubeck, and the noted historian Barbara Tuchman.
In 2014 Betty published her autobiography, The Music In My Life, an inside look at entering the difficult world of being an opera singer when past the age of 40.
Betty is survived by her husband Eugene (Doug) Jones, children Jeff and Janet and grandchildren Samantha, Brandis, Wesley and Hunter. She also leave numerous friends who appreciated her sense of humor and sassy attitude as well as her spiritual and family values. She brought joy to everyone around her.
A Celebration of Betty’s life will be held on Friday, Nov. 22, 2019 at 1 p.m. at the Wilton Congregational Church (70 Ridgefield Rd.).