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 Diva, Soprano, Fundraiser and Memphis Icon Marguerite Piazza dies

 Musical legend Marguerite Piazza died peacefully at home, Thursday, August 2, 2012. She was adored throughout the globe for her tremendous talent and exceptional generosity. A universally respected singer whose destiny was stardom, Marguerite’s performance in opera, television and elegant supper clubs established her in music’s pantheon of superstars.

 She has thrilled opera lovers at the New York City Opera, the Metropolitan Opera, the Chicago, Tulsa, New Orleans and Montreal Operas; and also performed with many symphony orchestras. She was a headliner in supper clubs for 18 years, with her name in lights at the Coconut Grove in Los Angeles, the Shamrock in Houston, and the Sands in Las Vegas. She played the Pierre in New York, the Plaza, the Waldorf, the St. Regis and the Americana. Legends such as Louis Armstrong and Joey Bishop have been her opening act.

 Ms. Piazza was also an early pioneer in television, appearing live every Saturday night on “Your Show of Shows” with Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca from 1950 to 1954, where she sang opera, musicals, ballads and occasionally performed comedy skits with Sid Caesar. During this time, she was also a recording star with Capitol Records, which produced “Memorable Moments with Marguerite Piazza” and “Marguerite Piazza Sings Torch”. In the 1970s, she produced and recorded “The Marguerite Piazza Christmas Sing a Long” album. Marguerite also had a short run on Broadway staring in the premier of “Happy as Larry” alongside Burgess Meredith who also directed the production.

 After surviving a serious operation for melanoma, Ms. Piazza volunteered to become the 1971 National Crusade Chairman for the American Cancer Society and traveled across the country speaking and singing to raise money for research. While retired from her professional career, Ms. Piazza continued to be active with various charities in her hometown of Memphis, TN. In 2010, she celebrated the 35th Marguerite Piazza Gala for the benefit of St Jude Children’s Research Hospital, which was her final gala. Over the course of the gala’s 35 years, she raised millions of dollars for the life giving work performed there.

 Ms. Piazza was born and raised in New Orleans, LA. She attended both Loyola University and Louisiana State University College of Music and Dramatic Arts.  She also holds honorary degrees from Loyola University in Chicago and Christian Brothers University in Memphis, TN. In 2006, she was honored as the LSU School of Music Alumna of the Year.

 Marguerite has lived in Memphis for over fifty years and has been a long-time member and supporter of many clubs and organizations, including The Memphis Country Club, Opera Memphis, the Memphis Symphony League, The English Speaking Union, The Salvation Army, and the Mystic Society of the Memphis.  Her memoir “Pagliacci Has Nothing On Me” was published in 2007.

 Ms. Piazza is predeceased in death by her mother and father and her son, James Condon. She is survived by her children, Dr. Gregory and Veronica Condon, Shirley Condon, Bill and Mia Condon, all of Memphis, TN; Marguerite Piazza Condon Bonnett and Dovell Bonnett, of Orange County, CA; and Anna Becky Condon Redlich, of Hillsborough, CA; her seven grandchildren, Katie Stratton, of Chicago, IL; Claire Condon Jessen and Hunter Jessen, Mary Elizabeth “Molly” Condon, William James Condon, III, and Anna Condon, all of Memphis, TN; and Francesca Redlich, Christopher Rudolph Redlich, III, of Hillsborough, CA.; and one great grandchild, Mary-Blythe Crosby Condon.

  Visitation is scheduled for Monday, August 6 from 5 to 7 p.m. Monday at Canale Funeral Directors, 2700 Union Ave. Extended. Funeral mass will be 1:30 p.m. Tuesday at St. Louis Catholic Church, Memphis, TN. The family requests any memorials in her name be made to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital, The Salvation Army, or Catholic Charities of West Tennessee.

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Anna Christine Powless said:   August 7, 2012 12:55 pm PST
I recall Ms. Piazza coming to my elementary school every year (circa 1970s) and singing for us encouraging us to stick with our piano lessons, and being so very easy to approach as a child. She was inspiring to children who, like myself, had music in their heart!

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