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Helena Tyers

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Helena (Bliss) Tyers

Known to Broadway and opera audiences in the United States and Europe as Helena Bliss, died on April 19, 2014 in Los, Gatos, California. She was 96.

Born on December 31, 1917, Ms. Bliss was raised in St. Louis, Missouri and educated at Washington University. In the 1930's Ms. Bliss began a talented singing and acting career that would span over forty years in the United States and Europe. She retired from the theater in the early 1970's and would devote much of her time and interest to San Jose performing arts organizations and foundations, particularly the San Jose Symphony where she was an active board member for many years.

Ms. Bliss made her Broadway debut 1939 in Oscar Hammerstein and Jerome Kern's musical comedy Very Warm for May. This debut was followed in the early 1940's appearing in musical and opera entertainments for American troops presented by the USO. In 1943-1944 she performed title roles with both the St. Louis Municipal Opera and the Philadelphia Opera Company before she joined the roster of artists at the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera (LACLO). She made her debut with the company in 1944 in Sigmund Romberg's New Moon and this was followed by a title role in Robert Wright and George Forrest's Song of Norway in 1944. The show was then presented in San Francisco by the San Francisco Light Opera Company (SFLOC). Based on its critical success there, Song of Norway opened in New York in 1944 returning Ms. Bliss to Broadway as a leading lady. The show played for more than 800 performances and its cast recording was listed as one of Billboard's most popular released of 1945.

After leaving the New York production in 1946, Ms. Bliss returned to Los Angeles to star in another new production of Wright and Forrest's, Gypsy Lady. This production also starred her future husband John Tyers whom she would marry in 1947. After a successful run at both the LACLO and the SFLOC the show went to Broadway and then, retitled Romany Love, was exported to London's West End where her performance was hailed by the London press as a major triumph.

From the 1950s into the 1970s, Ms. Bliss appeared in a number of notable productions for the New York City Opera (NYCO) and in London's West End. A favorite role was Julie in Show Boat which she performed in a 1954 NYCO revival and toured both in the United States and with her husband John Tyers, in a 1968 U.S. State Department tour throughout South America.

After retiring with her husband to Los Gatos, California, Ms. Bliss became active in local charities and organizations. She was very involved with the San Jose Symphony to which she brought her considerable artistic sensibilities, business acumen and support.

She is survived by her son Michael Tyers, her stepson John Tyers and his daughters Lauren, Claire and Phoebe Tyers and Lauren's children, Alice and Jack Snyder.

Mrs. Tyers requested no memorial service be held and donations in her memory be made to the San Jose Symphony.

Published in San Francisco Chronicle on May 1, 2014
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