Share your memories of soprano Mary Jo Anthony

By Barb Van Atta

It is with sincere regret that BAMirror reports the passing of well-know local soprano Mary Jo Anthony. Anthony died Sunday, April 3, of a massive heart attack, according to her close friend David Bower.
In the 1960s and ’70s, Anthony was a leading soprano with Tri-Cities Opera. She later performed with both Opera Cabaret of Endicott and her own company, Tri-Cities Troubadours.
Anthony, 70, of Endicott, was predeceased by her husband and fellow TCO performer, Leo O’Leary. She leaves no survivors.
Burial is set for 10 a.m. Monday at Vestal Hills Memorial Cemetery (lot 589, space 4, east row); those attending should meet in the office parking lot a bit before 10 a.m. No formal service is planned, but anyone attending will be welcome to speak, Bower said, adding, “I think she would like to be remembered for having helped so many people in their lives. Anybody with a problem could always call her for guidance, be it with music or the everyday rigors of life.” There is a possibility of a memorial event at a later time. If you are interested in participating, call Bower at  239-6463 or email him at
Friends, fellow performers and her decades of audience members are encouraged to share their memories of Anthony through this blog. Remember: You no longer need to register for WordPress to leave a comment.

7 Responses to “Share your memories of soprano Mary Jo Anthony”

  1. Tony Villecco Says:

    I was saddened and shocked to learn of Mary Jo’s passing. Her debut with Tri-Cities Opera was in 1967 as Musetta in “La Boheme.” That was also my first year as a little boy soprano who had the second-act child solo. I always remember her being so kind to us kids. I was in awe of her: this gorgeous redhead, always impeccably dressed and coiffed and made up — the true definition of an opera diva. And the voice, at least early on, was magnificent. Sadly, she was not remembered enough by those very people who propelled her early success at TCO, but she carried on, always singing whether at her own recitals or with the Opera Cabaret in Endicott. You will be missed, Mary Jo. Godspeed to the heavens where you may sing for eternity.

  2. Michael J. Steflik Says:

    I’m so sorry to hear of Mary Jo’s passing. I lost touch with her several years ago. We sang at Tri-Cities Opera back in the late ’60s-early ’70s. In her prime, she was a thrilling voice and certainly an unforgettable personality! I remember “Magic Flute” with the “international casting” of the three Ladies. Ewa Dobrowska Michalek with her incredibly thick Polish accent, Ione Salamida representing the French/Italian wing and Mary Jo deciding to represent the American by delivering her dialogue in her best Scarlett O’Hara/Southern belle dialect: “Adieu, Mr. Papageno! Y’all don’t drink too fast”! Posa in pace, Mary Jo.

  3. Lori Wahila Says:

    I met MaryJo shortly after my divorce, and my spirits and self-esteem were at their lowest, MaryJo not only became my friend but encouraged me to sing and dance in her shows … something I had never done before. It was only with her encouragement that I was able to come out of my shell and comfort zone, and I have been performing in front of audiences ever since … something I know I would never have done without her faith in me!! She gave a lot of people the opportunity to become performers!
    She helped to awaken my creative side and for that I will be eternally grateful!

  4. Kay Schmaus Says:

    So sad to hear of the passing of MaryJo Anthony O’Leary. I sang with TCO and alternated with her in the role of First Lady in “The Magic Flute.” She was wonderful to work with, and I will never forget her beautiful voice. May she be singing for God in heaven!

  5. Karen Klecar Says:

    I have known Mary Jo Anthony (O’Leary) for more than 25 years. She was a diva in every sense of the word. Her voice was magnificent, but I knew her in many more ways besides the wonder of her voice.
    I met her when I had my jewelry store in Endicott (Hilkins). She had a great love for beautiful gems and jewelry. She liked to wear her favorite pieces with the fabulous dresses that she wore to perform in. She was beautiful with red hair and extraordinary large green eyes. She was always laughing at herself and laughing at life and made you laugh along with her. She was a pleasure to be around.
    She loved to surround herself with beautiful things. She particularly liked Oriental artwork and statuary. She was particularly fond of dragons as she was a “dragon” (her Oriental sign) and told me how her behaviors were typical “dragon” behavior.
    Mary Jo cultured a beautiful flower garden. She was very fond of dahlias. She grew these near her front door, and I was often I the recipient of a large bloom when I went to visit. I shall always think of her when I see dahlias.
    She loved her cats. She had one that would sit at her feet as she practiced her opera on her grand piano and complain loudly when the notes were not quite right. She believed the cat was the incarnation of her opera coach Carolina, who she drove to see year after year, week after week.
    When she ran her opera cabarets I loved to see her effect on the people in the audience and those who were in the cabaret. You could sense her great love of people. She provided a forum for people of all ages and walks of life to explore and display their talent. She loved to add unexpected things such as a bellydancer to her performances. She knew how to get the best from people.
    She was a talented astrologer and tarot card reader. She would astound people that she just met with her insightful analysis of their personalities and would always have positive and helpful suggestions of how to change their lives for the better. I was always amazed by her and thought that she was gifted with a sixth sense.
    MJ (as I called her affectionately) was a great friend. She always seemed to know when you were having difficulties and would send you inspirational messages or call or show up at your house to have a talk. She knew what to say and would also bring you some comforting tea or other gift to raise your spirits. She was someone I always knew I could count on to tell me the truth when I needed it.
    Mary Jo was a very wise woman. She knew the secrets of “The Secret” before the book, before the movie. When I heard those things, they were all so familiar. I said, “This is what Mary Jo has been saying and practicing for years and years.” It gave me a new appreciation for her. She believed that all you had to do was reach into the power of the universe and manifest what you wanted for yourself. She helped me to reach higher than I ever thought I could and know that, however bad things seemed now, that this was a temporary time and a prelude to greatness.
    Thank you, Mary Jo, for everything you shared with me. You will never leave my heart.
    In her way, MJ wrote this final email to her friends on the 31st of March … ust a few days before her death. It is her last message to her friends, filled with love and hope. Now she is singing a song that has no end … Sing on, sweet diva!
    Mary Jo Anthony 3-31-2011
    Hello dear friend, Today you should think of everything being bright and sunny. Love, friendships and relationships of all kinds are highlighted.
    It is a time to emulate the Sun’s active, creative ability to realize new works of art and love.
    Be a dynamic, inspiring and influential leader whose light shines for all to see.
    Show the world who you are and what you have done.
    Express yourself so that everyone you encounter can feel your warmth.

    Realize that like the Sun each morning there is hope, happiness and new ideas and events to cheer us and spread the light to others who need your warmth.
    As the formless shapes of the night vanish, the child in all of us comes alive and good cheer, an end to boundaries and success seem to once again at your fingertips.
    As you bring up your point of power use it to spread your positive energy to all those around you.
    Rise higher today as you fill yourself with the radiant part of your being.
    Be aware that there are really no boundaries as the child in you is free and will be open to things that seem to be right at the moment without worrying if this is right at this time or not.
    Go forth with your point of power and realize new ideas and ways of doing things and soon your companion the universe will guide you to new horizons that lift you above any you have encountered so far.
    Hugs, MJ

  6. Joanne Ardune Says:

    I met Mary Jo in 1972 when she was singing Maddalena in “Andrea Chenier” at Tri-Cities Opera, and I was a chorister. We only sang roles on stage together once – The Barber of Seville – but during her time there she sang, by my count, 15 roles, a feat which may be unprecedented in the company’s history. Although she had been gone from that stage for many years, I know with a certainty that she was never truly forgotten by anyone who knew her there. She was, and remains, simply unforgettable. I have a wonderful recording of her singing “Dich teure Halle” from Wagner’s Tannhauser on a TCO opera gala from the early 1970s at the Masonic Temple – it is stunning, and I play it often.

    Mary Jo was a unique personality, with many interests I knew about, and many I’ve just learned of in reading Ms. Klekar’s wonderful tribute. I will always remember visiting her when she was raising Pekingese puppies upstairs and hybridizing violets downstairs at her home. She was a wonderful singer and entertainer, and she will be missed. Sing on, Mary Jo.

  7. Bruce Reed Says:

    Mary Jo was already a very established leading artist with Tri-Cities Opera in the fall of 1974 when I got to sing my third opera with them as a young tenor — Count Almaviva to her Rosina in “The Barber of Seville.” She was very gracious and helpful to me in my inexperience at that time, and I enjoyed so much working with her. We never sang anything else together as I was very lyric, and she sang more of the spinto repertoire.
    One observation I made listening to her in the theater back then was the thrilling spin and fly the voice had, easily filling the auditorium above the thickest and most powerful of orchestral moments. It was something you don’t hear very often, but is an important part of the opera performance puzzle.
    Her passing saddens me, and I have only lovely thoughts of her singing still floating in my head.

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