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Felicia Montealegre Bernstein, born Felicia María Cohn Montealegre on February 6, 1922, in San José, Costa Rica, left an enduring legacy as a gifted actress with a career that spanned television, Broadway, and classical performances.
Renowned for her dramatic talents and collaborations with her husband, the iconic American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein, Felicia Montealegre carved a distinct place for herself in the world of performing arts.
Early Life and Education
Felicia Montealegre’s ancestry included American and Costa Rican ancestry. She was raised alongside two sisters, Nancy Alessandri, and Madeline Lecaros, by American mining entrepreneur Roy Elwood Cohn and Costa Rican mother Clemencia Cristina Montealegre Carazo.
Her career as an artist began in 1944 when she studied piano in New York City under the famous Chilean pianist Claudio Arrau.
Felicia Montealegre began her career as an actress in New York City, where she was trained by Herbert Berghof. She studied at Berghof’s HB Studio after honing her skills at the New School for Social Research’s Dramatic Workshop. She had her acting debut in New York in 1945 when Federico Garcia Lorca’s “If Five Years Pass” was presented at the Provincetown Playhouse in English. 1946 saw her make her Broadway debut in Ben Hecht’s “Swan Song” at The Booth Theatre.
Throughout the years, Montealegre played Shakespearean parts that demonstrated her skill, such as Katharine in “Henry V” (1956) and Jessica in “The Merchant of Venice” (1953). She starred with her close friend Michael (Mendy) Wager in “Dial M for Murder” at the Palm Beach Playhouse in 1957 and “I Am A Camera” at the North Jersey Playhouse, two notable theater outings.
She made her Broadway comeback in 1967, as Birdie Hubbard in Lillian Hellman’s “The Little Foxes.” In 1973, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Andromache in Berlioz’s opera “Les Troyens,” which was presented for the first time in New York City.
Herbert Berghof, her old acting instructor, directed her in the play “Poor Murderer,” which was her last Broadway engagement.
Due to her notable main parts in well-known anthology dramas such as Studio One, Suspense, Kraft Television Theatre, and The Philco Television Playhouse, Felicia Montealegre had a huge effect on television. Her career on the small screen began with a triumphant television debut on NBC’s Kraft Television Theatre in 1949.
She appeared in various Studio One teleplays, such as “Of Human Bondage” (1949), showcasing her versatility opposite Charlton Heston. Her performances extended to live teleplays like “The Yellow Scarf” (1949), an episode of Suspense featuring Boris Karloff.
Her collaboration with Leonard Bernstein continued with his Symphony No. 3: “Kaddish,” for which Bernstein wrote the narration with Montealegre in mind. She delivered its American premiere narration with soprano Jennie Tourel and Charles Munch conducting the Boston Symphony Orchestra on January 31, 1964.
Who are Felicia Montealegre Children?
Felicia Montealegre had three children in her marriage with Leonard Bernstein. Her children are Jamie Bernstein, Alexander Bernstein and Nina Maria Felicia Bernstein.