Felicia Montealegre

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Montealegre and Louis Jourdan in 1955.

Felicia Cohn Montealegre (3 March 1922 – 16 June 1978) was a Chilean stage and television actress born in San Jose, Costa Rica. From 1951 until her death, she was the wife of American composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein.

Life and career[edit]

Felicia Cohn Montealegre was born on March 3, 1922 in San Jose, Costa Rica to Clemencia Montealegre Carazo and Roy Elwood Cohn. Educated in Chile she was raised Catholic, and later converted to Judaism, when marrying Leonard Bernstein (her own paternal grandfather had been Jewish).[1] She established herself in New York. She studied piano with Claudio Arrau[citation needed].

Montealegre's voice can be heard on two works conducted by Bernstein: his own Kaddish Symphony as well as a version of Debussy's Le martyre de Saint Sébastien, partially performed in English.

She also appeared in several television dramas, including a 1950 dramatization of Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House on Kraft Television Theatre, in which she played Nora. Another appearance on television includes the 1949 CBS teleplay (part of the "Studio One" series) based on Somerset Maugham's novel Of Human Bondage, in which Montealegre played Mildred opposite Philip Carey of Charlton Heston.[2] Although Montealegre appeared on television, she made no feature films.

Montealegre starred in the 1976 Broadway play Poor Murderer.

In popular culture[edit]

Cohn Montealegre features prominently in Tom Wolfe's essay, "Radical Chic & Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers."

Personal life[edit]

She met composer and conductor Leonard Bernstein in 1946 at a party given by Claudio Arrau[citation needed]. She and Bernstein were engaged to be married but this was broken off. Subsequently she had a relationship lasting for several years with Broadway and Hollywood actor Richard Hart. After Hart's death, she married Bernstein in 1951. The couple had three children, Jamie, Alexander and Nina.

Montealegre helped found an anti-war organization geared towards educating women against the war in Vietnam "Another Mother for Peace" in 1967. Montealegre encountered controversy when she and her husband hosted an evening for the Black Panther Party in 1970. She was a primary focus in Tom Wolfe's essay in New York, "Radical Chic: That Party at Lenny's"[3] that illustrated the evening. Two years later she was also one of the hundred arrested in a protest in Washington D.C. against the Vietnam War.[4]


She died of lung cancer in East Hampton, New York in 1978, aged 56.


External links[edit]