Mona Bonelli; Lyricist From Musical Family


Mona Chapman Wood Bonelli, lyricist and fourth generation Californian from a pioneering musical and theatrical family, died Friday at her Brentwood home. She was 95.

Born in Los Angeles, she was the granddaughter of lumber magnate William H. Perry, who created the 19th-century Los Angeles Theater at 227 S. Spring St. Later converted to a movie house, the Moorish-style building eventually was torn down for parking.

Bonelli’s father, concert singer Charles Modini Wood, managed the theater and lured the Del Conti Italian Opera Company of Milan to perform the U.S. debut of Puccini’s “La Boheme” there on Oct. 14, 1897. Her mother, Mamie Perry, was an operatic soprano who had made her performing debut in Milan.


Bonelli majored in literature and music, studying voice and violin at Mills College in Oakland, and later studied voice privately with Arthur Alexander. But she turned to writing lyrics, penning the words to such songs as “Crescent Moon,” “White Swan,” “Disenchantment,” “Four Songs of the Seasons,” “Rapture,” “I Am Love,” “Gifts” and “The Gypsy.”

In 1933, she married Richard Bonelli, the Metropolitan Opera baritone who sang on the first radio broadcast and the first telecast of opera. During his career, the couple traveled around the world from their homes in Los Angeles, New York and Lake Tahoe. He died in 1980.

Mona Bonelli is survived by two nephews, James Langford Stack Jr. and actor Robert Stack, two grandnieces and one grandnephew.