Helen Kardon Moss of Center City, a singer who performed on operatic stages, on Broadway, and in area clubs, died of a Parkinson's related illness at Penn Hospice Rittenhouse on Wednesday, Dec. 26, her 81st birthday.

As a young woman, Mrs. Moss performed as a soprano with the New York City Opera Company and the San Francisco Opera Company. Her repertoire for most of her career, though, was the Great American Songbook.

"I'm fortunate enough to have a background in many musical forms," she said in a 1994 Inquirer article. "But I guess at heart I'm a Broadway baby. For me to sing a song I have to be in love with the lyric. I'm a hopeless romantic, and I guess that's reflected in most of the songs I sing."

A graduate of Overbrook High School, Mrs. Moss trained as a soprano at the Curtis Institute of Music, at the Juilliard School in New York, and in the opera department at Tanglewood. She also attended the Actors Studio in New York and took dance classes with Peter Gennaro.

At 20, she married Eugene B. Kardon, a Wharton School graduate and businessman. Five years later he died of a brain tumor, leaving behind two sons, a 3-year-old and a newborn.

Her parents, Lillian and David Rubinstein, helped with the children while she sang to support her family.

In the 1950s and early 1960s, Mrs. Moss, who performed as Helen Kardon, appeared in touring companies and summer theater productions of musicals. Her roles included Laurey in Oklahoma, Sarah in Guys and Dolls, and Marian in The Music Man with Van Johnson. She appeared on Broadway in New Faces of 1962.

She and N. Henry Moss, a Philadelphia surgeon, were introduced by a friend. They married in 1964 and had a daughter. The couple raised their family in Merion and kept an apartment in New York.

Dr. Moss died in his wife's arms, also on her birthday, in 1990, said their daughter, Cathy Moss.

In the 1980s, Mrs. Moss performed at the Equity Fights AIDS concert at Carnegie Hall; at a benefit concert at the Walnut Street Theatre; and on several Variety Club telethons. She recorded an album, What Matters Most, and a CD, Lost in His Arms.

The composer Michel Legrand called the CD "exquisite. "I am thrilled," he said, "by the sensitive interpretation of my love song 'Something New in My Life.' Helen Kardon possesses that rare gift - a truly captivating voice."

She rarely was seen on stage without a hat. "I like hats," she told The Inquirer in 1994. "I have about 250 of them. I feel comfortable with them. I feel dressed up."

Mrs. Moss was a voice teacher and audition coach in New York well into her 70s, and shared her passion for singing with her students, her daughter said.

She served on the board of the Opera Company of Philadelphia and endowed the Helen Kardon Moss Anvil Award at the Wharton School. The award is presented annually to professors selected for excellence by their students.

In addition to her daughter, Mrs. Moss is survived by sons Brian and Bruce Kardon and five grandchildren.

A funeral will be at 1 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 30, at Joseph Levine & Sons, 4737 Street Rd., Trevose. Burial will in Roosevelt Memorial Park in Trevose.

Donations may be made to Wills Eye Institute, 840 Walnut St., Suite 1540, Philadelphia 19107.

Contact Sally A. Downey at 215-854-2913 or sdowney@phillynews.com.