Italian opera star Licia Albanese dies at age 105

Italian opera star Licia Albanese dies at age 105
Licia Albanese is known most notably for her role as Cio-Cio-San in Madame Butterfly. Photo: NewYork1956/Wikipedia
Licia Albanese, an Italian-American soprano who for more than a quarter century starred at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, has died at age 105, her family said on Monday.

The globally revered Puccini specialist, known most notably for her role as Cio-Cio-San in Madame Butterfly, sang 427 times in her 26 years at the Met, performing in 16 operas, and playing 17 characters. Her career with the famed opera company spanned from 1940 to 1966.

She played the lead role of Violetta in Giuseppe Verdi's La Traviata a total of 87 times, setting a record she still holds.

Born in 1909 in Italy, Albanese was known not only for her vocal talents but also the emotional intensity she brought to her roles.

Albanese began her career in the 1930s in Italy, France and England, before immigrating to the United States, where she sang for the first time at the Met in February 1940 in the role of Cio-Cio-San. She also performed for the San Francisco Opera at the time.   

Albanese quickly rose to international stardom, performing with the biggest opera singers of her generation including Jan Peerce and Ezio Pinza.

In 1974 she founded the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation to help young singers, and she was awarded the National Medal of Honor for the Arts in 1995 by then US president Bill Clinton.

Albanese was married to investment banker Joseph Gimma. She passed away at her home in Manhattan on Friday.

Listen to Albanese singing in the 1950s:

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