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Italian opera star Licia Albanese dies at age 105

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.

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

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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OPERA

Woody Allen to stage Puccini opera at Milan’s La Scala

Woody Allen, embroiled in revived sex abuse allegations, will take part in the 2018-19 season of Milan's La Scala when he directs his version of a Puccini comic opera, the head of the celebrated opera house said on Wednesday.

Woody Allen to stage Puccini opera at Milan's La Scala
Inside La Scala opera house in Milan. Photo: Giuseppe Cacace/AFP

The programme, which opens on December 7th, will include the veteran US director's riotous rendition of Gianni Schicci, set in New York's “Little Italy” in the 1930s. Allen's version, which was a hit in Los Angeles in 2015 with Spanish legend Placido Domingo in the title role, will play in Milan in July 2019.

The 82-year-old has faced growing isolation over allegations that he molested his adopted daughter Dylan Farrow as a seven-year-old in 1992, leading a string of actors to distance themselves from him.

The allegations, which have never been proved, resurfaced in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

READ ALSO: 'That time when…': Italian women speak up about sexual harassment


Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP

“Let's not give that too much weight,” La Scala director Alexander Pereira told AFP, adding: “There's also another part” of Hollywood that still wants to work with Allen, who has directed more than 50 films, winning four Oscars and numerous accolades in Europe.

“He's 82 years old, what does all this mean?” Pereira asked. “Let's leave things as they are.”

La Scala's season will open with the 1846 Verdi opera “Attila” under the baton of Riccardo Chailly, with Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov in the title role opposite soprano Saioa Hernandez of Spain.

“Half of the programme will be dedicated to the Italian repertoire, because opera was born here,” Pereira told a news conference.

By Celine Cornu