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Gencer, Leyla (1924–)

Gencer, Leyla (1924–)

Turkish soprano and coloratura. Born in Istanbul, Turkey, Oct 10, 1924 (some sources cite 1928); m. Ibrahim Gencer.

Made stage debut in Ankara singing the role of Santuzza (1950); made triumphant Italian debut in Naples in Cavalleria Rusticana (1953); engaged by Naples' San Carlo Opera House to sing in both Madama Butterfly and Eugene Onegin (which she sang in Italian); over the next decades, performed at most of the world's great opera houses, with noted conductors, including the legendary Italian Tullio Serafin who put her on the path as a bel canto singer; by 1956, was appearing regularly at Milan's La Scala Opera House; sang the "Libera me" from Verdi's Requiem at La Scala memorial service for Arturo Toscanini (1957); appeared in several world premieres at La Scala, including Dialogues des Carmélites by Francis Poulenc (1957) and Assassinio nella cattedrale by Ildebrando Pizzetti (1958); became a major figure in the opera world, presenting annual guest appearances at Florence's Maggio musicale and the San Francisco Opera; sang at Spoleto Festival in one of the rare performances of Sergei Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel (1959); made Austrian debut at Vienna State Opera as well as the Salzburg Festival, where her performance of Amelia in Verdi's Simon Boccanegra earned raves (1961); by end of career, had a repertory of 72 operas, overwhelmingly Italian but also including such modern works as Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel and Benjamin Britten's Albert Herring; appeared at Naples' Teatro San Carlo in the title role of Donizetti's long-neglected opera Caterina Cornaro (1972); retired from opera (1983) and from concertizing (1992).

See also Women in World History.

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