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Albanese, Licia (1913—)

Italian soprano. Born on July 22, 1913, in Bari, Italy; studied with Emanuel De Rosa in Bari and Giuseppina Baldassare-Tedeschi in Milan; married Joseph Gimma (an Italian-American businessman), in 1945.

Debuted at the Teatro Lirico in Milan (1934); debuted at the Metropolitan Opera (1940); final Metropolitan Opera performance (1966); received the Lady Grand Cross of the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre from Pope Pius XII.

Licia Albanese was born the fifth of seven children into a close-knit Italian family on July 22, 1913. All members of her family had excellent voices, and Licia was no exception. She began to study singing in her teens, flourishing under the tutelage of Giuseppina Baldassare-Tedeschi in Milan. At 22, Albanese won the first Italian government-sponsored vocal competition in a field of 300 entrants.

In the first five years of her career, Albanese sang at Teatro alla Scala, Covent Garden, and the Rome Opera. In 1939, when Benito Mus solini would no longer let distinguished Italian artists leave the country, Albanese managed to escape to Portugal and board a ship bound for the United States. During her debut at the Metro politan Opera on February 9, 1940, as Cio-Cio-San, she es tablished a special rapport with the audience, and it is said that no singer was ever more believed by the Italian-American opera audience. She performed there until 1966. Though Albanese's voice was bright, penetrating, and emotionally charged, it was not large enough to fill a huge theater as have some historically great voices. Rather, it was her artistry that made Albanese a great favorite with audiences. After her retirement, she worked for the Puccini Foundation, founded by her husband, to further the survival of opera as an art form. In 1995, Albanese was awarded the President's Medal by Bill Clinton for her work in the arts.

John Haag , Associate Professor of History, University of Georgia, Athens, Georgia

Albanese, Licia (1913—)

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