Cavalieri, Lina (1874–1944)

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Cavalieri, Lina (1874–1944)

Italian soprano. Born on December 25, 1874, in Viterbo, Italy; killed in a bombing raid on February 7, 1944, in Florence; married Prince Alexander Baritinsky in the 1890s; married Winthrop Chandler, in 1907; married French tenor Lucien Muratore (divorced 1927); married Giuseppe Campari.

Began career as a cafe singer before studying with Maddelena Mariani-Masi ; debuted in Naples as Mimi in La Bohème (1900), and Metropolitan Opera as Fedora (1906); appeared at Covent Garden (1906); performed mostly in Paris, Monte Carlo, and St. Petersburg.

Lina Cavalieri was born in Viterbo, Italy, on December 25, 1874, and grew up in the slums of Rome. She began her career in cafes before moving into variety theaters and eventually onto the opera stage. Appearing on Italy's lesser stages, Cavalieri graduated to theaters in Naples and Lisbon and then secured engagements in Poland and Russia. She achieved great stardom in Russia and from 1904 to 1913 was featured at the glamorous international Italian seasons in St. Petersburg. While there, she married Count Alexander Baritinsky, but this marriage was nullified by the tsar on the grounds that Baritinsky had married beneath his station. Despite this ruling, the tsar, who adored the singer, gave her a generous settlement and many jewels.

A master at self-promotion, Cavalieri developed a great persona that attracted a wide public. Her voice was small scale but she made the most of all of her assets, particularly her great beauty. When she married Lucien Muratore, a French tenor matinee idol, her singing days were almost over. She ultimately settled in Paris where she eventually opened a successful beauty salon. Cavalieri's autobiography, Le mie veritá was published in Rome (1936). During World War II, she was killed in a bombing raid on February 7, 1944, in Florence, reputedly because she returned to her villa to retrieve her jewels. Cavalieri understood public relations in its infancy and it is for her abilities in this regard, rather than her somewhat weak voice, that she was known. An Italian film of her life, La donna più bella del mondo, starred Gina Lollobrigida in 1957.

suggested reading:

Cavalieri, Lina. Le mie veritá (autobiography). Rome, 1936.

John Haag , Athens, Georgia