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    Turkey bids farewell to "La Diva Turca"

    Hurriyet English
    16.05.2008 - 11:50 | Son Güncelleme:

    Ashes of the prominent Turkish soprano opera singer Leyla Gencer, known as La Diva Turca, were scattered over Bosporus in line with her wishes at a ceremony which was attended by hundreds. Gencer died on May 10 in Milan at the age of 80. (UPDATED)

    Turkey on Friday said farewell its diva with Mozart's Requiem - Lacrimosa, performed by the orchestra and chorus of Istanbul State Opera and Ballet, at a ceremony attended by Gencer's relatives and hundreds of admirers.

    The video of the memorial ceremony can be found here. (Please note the website is in Turkish.) 

    The Turkish soprano, Leyla Gencer died from respiratory and cardiac failure on May 10 at her home in Milan at the age of 80. The world famous soprano’s repertoire encompassed more than seventy operatic roles.

    A funeral had been held for Gencer on May 12 at the Teatro alla Scala in Milan

    Born in Istanbul on October 10, 1928, Gencer was one of the greatest bel canto sopranos of her time. Her career spanned from the early 1950s through the mid-1980s.

    Gencer grew up in Cubuklu, on the Anatolian side of the Bosporus. She began studying singing at the Istanbul Conservatory, but dropped out to study privately in Ankara with her teacher, the Italian soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi.  

    Gencer sang in the chorus of the Turkish State Theater until she made her operatic debut in Ankara in 1950 as Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. During the next few years, she became well-known in Turkey and sang frequently at official government functions.    

    In 1953, Gencer made her Italian debut at the San Carlo in Naples as Santuzza. She returned to Naples the following year for performances of Madama Butterfly and Eugene Onegin.

    In 1957, she made her debut at La Scala in Milan as Madame Lidoine in the world premiere of Poulenc's Les Dialogues des Carmelites. She went on to appear regularly at La Scala, performing nineteen roles between 1957 and 1983, including Leonora in La Forza del Destino, Elisabetta in Don Carlos, Aida, Lady Macbeth in Macbeth, Norma, Ottavia in L'incoronazione di Poppea and Alceste.

    At La Scala, she also appeared as the First Woman of Canterbury in the world premiere of Pizzetti's L'assassinio nella cattedrale in 1958.

    In 1962, Gencer made her debut at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Elisabetta di Valois and as Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. She made her U.S. debut at the San Francisco Opera in 1956 as Francesca in Francesca da Rimini. She sang at other American opera houses as well, but never sang at the Metropolitan, though there had been discussions for her to sing Tosca there in 1956.

    In 1985, Gencer retired from the operatic stage with a performance of Gnecco's La Prova di un'opera seria at La Fenice. She continued to appear in concerts until 1992. She remained active in music and was recently appointed by La Scala's music director Riccardo Muti to run its school for young artists.

    Throughout her career, Gencer was known primarily as a Donizetti interpreter. Among her best-known Donizetti performances are Belisario, Poliuto, Anna Bolena, Lucrezia Borgia, Maria Stuarda, and Caterina Cornaro. Her most acclaimed and best-known performance, though, was Roberto Devereux, which she sang in Naples in 1964.

    The Turkish President named Gencer a "State Artist" in 1988. Since 1996, the Yapi Kredi International Leyla Gencer Voice Competition is held in Istanbul.

    In 2002, she received the prestigious Puccini Honor Award from the Licia Albanese Puccini Foundation at Lincoln Center in New York City.

    In 2004, the Turkish Mint issued a commemorative $10 silver coin bearing her figure.

    Photo: AA

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