Italian-American opera singer Licia Albanese has died, aged 105. The famed soprano passed away peacefully at her home in New York on Friday (15Aug14).
Albanese was born in Bari, Italy and made her mark in her native country as a singer in the 1930s before moving to America. She made her U.S. debut at New York's famed Metropolitan Opera in 1940, performing her signature role as Cio-Cio San in Puccini's Madame Butterfly.
Albanese, who became a U.S. citizen in 1945, went on to become the opera company's shining star from 1940 to 1966, racking up more than 400 performances, and she still holds the house record for most appearances at 87 as Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata.
The diva also spent 20 seasons performing at the San Francisco Opera in California, and throughout her career, she sang alongside legendary tenors including Franco Corelli, Beniamino Gigli, Tito Schipa, Jussi Bjorling and Giacinto Prandelli, and was also a favourite of acclaimed conductor Arturo Toscanini.
In addition, Albanese spent her extra time sharing her talents with the younger generation, and taught classes at New York universities Juilliard, the Manhattan School of Music and Marymount Manhattan College, and in 1974, she created the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation to help the careers of young opera singers.
In 1995, she received the National Medal of Honour for the Arts from former U.S. President Bill Clinton, who noted that Albanese "Had the rare ability to combine her great talent as a singer with equal talent as an actress".
Albanese is survived by her two grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A private burial service will be held on Thursday (21Aug14), and a memorial mass is planned for September (14) in New York.
Wrestler-turned-actor Dwayne Johnson is breathing a sigh of relief after his mother and cousin survived an horrific car accident caused by an alleged drunk driver. The Hercules star shared a photo of the wreckage caused by the head-on crash on his Instagram.com blog on Sunday (10Aug14), days after the incident, and confessed he had wanted to track down the suspect and beat him up for putting his mum Ata and cousin, WWE Diva Savelina Fanene, in harms' way.
In the picture caption, he wrote, "My mom & cousin...were struck head on by a drunk driver this week - they lived.
"First reaction is to find the person who did this and do unrelenting harm to them. But then you realize the most important thing is my family lived thru (through) this and we can hug each other that much tighter these days."
He ended the message by adding, "Hug your own family tighter today and be grateful you can tell them you love them."
Johnson, aka The Rock, did not share any details about any injuries his family may have suffered.
Here are this week's highlights from VH1, Celebuzz, Flavorwire, and Hollywood.com.
Will the real Star-Lord please stand up? Chris Pratt sure has the superheroics down, but who knew his rap game was so impressive? Head over the VH1 to hear the Guardians of the Galaxy star's flawless rendition of Dr. Dre and Eminem's "Forgot About Dre."
Queen Bey the prophet It really is Beyonce's world. We're just living in it. Flavorwire dishes on a 2006 interview with the R&B diva that essentially predicts her current world domination.
The young and the beautiful The kids are taking over! Check out Celebuzz's list of 17 young models with famous parents.
Netflix, just tell me what to watch already! Having a hard time choosing what to binge next? You're not alone. Hollywood.com has a list of 8 Netflix categories that need to exist.
Robert Pattinson has urged up-and-coming stars not to complain about set conditions on film shoots - because he has witnessed crew members getting payback to diva demands.
The Twilight star insists stagehands and prop bosses have all the power on movie sets, not actors and directors - and he has learned to keep his mouth shut, even if he's unhappy.
He tells Britain's Esquire magazine, "This actress was doing a scene in the bath and she kept complaining about the temperature; how it was too hot or too cold. So everyone p**sed in it and put a bunch of bubble bath in afterwards, so you couldn't smell it!"
"This stuff happens. That's why I avoid asking for anything. I don't want to get anyone's p**s on me."
Former Cheers star Kirstie Alley's namesake TV comedy has been axed after just one season. Bosses at U.S. network TV Land have cancelled the show, in which Alley played a spoiled Broadway diva reconnecting with the son she gave up for adoption. Kirstie also featured Rhea Perlman and Seinfeld's Michael Richards.This is Alley's second TV comeback to be axed after one season - her 2005 sitcom Fat Actress was cancelled after just seven episodes.
Paris Hilton has credited the late Dj Am for the turntable skills that have earned her another summer residency in Ibiza. The former reality TV star turned to best pal Nicole Richie's ex, Adam Goldstein, to learn what she needed to know about becoming a dancefloor diva - and the lessons paid off when she earned a residency at top club Amnesia.
She tells U.S. news show Hollywood Live Today, "DJ AM taught me and now I've been doing it professionally for about three years. It's amazing. I am playing all around the world. I play a different show in a different country every single day."
Goldstein died from an accidental drug overdose on 28 August, 2009, almost a year after he and his close pal Travis Barker survived a devastating plane crash which which killed four others in South Carolina.
American soprano Renee Fleming has swapped opera for acting to make her debut in a play at the Williamstown Theatre Festival in Massachusetts. The opera veteran is no stranger to the stage, but for the first time in her three-decade long career, she has stepped into the spotlight without a musical score to accompany her.
In Living on Love, Fleming plays a beloved American opera diva married to a fiery composer, and it co-stars Douglas Sills as her onstage husband, as well as Veep actress Anna Chlumsky and actor Justin Long.
Fleming managed to prove herself onstage, with critics giving her mostly positive reviews.
Alexis Soloski of the New York Daily News writes, "Like all the characters, (Fleming's character) Raquel is an assemblage of tics and quirks rather than a flesh-and-blood human. Ms. Fleming's take on the role is eight-lane-highway broad, and she has the costumes to match. But when she ascends into an aria, letting her heavens-grazing voice stand in for Raquel's, she seems entirely in tune."
Steve Barnes of New York's Times Union newspaper calls her performance both funny and "captivating", adding, "Fleming commands the theatre with an expected amount of regal presence, especially on the few occasions when she sings."
Living on Love ends its run on Saturday (26Jul14).
Getty Images/Joseph Barrak
Andrew Lloyd Webber is eyeing a movie adaptation of his musical Cats after confirming the show will return to London's West End later this year (14).
The theatre impresario's show will hit the stage again at the London Palladium in December (14) after a 12-year absence, and Webber has now revealed he is eager to see the show adapted for the big screen.
He says, "The other thing that's happening is them (my musicals) being made into movies... There is considerable talk at last about Cats being made into a movie so it gives me a chance to think about the material and how that can happen."
Webber's Evita is also returning to London, taking over from We Will Rock You at the Dominion Theatre in September (14).
Controversial comedienne Joan Rivers stormed out of a TV interview on Saturday (05Jul14) after becoming annoyed by the probing questions.
The veteran star agreed to a chat with CNN journalist Fredericka Whitfield to promote her new book, Diary of a Mad Diva, but she took offence to the presenter's line of questioning.
Rivers responded tersely to claims her TV show Fashion Police is "mean" and that she makes jokes about "off-limits" topics, and when Whitfield pointed out the funnywoman is wearing fur on the cover of her new book, Rivers flipped.
She said, "This whole interview is becoming a defensive interview. Are you wearing leather shoes? Then shut up."
Pulling out her earpiece as she prepared to leave the studio, Rivers added, "I'm going. All you've done is negative... I've made people laugh for 50 years. I am put on Earth to make people laugh."
Wrestling diva Emma has been re-hired by WWE bosses hours after she was fired following an arrest for shoplifting on Monday night (30Jun14). The Australian sportswoman, real name Tenille Dashwood, was taken into custody after she was caught walking out of a Wal-Mart store in Connecticut with a $21.14 (£12.44) red iPad Mini case she had not paid for.
She was booked and sentenced to community service in court on Tuesday (01Jul14).
After the incident, bosses at the wrestling organisation decided to let her go, but a spokesperson has now confirmed that Dashwood was rehired just hours after being dismissed.
A rep for WWE tells TMZ.com, "Upon further evaluation, WWE has reinstated Diva Emma but will take appropriate punitive action for her violation of the law."