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.