Obituaries in the news

ROMA - La cantante lirica Leyla Gencer è morta venerdì notte all'età di 80 anni nella sua casa a Milano. Lo ha annunciato oggi il Teatro alla Scala con un comunicato. "Una delle voci più emozionanti di ogni tempo - è scritto nel comunicato - si consegna alla memoria. Non solo la Scala, suo teatro e sua seconda casa, ma l'Opera stessa chiude con lei anni di splendore irripetibili". Il funerale di Leyla Gencer si terranno lunedì 12 maggio alle 11 nella Chiesa di San Babila. "L'ultimo saluto a Leyla Gencer - è spiegato nel comunicato - avverrà con le parole della religione che lei, figlia del vicino Oriente, cantò con passione e verità nelle pagine dei grandi musicisti della storia"









In this undated photo released by Teatro alla Scala, Saturday, May 10, 2008, Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer performs during Giuseppe Verdi's Aida. Turkey's state opera says Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer who made her career at Italy's La Scala has died in Milan. She was 80. Turkish officials say the singer who was known as La Diva Turca, or The Turkish Diva, died of respiratory problems and heart failure at her home on Friday. (AP Photo/Teatro alla Scala, HO)


Renowned Turkish Soprano Leyla Gencer has died at her home in Milan, Italy, at the age of 80



The singer made her career at Italy's La Scala opera house and was known as La Diva Turca, or 
The Turkish Diva. She appeared in more than 70 productions.

Gencer died of respiratory problems and heart failure on Friday.
La Scala expressed "immense sorrow" over Gencer's death, saying the singer had "one of the most 
moving voices of any time".

Her performances provided "years of unrepeatable splendour", it added.
Gencer was a contemporary of opera singers Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi and made her debut 
at La Scala in 1957 playing Madame Lidoine in Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites.

After retiring in 1985, she devoted herself to discovering and training young talent.













Leyla Gencer, La Diva Turca of opera, dies
Last Updated: Saturday, May 10, 2008 | 4:10 PM ET
The Associated Press

Soprano Leyla Gencer, who made her career at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, has died in Milan, officials said Saturday. She was 80.

The singer known as "La Diva Turca" — the Turkish Diva — died Friday of respiratory problems and heart failure at home in Milan, La Scala and the Turkish State Opera said.
In this undated photo released by Teatro alla Scala on Saturday, Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer performs during Giuseppe Verdi's Aida. Turkish officials say the singer, who was known as La Diva Turca, or the Turkish Diva, died of respiratory problems and heart failure at her home on Friday. (Teatro alla Scala/Associated Press)

La Scala expressed "immense sorrow" over Gencer's death and said the singer had "one of the most emotional voices of any time."

It said in a statement that her performances at La Scala had provided "years of unrepeatable splendour."

Gencer was born in Istanbul in 1928 to a Polish mother and a Turkish father.

Debut in Ankara
She studied privately in Ankara, the Turkish capital, with Italian opera singer Giannina Arangi Lombardi and made her operatic debut there in 1950, cast as Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry ) — a role she would later reprise on world stages.

Gencer, a contemporary of opera legends Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, made her La Scala debut in 1957, playing Madame Lidoine in the premiere of Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites. She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in Madame Butterfly and Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin in Naples.

Her repertoire during a career spanning some 30 years included more than 70 roles. At La Scala, she was cast as the first woman of Canterbury in the world premiere of Pizzeti's L'Assasinio nella Cattedralle (Murder in the Cathedral). A debut at the Royal Opera House, in London, came in 1962 when she performed Elisabetta in Don Giovanni.

"Leyla Gencer, a world artist, had become our honour in the international scene and has inscribed her name on the history of opera," Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said.
"The Turkish opera, the international art world, have lost a great personality. She was one of the most important opera singers of the 20th century," said Rengim Gokmen, director of the Turkish State Opera and Ballet.

Fostering young talent after retirement
After retiring from opera in 1985, the singer devoted herself to discovering and training young talent. An annual Turkish-sponsored voice competition is named after her.
"Even if in her final years [when] she was not able to go on stage, she became a leader for Turkish opera stars and trained them," Gokmen said. "We owe her a lot."

La Scala said a funeral will be held Monday in San Babila Church in Milan.

The private Dogan news agency reported that her ashes will be taken to Istanbul to be scattered over the Bosporus, in line with her wishes. The strait forms the boundary between the European and Asian parts of Turkey. 





Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer dies at age 80
By SUZAN FRASER
Associated Press Writer

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Soprano Leyla Gencer, who made her career at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, has died in Milan, officials said Saturday. She was 80.
The singer known as La Diva Turca -- the Turkish Diva -- died Friday of respiratory problems and heart failure at home in Milan, La Scala and the Turkish State Opera and Ballet said.
La Scala expressed "immense sorrow'' over Gencer's death and said the singer had "one of the most emotional voices of any time.''

It said in a statement that her performances at La Scala had provided "years of unrepeatable splendor.''

Gencer was born in Istanbul in 1928 to a Polish mother and a Turkish father.
She studied privately in Ankara, the Turkish capital, with Italian opera singer Giannina Arangi Lombardi and made her operatic debut there in 1950, cast as Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana'' ("Rustic Chivalry'') -- a role she would later reprise on world stages.


Gencer, a contemporary of opera legends Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, made her La Scala debut in 1957, playing Madame Lidoine in the premiere of Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites.'' She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in "Madame Butterfly'' and Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin'' in Naples.




Lirica La cantante nata a Istanbul aveva 79 anni
Addio al soprano Leyla Gencer La Scala «adottò» la sua voce

MILANO - A vederla nella sua Istanbul ancora un paio di anni fa, quando ebbe luogo l' ultima edizione del concorso di canto che porta il suo nome, sembrava proprio di trovarsi innanzi all' ultima delle dive. Il tratto amabile e garbato fuso con la consapevolezza, la fierezza di sé; il sentirsi a casa, a posto in ogni dove - lei, figlia di madre cattolica polacca e di padre turco musulmano -; la facilità nel cogliere al volo il grado di personalità dell' interlocutore del momento: qualità divenuta così importante, questa, allorché da primadonna si trasformò nell' eccezionale didatta che era, maestra nel formare la voce sì, ma più ancora il temperamento dei suoi numerosi allievi. Leyla Gencer è scomparsa ieri a Milano all' età di 79 anni (gli 80 li avrebbe compiuti il 10 ottobre). Non un timbro indimenticabile, né particolari eleganza e raffinatezza di emissione, invero, ma un' interprete a tutto tondo.

Una cantante intelligentissima, capace di sostenere ogni parte aderendovi nello stile, nelle profondità dell' intimo. Perciò la Scala la ricorda quale «voce tra le più emozionanti di ogni tempo». «Anni di splendore irripetibili», si dice anche nella nota diramata ieri dal tempio della lirica. Il soprano turco d' altra parte, dalla Scala era stata adottata subito dopo il debutto europeo, avvenuto a Napoli nel ' 54. E per quanto si fosse fatta valere ovunque nel mondo, è a Milano e al suo teatro che s' è «sposata», dapprima interpretandovi un repertorio sterminato e poi assumendo la direzione della scuola di canto (oggi Accademia).

Repertorio ciclopico. Basti dire che il suo debutto scaligero fu Dialogue des Carmélites, che allora era musica contemporanea, e che non s' è tirata indietro nemmeno di fronte a partiture di Pizzetti, Prokofiev, Castiglioni, persino di Nono (era nel cast del battesimo di Intolleranza 1960 a Venezia), benché non vi fosse titolo di Verdi o Donizetti, Bellini o Puccini, Gluck o Ciajkovskij - insomma del cosiddetto «grande repertorio» - che non la vedesse protagonista. Voce da cantante, voce anche da attrice. Dice bene Rodolfo Celletti quando ricorda che nel Trovatore con lei e Pertile, i recitativi erano declamati così bene che le parole di Cammarano sembravano Leopardi. Un' iperbole, certo, ma che aiuta a comprendere perché fosse tanto ben voluta non solo dal pubblico ma anche dai direttori d' orchestra che mai, da Gavazzeni a Muti, le hanno fatto mancare parole d' ammirazione senza riserve.
Girardi Enrico

Pagina 39

(11 maggio 2008) - Corriere della Sera





Turkish soprano Gencer, who performed at La Scala, dies
By SUZAN FRASER Associated Press Writer
Article Last Updated: 05/11/2008 12:11:19 AM MDT

In this undated photo released by Teatro alla Scala,... (AP Photo/Teatro alla Scala, HO)
ANKARA, Turkey (AP)—Soprano Leyla Gencer, who made her career at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, has died in Milan, officials said Saturday. She was 80.

The singer known as La Diva Turca—the Turkish Diva—died Friday of respiratory problems and heart failure at home in Milan, La Scala and the Turkish State Opera and Ballet said.
La Scala expressed "immense sorrow" over Gencer's death and said the singer had "one of the most emotional voices of any time."

It said in a statement that her performances at La Scala had provided "years of unrepeatable splendor."

Gencer was born in Istanbul in 1928 to a Polish mother and a Turkish father.
She studied privately in Ankara, the Turkish capital, with Italian opera singer Giannina Arangi Lombardi and made her operatic debut there in 1950, cast as Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" ("Rustic Chivalry")—a role she would later reprise on world stages.

Gencer, a contemporary of opera legends Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, made her La Scala debut in 1957, playing Madame Lidoine in the world premiere of Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites." She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" and Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" in Naples.

Her repertoire during a career spanning some 30 years included more than 70 roles. At La Scala, she was cast as the first woman of Canterbury in the world premiere of Pizzeti's "L'Assasinio nella Cattedralle" ("Murder in the Cathedral"). A debut at the Royal Opera House, in London, came in 1962 when she performed Elisabetta in Verdi's "Don Carlo."
"Leyla Gencer, a world artist, had become our honor in the international scene and has inscribed her name on the history of opera," Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said.

"The Turkish opera, the international art world, have lost a great personality. She was one of the most important opera singers of the 20th century," said Rengim Gokmen, director of the Turkish State Opera and Ballet.
After retiring from opera in 1985, the singer devoted herself to discovering and training young talent. An annual Turkish-sponsored voice competition is named after her.

"Even if in her finals years she was not able to go on stage, she became a leader for Turkish opera stars and trained them," Gokmen said. "We owe her a lot."

La Scala said a funeral will be held Monday in San Babila Church in Milan.

The private Dogan news agency reported that her ashes will be taken to Istanbul to be scattered over the Bosporus, in line with her wishes. The strait forms the boundary between the European and Asian parts of Turkey.


Lorenzo Arruga - Dom, 11/05/2008

Leyla Gencer e morta venerdì notte nella sua casa di Milano, ma era da tempo nella storia. Quella passata, delle regine mitiche, come Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, Elisabetta, Caterina Cornaro, protese alla gloria, votate al sacrificio, fatte rivivere di forza e consegnate a noi, infelici ma piene di bellezza e amore, anime nude nella furia delle parole scagliate o nella tenerezza di un filo di voce, che pareva Donizetti scrivesse per lei; o Alcesti che faceva piangere gli artisti del coro, come se Gluck d’improvviso avesse rivelato la più nascosta passione. Alla fine la gente inneggiava alla grandezza di lei e del teatro d’opera, alla Scala l’aspettava all’uscita sotto il portico, a Verona l’accompagnava per la piazza dell’Arena.

Quella presente. Non c’erano giorni in cui non ricevesse telefonate o scritti di qualcuno, giovane, che l’aveva scoperta, per esempio in qualche vecchio «disco pirata», come si chiavamano le registrazioni furtive catturate precariamente nei suoi famosi spettacoli, diventato di culto, o in qualche «blog» dove era presentata come segno di che cosa possa essere dal vero il melodramma.

Quella futura della nostra memoria e degli studi per ricostruirne la carriera, dalla Turchia nativa ai teatri d’Europa e del mondo, cercando le asperità e le dolcezze dei suoi personaggi: colta per le letture, per le amicizie con i grandi della letteratura e del teatro, da Bacchelli a Visconti, e con un fondo selvaggio nella sua natura di cui era fiera: «Io mi sento una pastora dell’Anatolia».

Una vita di lotte per portare la verità del teatro musicale contro la facile acquiescenza ai modelli sicuri, alla appagante e ingannevole superficialità. La ricerca accurata coi maestri, da De Sabata a Karajan, da Serafin a Muti. Gianandrea Gavazzeni con lei poté creare la Lady Macbeth più inquietante che si sia mai sentita. E in scena, De Lullo o Pizzi le aprivano scenari meravigliosi e la sentivano ogni giorno crescere.

Con la storia non era mai in pace, però. Si infuriava contro la mediocrità. Una volta, a una cena ufficiale, non so chi le domandò perché lei e gli artisti fossero sempre eccessivi. Gli rispose fulminea: «Perché altrimenti in scena saremmo noiosi come voi nella vita». Dirigeva da molti anni l’Accademia di canto della Scala, affascinando, spaventando, esaltando, amando, costruendo i giovani artisti. Ancora poche settimane fa, fece sentire chi era nel ridotto della Scala. Eravamo venuti a festeggiarla in tanti, per il compiersi dei 50 anni nel teatro, che le aveva dedicato un libro nuovo, curato da Franca Cella, e un incontro affettuoso. Stava già male, di salute. Ma alla fine la sua voce si alzò accorata e perentoria: voi artisti giovani, diceva, dovete amare tutto quello che studiate e che fate. Poi, forte, come un ordine: «E anche voi tutti, amate la vostra vita, amate quello che fate fino in fondo, altrimenti siete niente». Ci diceva così in quale modo dovremo sempre manifestarle la nostra riconoscenza.



Leyla Gencer has died
  

Leyla Gencer, the Turkish soprano who has died aged 79, was one of the leading singers of her generation, enjoying a distinguished international career, particularly at La Scala.

The Milan house announced the news “with immense regret”, calling her “one of the most exciting voices of all time”, adding that La Scala and opera itself had closed a chapter of “unrepeatable splendour” with her passing. The Corriere della Sera called her “the last of the divas”. 

Gencer's career spanned four decades during which she amassed a repertoire of more than 70 roles. At the time of her death she was artistic director of the singing academy at La Scala, Milan, and for many years had regarded the northern Italian city as her home.

Like Callas she was hardly possessed of the most beautiful voice but the intelligence with which she used it was rare, while as a singing actor she had few rivals. Although she perhaps never quite achieved the kind of recognition that her talents seemed to promise she was particularly noted for her performances of Donizetti and Verdi heroines.

Born in Constantinople (Istanbul) in 1928, of a Polish Catholic mother and a Turkish Muslim father, Gencer made her European debut in Naples in 1954. But it was her first appearance at La Scala in 1957, in the world premiere of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites that launched her as an artist on the international stage.

Throughout her career she would tackle the most demanding roles by composers such as Pizzetti and Nono (she appeared in the premiere of Nono's Intolleranza at Venice in 1960) as well as more familiar parts in Donizetti, Bellini or Puccini.

The funeral is due to be held today (Monday) at the small historic church of San Babila in the centre of Milan, after which her ashes are to be taken to Istanbul and scattered in the Bosphorus, according to her wishes, AFP reported.

Born October 10, 1928; died May 10, 2008
Charles Searson, Gramophone Italy correspondent


En esta foto sin fecha difundida por el Teatro alla Scala, sábado 10 de mayo de 2008, la soprano turca Leyla Gencer actúa en Aída de Verdi. Gencer murió en Milán el viernes a los 80 años de edad. La Diva Turca, como se la conocía, murió de insuficiencia cardiorrespiratoria. (AP Foto/Teatro alla Scala, HO)
AP

May 10, 2008, 11:23AM


Muere diva de ópera Leyla Gencer
© 2008 The Associated Press

La soprano turca Leyla Gencer, quien desarrolló su carrera en La Scala de Milán, ha muerto, informaron el sábado dos teatros líricos. Tenía 80 años.

Conocida como La Diva Turca, Gencer murió de insuficiencia cardiorrespiratoria en su casa de Milán el viernes, informaron La Scala y la Opera y Ballet Estatal de Turquía.

La Scala expresó su "enorme pesar" y dijo que la cantante tenía "una de las voces más emotivas de cualquier época". Sus actuaciones en La Scala proporcionaron "años de esplendor irrepetible".

Gencer, contemporánea de las legendarias Maria Callas y Renata Tebaldi, debutó en La Scala en 1957, en el papel de Madame Lidoine en el estreno de "Diálogos de Carmelitas" de Francois Poulenc.

Previamente, había actuado con éxito en "Madama Butterfly" de Puccini y "Eugene Oneguin" de Chaicovski en Nápoles.

Su carrera abarcó 30 años y más de 70 papeles.

"Leyla Gencer, artista mundial, era nuestro honor en la escena internacional y a inscrito su hombre en la historia de la ópera", dijo el ministro de Cultura turco Ertugrul Gunay.
Gencer nació en Estambul en 1928, de madre polaca y padre turco. Su maestra fue la cantante italiana Giannina Arangi Lombardi.

Debutó en 1950 en Ankara, en el papel de Santuzza en "Cavalleria rusticana".


ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Soprano Leyla Gencer, who made her career at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, died Friday, officials said. She was 80.

The singer known as La Diva Turca — the Turkish Diva — died of respiratory problems and heart failure at home in Milan, La Scala and the Turkish State Opera and Ballet said.
Gencer was born in Istanbul in 1928 to a Polish mother and a Turkish father.

She studied privately in Ankara, the Turkish capital, with Italian opera singer Giannina Arangi Lombardi and made her operatic debut there in 1950, cast as Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" ("Rustic Chivalry") — a role she would later reprise on world stages.

Gencer, a contemporary of opera legends Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, made her La Scala debut in 1957, playing Madame Lidoine in the premiere of Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites." She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in "Madame Butterfly" and Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" in Naples.
Her repertoire during a career spanning some 30 years included more than 70 roles. At La Scala, she was cast as the first woman of Canterbury in the world premiere of Pizzeti's "L'Assasinio nella Cattedralle" ("Murder in the Cathedral"). A debut at the Royal Opera House, in London, came in 1962 when she performed Elisabetta in "Don Giovanni."


After retiring from opera in 1985, the singer devoted herself to discovering and training young talent. An annual Turkish-sponsored voice competition is named after her.


Milan, 14.01.2009
Farewell to Leyla Gencer

Leyla Gencer passed away yesterday night, 9th May, at her home in Milan. La Scala was her theatre, but over the years it had become a second home, especially since she was the artistic director of the La Scala Singing Academy, a role that she approached with her natural determination and rigour.

Leyla Gencer was born in Istanbul, Turkey, on 10th October 1928.  The turning point of the youth she spent in a large house on the Bosporus came with the first musical meeting of her life. The distinguished soprano Giannina Arangi Lombardi, then at the end of her career, heard the young Gencer and offered to give her singing lessons. Those lessons were to be decisive for the training of one of the most stirring voices of all time.


Leyla Gencer naturally made her way to Italy, where her first performances in various theatres lead her to a crucial audition at La Scala in 1956. Victor De Sabata heard her in Cieli azzurri and was dazzled by her talent. The conductor’s illness prevented him from making her Aida, the role in which he had imagined her, but she performed the world premiere of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmelites under Nino Sanzogno’s direction. She then had the honour to perform Verdi’s Requiem in Milan’s Duomo for Toscanini’s death, under the baton of De Sabata, who had left his retreat in Santa Margherita for that one event.



Since that time, nineteen roles at La Scala, all characterised by discovery and risk-taking, and a series of fundamental dates, premieres and collaborations with great colleagues and legendary conductors. With Leyla Gencer, last queen, an era in the history of opera comes to an end. Definitively.



11/05/2008
pag. 36
La lirica è in lutto Addio alla Gencer la turca in Italia


SATRAGNI GIANGIORGIO

GIANGIORGIO SATRAGNI MILANO Si è spenta a Milano, nella notte fra venerdì e sabato, Leyla Gencer, il celebre soprano turco naturalizzato italiano cui la malattia ha impedito di festeggiare nel prossimo ottobre gli 80 anni. Voce tra le più ragguardevoli del secondo Novecento, la Gencer aveva esordito nel 1950 ad Ankara come Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana di Mascagni e si era ben presto affermata nel nostro Paese, debuttando nel ‘57 alla Scala quale Madame Lidoine nella prima mondiale dei Dialoghi delle carmelitane di Poulenc. Al teatro milanese, che ricorda come «l’Opera stessa chiude con lei anni di splendore irripetibili», la Gencer restò legata per molto tempo, inserendosi quale diva fra le dive in un agone che annoverava i nomi della Callas, della Tebaldi, della Olivero e in seguito della Caballé. Alla Scala era ancora attiva quale responsabile dell’Accademia di perfezionamento per cantanti.


Dotata di temperamento e rigore interpretativo, uniti a un timbro corposo e allo stesso tempo limpido, la Gencer fu artefice della rinascita esecutiva di Donizetti: in questa prospettiva restano pietre miliari le sue interpretazioni in Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda e Roberto Devereux. Fu anche ragguardevole nel Bellini di Norma e Beatrice di Tenda e affrontò tutti i principali ruoli drammatici di Verdi, inclusa Lady Macbeth. Nel ‘57 aveva cantato nella Messa da Requiem di Verdi ai funerali di Toscanini. Le sue esequie si terranno in San Babila a Milano domani alle 11.


La Stampa - Nazionale



Leyla Gencer, soprano turque
LE MONDE | 13.05.2008 à 15h47 • Mis à jour le 13.05.2008 à 15h47 |

Comme il est coutume de dire que la contralto britannique Kathleen Ferrier (1912-1953) occulta l'importance de sa consoeur hollandaise Aafje Heinis, ou que la carrière de la soprano autrichienne Elisabeth Schwarzkopf (1915-2006) brima celle de Lisa della Casa, il est souvent prétendu que la soprano turque Leyla Gencer, qui vient de mourir, à Milan, samedi 10 mai, à l'âge de 79 ans, a souffert du statut de légende vivante de sa rivale Maria Callas (1923-1977). Comble de malchance pour Gencer, une autre rivale fameuse, Renata Tebaldi (1922-2004), s'interposa entre elle et Callas... Mais si le chant essentiellement apollinien de Tebaldi ne pouvait se comparer par sa nature à celui de Callas, l'engagement dramatique de Gencer le rappelait en bien des points.

A l'époque de ses débuts à la Scala, dans la première mondiale, en italien, des Dialogues des carmélites, de Francis Poulenc, en 1957, Leyla Gencer était souvent affectée aux deuxièmes distributions de l'illustre maison milanaise, tandis que Callas régnait sur les premières. Mais "la Diva turque", qui avait fait ses débuts à Ankara, en 1950, aura chanté un répertoire plus large (72 rôles), qui, outre le bel canto italien (avec une prédilection pour Donizetti), comprenait des créations et des opéras du XXe siècle ainsi que beaucoup de raretés oubliées de l'opéra italien du XIXe siècle qu'elle servait avec un respect scrupuleux du texte et de ses indications. Gencer partageait avec Callas un caractère trempé et ombrageux et les anecdotes à propos de ses "caprices" ne manquent pas.

En dépit d'une rivalité entretenue surtout par les partisans de la Grecque et de la Turque, Gencer reconnaissait cependant, dans un entretien en anglais transcrit sur le site Internet www.belcantosociety.org que Callas "avait la voix la plus imparfaite du monde, mais cela ne veut rien dire. Elle était pleine de défauts, mais elle avait le feu sacré. Elle était merveilleuse. Qui l'égale aujourd'hui ?".

UN CHANT ENGAGÉ

Si Callas est aujourd'hui aussi connue que du temps où elle chantait sur scène, c'est notamment en raison d'un legs discographique important. Leyla Gencer a quant à elle peu enregistré en studio, et les témoignages de son art sont le plus souvent captés sur le vif et publiés dans des éditions pirates, en opéras séparés ou en coffrets anthologiques. On trouve beaucoup d'extraits filmés, certains publiés officiellement (par la firme américaine Vai), d'autres reproduits par des particuliers sur des sites Web, dont YouTube.
Le chant de Gencer était extrêmement engagé, et ses incarnations dramatiques allaient parfois à l'encontre de la beauté du son. Elle manquait d'agilité, mais le timbre était superbe et sa musicalité en aura touché plus d'un. Sa qualité première est demeurée un aigu pianissimo dont elle a parfois abusé, surtout lorsque le tonus de la voix lui manquait et que le vibrato la gagnait dans les nuances fortes. La chanteuse reconnaissait d'ailleurs qu'elle avait donné "davantage de mauvaises représentations que de bonnes".

On l'entend ainsi se produire, à 50 ans, à l'Opéra de San Francisco, avec la voix d'une chanteuse en toute fin de carrière. Mais ce document, reproduit sur le site www.youtube.com, est, comme tant d'autres, enregistré dans des conditions précaires et donc sujet à caution. Gencer ne se retirera de la scène lyrique qu'en 1985 et ne donnera plus que des concerts, jusqu'en 1992. Ensuite, elle s'est consacrée à l'enseignement, notamment à la Scala de Milan, où elle fut directrice du programme pour les jeunes chanteurs à l'instigation du chef d'orchestre Riccardo Muti.

Après une crémation à Milan, le 12 mai, ses cendres devaient être dispersées dans la baie du Bosphore, dans son pays natal.
Renaud Machart











Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer, one of the greatest opera singers of the 20th century, has died of heart failure in Italy at the age of 79, a Turkish arts foundation announced Saturday.

Born in Istanbul in October 1928, Gencer won international recognition after her debut in 1957 at La Scala theatre in Milan as Madame Lidoine in the world premiere of Poulenc's "Les Dialogues des Carmelites".

Known as "La Diva Turca," she performed at La Scala and other leading world theatres until 1985, accumulating a repertoire of more than 70 roles, notably the great heroines of Donizetti.
She was the artistic director of La Scala Singing Academy when she passed away Friday in her home in Milan.

"With Leyla Gencer, last queen, an era in the history of opera comes to an end. Definitively," a statement on La Scala's web site said.

Gencer's funeral ceremony will be held in Milan on Monday, after which her body would be cremated in line with her will, the Istanbul Culture and Arts Foundation, which organises a voice competition bearing her name, said in a statement carried by Anatolia news agency.
Her ashes will then be brought to Istanbul and scattered in the Bosphorus. 




Turkish opera diva Leyla Gencer dies aged 80
By SUZAN FRASER
updated 1:48 p.m. ET May 10, 2008

ANKARA, Turkey - Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer, who made her career at Italy's La Scala, has died in Milan, two opera houses said Saturday. She was 80.
The singer who was known as La Diva Turca — or The Turkish Diva — died of respiratory problems and heart failure in her home on Friday, La Scala and the Turkish State Opera and Ballet announced.

La Scala expressed "immense sorrow" over Gencer's death and said the singer had "one of the most moving voices of any time."

It said her performances at La Scala had provided "years of unrepeatable splendor."
Gencer, a contemporary of opera legends Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, made her debut at La Scala in 1957, playing Madame Lidoine in the premier of Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites." She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in "Madame Butterfly" and Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" in Naples.

Her repertoire during a career spanning some 30 years included more than 70 roles. At La Scala, she was cast as The First Woman of Canterbury in the world premier of Pizzeti's "L'Assasinio nella Cattedralle" ("Murder in the Cathedral"). A debut at the Royal Opera House, in London, came in 1962 when she performed Elisabetta in "Don Giovanni."
"Leyla Gencer, a world artist, had become our pride in the international scene and has inscribed her name on the history of opera," said Turkey's Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay.
"The Turkish opera, the international art world, have lost a great personality. She was one of the most important opera singers of the 20th century," said Rengim Gokmen, director of the Turkish State Opera and Ballet.

Turkish President Abdullah Gul also paid tribute, calling the singer "the greatest diva of our operatic history" and "an ambassador of culture for our country."

Gencer was born in Istanbul in 1928, to a Polish mother and a Turkish father. She cut short studies at the Istanbul conservatory in favor of private tutorials from Italian opera singer Giannina Arangi Lombardi in the Turkish capital, Ankara.

She made her opera debut in the city in 1950, cast as Santuzza, in Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" ("Rustic Chivalry"), a role she would later reprise on world stages.
After retiring from opera in 1985, the singer devoted herself to discovering and training young talent. An annual Turkish-sponsored voice competition is named after her.

"Even if in her final years she was not able to go on stage, she became a leader for Turkish opera stars and trained them," Gokmen said. "We owe her a lot."

La Scala said a funeral will be held Monday in San Babila Church in Milan.

The private Dogan news agency reported that her ashes would then be brought to Istanbul to be scattered over the Bosporus, in line with her wishes. The strait forms the boundary between the European and Asian parts of Turkey.





Page 33, July 2008
Leyla Gencer

Turkish soprano, in Milan, on May 9, aged 79. Few sopranos specializing in the
bel canto repertory ever surpassed the extraordinary achievements of Leyla Gencer. Milan was the centre of the Turkish star's career: she made her debut there in 1957, as the prudent prioress Mme Lidoine in the premiere of Poulenc 's Dialogues des Carmelites. Over the next two decades Gencer sang 19 roles at La Scala, becoming one of that theatre's favourite sopranos of the 20th century.

All great singers have some vocal signature that sets them apart from others. Gencer had several: an exquisite, floated pianissimo (unforgettably executed in '0 patria mia' and 'Addio del passato' , among other arias); a commanding chest voice that she was always unafraid to unleash; and a means of breath support that was nothing short of staggering. From her principal teachers, Giannina ArangiLombardi and Apollo Granforte, she mastered the technique of singing from 'the diaphragm, in maschera' . She was also a compelling vocal and dramatic presence.

(In Maria Stuarda, her denunciation of Elisabetta,'Vii bastarda' ,was so hairraising that she often drew frantic applause mid-scene.) Later, when her voice did not always do what she wanted it to, Gencer could still be counted on to sing with nothing less than utter commitment.

As Giorgio Corapi once observed of Gencer, 'Her biography is full of unresolved contradictions and many blanks purposely left unfilled, which in its vagueness seems destined to become a myth.' Born in Istanbul on 10 October 1928 to a Polish Catholic mother and Turkish Muslim father, Gencer studied at the conservatory there. She came to the attention of Arangi-Lombardi, who took her on as a pupil and arranged for her professional debut at the State Opera House in Ankara in 1950. Arangi-Lombardi died the following year, and in 1953-4 Gencer made a successful Italian debut as Santuzza at Naples's outdoor Arena Flegrea, before an audience of 10,000. Tullio Serafin heard her and invited her to appear at the Teatro Di San Carlo in both Madama Butterfly and Yevgeny Onegin.

Over the years Gencer would sing with many of the great Italian conductors —De Sabata, Gavazzeni, Gui —but Serafin became the greatest single influence on her career. It was he who pointed her on the path towards the bel canto repertory, which was just beginning to enjoy a major renaissance in the hands of Maria Callas. Bel canto would become the cornerstone of Gencer's career: over the next two and a half decades, she sang Lucia, Norma, Amina, Elvira, Caterina Cornaro, Lucrezia Borgia , Antonina in Belisario, and all three demanding lead roles in Donizetti's 'Three Queens' trilogy: Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Elisabetta in Roberto Devereux. She also excelled as Verdi heroines, notably Aida, Lady Macbeth, both Leonoras and Elena in I vespri siciliani. In 1956 she made her US debut in San Francisco Opera's Francesca da Rimini, and went on to appear in Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas (a memorable 1973 Lucrezia Borgia, with Tatiana Troyanos),New Orleans and San Diego. She was never able to work out a satisfactory Met debut; thus her 1972 appearance in New Jersey State Opera's Attila was billed as her 'New York area debut'. At La Scala in 1958, she sang the First Woman of Canterbury in the premiere of Pizzetti's L'assassinio nella cattedrale , which she later dismissed as 'not a very good part'.

More controversial were Gencer 's Mozart performances. Her interpretation of `Martern aller Arten' , from Die Enffiihrung aus dem Serail, is a dazzling display of technical virtuosity and a blazing vocal personality, but some critics were dismissive of it. 'I thought, at this time,' said Gencer in the 1990s, 'that Mozart must be interpreted in the Italian style, because Mozart loved the Italian style, and he composed for Italian singers ... It was rare at this time to find a singer like me to sing this repertory. Now they say I was right.'

It was for Donna Anna that she came to Covent Garden in 1962, when she also stood in as Elisabetta. Glyndeboume heard her as the Countess, and she sang two Donizetti roles at the Edinburgh Festival.

Because they overlapped in the bel canto repertory, comparisons with Callas were inevitable—particularly during the late 1950s, when both singers were appearing regularly at La Scala. Gencer later observed, 'I was the young soprano who came into the company, and she was already there. But we never had any difficulties.' But Callas trumped Gencer when it came to recording projects: Gencer never made a single commercial recording, although her best work is generously documented in a series of pirate discs.

Gencer sang her final operatic performance (Gnecco's La prova d'un opera seria) at La Fenice in 1985, although she continued to appear in recital until 1992.A 1980 Paris recital disc demonstrates that she could still create vocal magic — especially in her 'Al dolce guidami castel natio' from Anna Bolena.


Unlike many of her contemporaries, Gencer enjoyed a happy personal life. She was married to Ibrahim Gencer, an executive at Turkey's Yapi Kredi Bank. Beginning in 1995, she presided over the Leyla Gencer Voice Competition, held in Istanbul every two years. Later, she was engaged by Riccardo Muti to head up La Scala's School for Young Artists. On May 16, her ashes were scattered into the Bosporous after a special ceremony, held in the public square between the Dolmabahce Palace and Dolmabahce Mosque. BRIAN KELLOW







Breaking News
Turkish Soprano Leyla Gencer, 79, Incomparable Interpreter of Donizetti Heroines, Has Died

May 11, 2008




LEYLA GENCER
Istanbul, Turkey, October 10, 1928 – Milan, Italy, May 9, 2008

Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer, who reigned for a quarter-century as an incomparable interpreter of bel canto heroines — in addition to making significant excursions into Verdi, Mozart, Prokofiev and Puccini — has died at the age of 79. Gencer died of respiratory problems and heart failure on Friday. Her death was reported by Milan's Teatro alla Scala, where, between 1957 and 1983, the soprano sang nineteen roles, and later administered its young artist program. 


Endowed with a dramatic coloratura voice, memorable for its thrust, force and an upper register often deployed by means of haunting pianissimos, Gencer's career was rather idiosyncratic: unfairly labeled as something of a Callas imitator because of the breadth of repertoire that the two shared, Gencer's voice was never granted a single commercial recording, but was rather preserved for posterity by means of a spate of pirate recordings of live performances — a fact which earned the soprano the sobriquet "The Pirate Queen." In addition, while Gencer performed at a number of U.S. opera houses, she never graced the stage of the Metropolitan Opera. Negotiations over 1956 Tosca performances at the Met failed to come to fruition; 1972 performances of Verdi's Attila at New Jersey State opera — billed as her "New York area debut" — and Carnegie Hall performances of Donizetti's Caterina Cornaro were the closest the soprano ever came to the house. 


Born in 1928 to a Polish Catholic mother and an affluent Turkish Muslim father, Gencer credited her French au pair with instilling in her an appreciation for the arts at an early age. The soprano enrolled at the music conservatory in Istanbul, but, following an impromptu audition, fell under the tutelage of Italian soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, who had been vacationing in the city. Gencer regularly performed in the chorus of the Turkish State Theater, and, following Arangi-Lombardi's death, began studying with Italian baritone Apollo Granforte, who maintained a teaching residency at a theater in Ankara. 


The soprano made her professional debut in 1950 at Ankara's State Theater, singing Santuzza in a Turkish-language Cavalleria Rusticana. An invitation by RAI to present a recital in Rome was followed by an audition at the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. Gencer was offered a run of Italian-language Cavallerias at the outdoor Arena Flegrea, scheduled for the following week. One of those outings, witnessed by Tullio Serafin, garnered the soprano her official Italian debut as Cio-Cio-San in 1954 Butterfly performances at the Teatro San Carlo, conducted by Gabriele Santini. The following month, in the same venue, Serafin paced the young soprano as Tatyana in performances of Eugenio Onegin that effectively launched her career. Butterflys and Traviatas in Italy followed, and, in 1956, the soprano made her U.S. debut, singing the title role in San Francisco Opera performances of Francesca da Rimini. Gencer would go on to sing in Chicago, Philadelphia, Dallas, New Orleans and San Diego. 


In 1957, Gencer made her La Scala debut, singing Mme. Lidoine in the world premiere of Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmélites. The performance marked a personal triumph as well as the beginning of the soprano's long association with the venerable Italian house. Between 1957 and 1983, Gencer took on nineteen roles at La Scala, which included a number of Donizetti heroines in addition to Leonora in Forza del Destino, Elisabetta in Don Carlos, Aïda, Lady Macbeth, Norma, Ottavia in L'Incoronazione di Poppea and Gluck's Alceste. The company's 1958 world premiere of Pizzetti's L'Assassinio Nella Cattedrale found Gencer performing — by the composer's request — the First Woman of Canterbury. The soprano's Covent Garden debut arrived in 1962, with performances of Elisabetta and Donna Anna. 


During the height of her career, Gencer combined traversals of bel canto heroines — including Lucia, Amina, Puritani's Elvira, Gilda, Anna Bolena, Lucrezia Borgia, Poliuto's Paolina, Caterina Cornaro and Norma — with performances of principal roles in Verdi works, including Macbeth, La Traviata and such rarities as La Battaglia di Legnano, Gerusalemme and I Due Foscari. Her 1964 performance of Elisabetta in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux remains something of a seminal interpretation, at once calling on her distinctive capacities for ethereal pianissimos and jarring glottal attacks. In fact, Gencer hinted that it was American critics' insistence on the qualities of a "voce pura" that prevented her from finding greater success in the United States. 


The soprano illuminated the rationale behind her distinctively dramatic approach to bel canto works in a 2003 OPERA NEWS interview: "For me, Donizetti is a very great composer of the nineteenth century, who has never been understood, never had his proper value. Donizetti can be very interesting if it has great interpreters, because he is a true man of the theater. When we arrive at Donizetti, there is no longer the bel canto of the Baroque era. Now, the melodrama becomes sung theater, really. In my era I understood it this way — no one taught me. This was my truth. But I feel it was truth also because, if any of it has remained true to you all, it means that which I did was true." 


While Gencer retired from the opera stage in 1985, following a performance of Gnecco's La Prova di un'Opera Seria at La Fenice, she continued to concertize until 1992. After her own career had ended, the soprano helped to foster those of young artists, sitting on competition juries, giving masterclasses, and serving as the jury chairman of Istanbul's Yapi Kredi International Leyla Gencer Voice Competition. Maestro Riccardo Muti, with whom she had performed, chose Gencer to run La Scala's School for Young Artists in the late 1990s.

Leyla Gencer | Opera soprano, 79

Soprano Leyla Gencer, 79, who made her career at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, died of respiratory problems and heart failure at home Friday in Milan, officials said.
La Scala expressed "immense sorrow" over Miss Gencer's death and said the singer had "one of the most emotional voices of any time."

Miss Gencer was born in Istanbul in 1928 to a Polish mother and a Turkish father.
She studied privately in Ankara, the Turkish capital, with Italian opera singer Giannina Arangi Lombardi and made her operatic debut there in 1950, cast as Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana (Rustic Chivalry) - a role she would later reprise on world stages.

Miss Gencer, a contemporary of opera legends Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, made her La Scala debut in 1957, playing Madame Lidoine in the premiere of Francis Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites. She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in Madame Butterfly and Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin in Naples.

At La Scala, she was cast as the first woman of Canterbury in the world premiere of Pizzeti's L'Assassinio nella Cattedralle (Murder in the Cathedral). A debut at London's Royal Opera House came in 1962, when she performed Elisabetta in Don Giovanni.

- AP

Turkish opera singer Leyla Gencer, 80
Soprano known as La Diva Turca gained fame at Italy's La Scala.
By Suzan Fraser, Associated Press
Article Launched: 05/10/2008 09:37:00 PM PDT

Soprano Leyla Gencer performs in Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida" at Italy's La Scala opera house.
The Turkish State Opera and Ballet says Gencer, 80, died in Milan of respiratory problems and heart failure. (Teatro alla Scala)

ANKARA, Turkey - Soprano Leyla Gencer, who made her career at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, has died in Milan, officials said Saturday. She was 80.

The singer known as La Diva Turca - the Turkish Diva - died Friday of respiratory problems and heart failure at home in Milan, La Scala and the Turkish State Opera and Ballet said.
La Scala expressed "immense sorrow" over Gencer's death and said the singer had "one of the most emotional voices of any time."

It said in a statement that her performances at La Scala had provided "years of unrepeatable splendor."

Gencer was born in Istanbul in 1928 to a Polish mother and a Turkish father.
She studied privately in Ankara, the Turkish capital, with Italian opera singer Giannina Arangi Lombardi and made her operatic debut there in 1950, cast as Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" ("Rustic Chivalry") - a role she would later reprise on world stages.

Gencer, a contemporary of opera legends Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, made her La Scala debut in 1957, playing Madame Lidoine in the premiere of Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites." She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in "Madame Butterfly" and Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" in Naples.
Her repertoire during a career spanning some 30 years included more than 70 roles. At La Scala, she was cast as the first woman of Canterbury in the world premiere of Pizzeti's "L'Assasinio nella

Cattedralle" ("Murder in the Cathedral"). A debut at the Royal Opera House, in London, came in 1962 when she performed Elisabetta in "Don Giovanni."
"Leyla Gencer, a world artist, had become our honor in the international scene and has inscribed her name on the history of opera," Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said.

"The Turkish opera, the international art world, have lost a great personality. She was one of the most important opera singers of the 20th century," said Rengim Gokmen, director of the Turkish State Opera and Ballet.


After retiring from opera in 1985, the singer devoted herself to discovering and training young talent. An annual Turkish-sponsored voice competition is named after her.

SIOL KULTURA
ponedeljek 12.05.2008, 09:42
Umrla operna pevka Leyla Gencer

Milano - Na svojem domu v Milanu je v soboto v 80. letu starosti umrla ena največjih sopranistk 20. stoletja, Leyla Gencer, poroča italijanski časnik La Repubblica.

Gencerjeva je pela v obdobju dveh opernih legend, Marie Callas in Renate Tebaldi. Mnogi ljubitelji opere so jo šteli za eno največjih pevk 20. stoletja.
"Turška diva" in "kraljica" opernega sveta

Gencerjeva, znana kot "turška diva" in "kraljica" v opernem svetu, je bila priznana bel canto sopranistka, ki je večino kariere delovala v Italiji, od zgodnjih 50-ih do sredine 80-ih let. V svojem repertoarju je imela več kot 70 vlog, piše v spletni enciklopediji.

Debutirala leta 1950 v Ankari

Rodila se je v Carigradu 10. oktobra 1928. Občinstvu se je prvič predstavila leta 1950 v Ankari kot Santuzza v operi Cavalleria Rusticana. V Scali je debutirala leta 1957 v vlogi Madame Lidoine na premieri Dialoga karmeličank Francisa Poulenca.



V svoji tri desetletja dolgi karieri je interpretirala glavne vloge v številnih opernih delih, kot sta Puccinijeva Madame Butterfly in Verdijeva Lady Macbeth. Nastopila je na najpomembnejših odrih sveta, od Kraljeve operne hiše v Londonu do Bolšoj teatra v Moskvi.

STA

Foto: Reuters





Leyla Gencer; Turkish soprano made mark on Italian stage
Leyla Gencer performed during Giuseppe Verdi's "Aida." Ms. Gencer was known as La Diva Turca, the Turkish Diva. (Teatro alla Scala via Associated Press)
Email|Print|Single Page| Text size – + By Suzan Fraser
Associated Press / May 11, 2008

ANKARA, Turkey - Soprano Leyla Gencer, who made her career at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, has died in Milan, officials said yesterday. She was 80.

The singer known as La Diva Turca - the Turkish Diva - died Friday of respiratory problems and heart failure at home in Milan, La Scala and the Turkish State Opera and Ballet said.
La Scala expressed "immense sorrow" over Ms. Gencer's death and said the singer had "one of the most emotional voices of any time."

It said in a statement that her performances at La Scala had provided "years of unrepeatable splendor."

Ms. Gencer was born in Istanbul in 1928 to a Polish mother and a Turkish father.
She studied privately in Ankara, the Turkish capital, with Italian opera singer Giannina Arangi Lombardi and made her operatic debut there in 1950, cast as Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" ("Rustic Chivalry") - a role she would later reprise on world stages.

Ms. Gencer, a contemporary of opera legends Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, made her La Scala debut in 1957, playing Madame Lidoine in the premiere of Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites."

She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in "Madame Butterfly" and Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" in Naples.

Her repertoire during a career spanning some 30 years included more than 70 roles. At La Scala, she was cast as the first woman of Canterbury in the world premiere of Pizzeti's "L'Assasinio nella Cattedralle" ("Murder in the Cathedral"). A debut at the Royal Opera House, in London, came in 1962 when she performed Elisabetta in "Don Giovanni."
"Leyla Gencer, a world artist, had become our honor in the international scene and has inscribed her name on the history of opera," said Ertugrul Gunay, the culture minister.
"The Turkish opera, the international art world, have lost a great personality. She was one of the most important opera singers of the 20th century," said Rengim Gokmen, director of the Turkish State Opera and Ballet.

After retiring from opera in 1985, the singer devoted herself to discovering and training young talent. An annual Turkish-sponsored voice competition is named after her.

"Even if in her finals years she was not able to go on stage, she became a leader for Turkish opera stars and trained them," Gokmen said. "We owe her a lot."


Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer dies at age 80
By SUZAN FRASER
Associated Press Writer

ANKARA, Turkey (AP) -- Soprano Leyla Gencer, who made her career at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, has died in Milan, officials said Saturday. She was 80.

The singer known as La Diva Turca -- the Turkish Diva -- died Friday of respiratory problems and heart failure at home in Milan, La Scala and the Turkish State Opera and Ballet said.
La Scala expressed "immense sorrow'' over Gencer's death and said the singer had "one of the most emotional voices of any time.''

It said in a statement that her performances at La Scala had provided "years of unrepeatable splendor.''

Gencer was born in Istanbul in 1928 to a Polish mother and a Turkish father.
She studied privately in Ankara, the Turkish capital, with Italian opera singer Giannina Arangi Lombardi and made her operatic debut there in 1950, cast as Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana'' ("Rustic Chivalry'') -- a role she would later reprise on world stages.

Gencer, a contemporary of opera legends Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, made her La Scala debut in 1957, playing Madame Lidoine in the premiere of Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites.'' She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in "Madame Butterfly'' and Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin'' in Naples.



Leyla Gencer
A Turkish soprano of great dramatic power, she excelled in a wide range of Italian opera
Patrick O'Conno

The Guardian, Tuesday 13 May 2008

Leyla Gencer, who has died aged 79, was the greatest Turkish opera singer of the 20th century and a singing actor of formidable power and individuality. Although she came from what she herself referred to as a "Muslim and oriental" background, she had the good fortune, as a student in Istanbul, to study with the famous Italian dramatic soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, so that when she went to Italy in 1953, she was thoroughly grounded in the traditions of Italian opera.

Gencer was a very beautiful woman, with large dark eyes, a wide, generous mouth and a natural command of the stage. Born Leyla Ceyrekgil in Istanbul, the daughter of a Turkish Muslim father and a Polish Catholic mother, she married Ibrahim Gencer, a wealthy banker, in 1946; he eventually predeceased her. She made her debut as Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana at the open-air summer festival in Naples in 1953, and remained a particular favourite with the Neapolitans.

Her early successes were in verismo roles - Madama Butterfly, Tosca, Francesca da Rimini (by Zandonai). By 1957 she had been engaged by La Scala, Milan, where she created the role of the New Prioress in the world premiere of Poulenc's Les Dialogues des Carmélites, and shortly after sang the title role in La Traviata at the Vienna Staatsoper, under Herbert von Karajan.

Throughout her career, Gencer had a very wide repertoire, ranging from Monteverdi, Gluck and Mozart to Verdi, Ponchielli and Puccini. During her career she sang virtually every soprano role in Verdi's operas, but it was especially in the revival of bel-canto works by Bellini, Donizetti and Pacini that she made her mark. To some extent, Gencer shot to fame in the immediate aftermath of the end of Maria Callas's Italian career - Gencer followed Callas as Anna Bolena at La Scala, and in the role of Paolina in Donizetti's Poliuto - the last new part Callas undertook. As Queen Elizabeth I of England, first in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, and then in Rossini's Elisabetta, Regina d'Inghilterra, Gencer preceded Montserrat Caballé and Beverly Sills, who later recorded the roles.

Gencer's voice was not a natural dramatic soprano - she sang all the coloratura roles, such as Lucia, Elvira (Puritani), Amina, Gilda. The sound had a strange, smokey quality which could - and quite often did - turn sour and detracted from the pleasure of her singing. "We're in great luck tonight," said the impresario Denny Dayviss, when I met her at the San Carlo in Naples in 1972, "Leyla-gal's in great voice." The opera was Donizetti's Caterina Cornaro, in which Gencer was partnered, as often before, by Giacomo Aragall. Gencer tore into the role of the daughter of St Mark, the Venetian girl who becomes Queen of Cyprus, her voice ranging from fiercely declaimed dramatic recitative right up to a ringing high E with which she capped the first-act finale.

Although Gencer's career was mostly in Italy, she appeared in the United States, where she made her debut in San Francisco as Lucia in 1957, returning there, as well as to Chicago and Dallas. John Ardoin described her voice in a memorable Lucrezia Borgia in 1974, as "poignant, compelling" and mentioned the "strange colours and deep pathos of her art". In England she was heard at Glyndebourne as the Countess in Figaro, and as Anna Bolena. At Covent Garden she was Donna Anna in Zeffirelli's 1962 production of Don Giovanni, then Elisabeth de Valois in Don Carlos. Gencer's most memorable UK appearances were undoubtedly in the title role of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, at the Edinburgh Festival in 1969. The sparks that flew on stage in the confrontation - historically absurd but dramatically thrilling - when Gencer as Mary Stuart ripped off her glove and flung it in the face of Shirley Verrett as Elizabeth I at the words, "Vil bastarda" will surely live in the memory of all who witnessed it.

As a recitalist Gencer also had a wide repertoire of 19th and early 20th-century songs. Some of her later appearances were in recital in Paris at the Athenée in the 1980s, when a young French public, who had never had the opportunity to see her on stage, proved receptive to her high-flown style and hailed her as the greatest living prima donna. Gencer had no career whatsoever as a recording artist, but many of her broadcasts from Italian radio have now been issued on disc and are a fine memorial to her voice and dramatic ability. Especially noteworthy are performances of Verdi's I due Foscari (under Serafin), Donizetti's Belisario (from Venice in 1970) and Simon Boccanegra, from the 1959 Salzburg Festival, in which she is partnered by Tito Gobbi.

Gencer said of herself: "I am a fatalist and am instantly resigned to adversity, my temperament is gentle and I am incapable of putting up a fight for anything." None of this was evident on stage, where she projected a suberb sense of dramatic power. In 1987 she was the first recipient of the Donizetti Prize awarded by the city of Bergamo, and in 1995 the Leyla Gencer Voice Competition was established in Istanbul. In recent years she was artistic director of La Scala's academy for advanced courses for opera singers.

· Leyla Gencer, soprano, born October 10 1928; died May 9 2008


Leyla Gencer: Operatic soprano idolised in Italy
Thursday, 15 May 2008

The Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer became one of the most loved and admired operatic idols in Italy during the Fifties, Sixties and Seventies. Although she sang all over Europe and America, from London to Vienna, from San Francisco to Buenos Aires, it was in Italy, at La Scala, Milan, at the San Carlo, Naples, at La Fenice, Venice, at the opera houses of Rome, Florence, Turin, Trieste and many other cities, that she spent the main part of her career, singing a very wide repertory whose core consisted of the works of Donizetti and Verdi. A singing actress of great expressive power, she used her voice as a weapon in her dramatic armoury. That did not mean that she could not, when appropriate, sing with great gentleness and beauty of tone.

She was born Leyla Ceyrekgil in Istanbul in 1924. Her father was Turkish, her mother Polish and she was educated at an Italian high school and liceo. She studied at the Ankara Conservatory with the Spanish coloratura Elvira de Hidalgo, and in 1946 married a banker, Ibrahim Gencer.

Leyla Gencer made her operatic début in 1950 in Ankara as Santuzza in Cavalleria rusticana. After further study with the Italian soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi and the baritone Apollo Granforte, she went to Italy, where she made her début in 1953 at the Arena Flegrea in Naples, again singing Santuzza. Later in the season she sang the title role of Madama Butterfly at the San Carlo.

In 1956 Gencer went to San Francisco, where she made her début in the title role of Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini. During the next two seasons she also sang the title role of Lucia di Lammermoor, Violetta in La traviata, Massenet's Manon, Gilda in Rigoletto and Elisabeth in Don Carlos. Elisabeth would become one of her finest Verdi roles, which she repeated with great success at La Scala (1960), the Vienna State Opera and at Covent Garden (1962), where she sang the role in an emergency when Gré Brouwenstijn became ill. Gencer was in London rehearsing Donna Anna in Don Giovanni, which should have been her début role.

Gencer first appeared at La Scala in 1957, singing Madame Lidoine, the new prioress, in the world premiere of Poulenc's Dialogues des Carmelites. Later that year she sang Leonora in La forza del destino, another favourite Verdi role that suited her passionate temperament extremely well. In 1958 she took part in another premiere, of Pizzetti's Assassinio nella Cattedrale, based on T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral, in which she sang the First Woman of Canterbury. The opera was conducted by Gianandrea Gavazzeni, who became a mentor to the soprano throughout her career. He conducted her as Maria in Pizzetti's Lo straniero (1969) in Naples.

Gencer sang two early Verdi roles, Lucrezia in I due Foscari in Venice (1957) and Lida in La battaglia di Legnano in Florence (1959) before returning to 20th-century opera with Renata in Prokofiev's The Fiery Angel at the 1959 Spoleto Festival. In 1960/61 she sang again at La Scala, as Paolina in Donizetti's Poliuto, taking over from Maria Callas, and as Lisa in Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades. Her Lisa was an unexpected success, and she sang it again at Turin in 1963. Meanwhile she sang her first attempt at the title role of Bellini's Norma at Barcelona in 1962, repeating it the following season at the Coló*in Buenos Aires.

As related, Gencer made an emergency début at Govent Garden in Don Carlos in January 1962, before she sang Donna Anna in February in Franco Zeffirelli's new production of Don Giovanni. But Mozart was not one of Gencer's strongest suits: far better was Donizetti's Anna Bolena, which she sang at Glyndebourne in 1965, conducted by Gavazzeni. Anna was always one of Gencer's finest roles and even in 1977, not long before she retired, she gave a wonderful performance of it in Rome.

Otherwise, during the Sixties Gencer sang Elena in Jerusalem (the Paris version of Verdi's I Lombardi) and the title role of Bellini's Beatrice di Tenda at La Fenice in Venice; Queen Elizabeth I in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux in Naples; and Aida at La Scala and in the Verona Arena, where she was a great favourite. Gluck's Alceste was much applauded in Rome in 1967, even better liked at La Scala in 1968 and liked best of all at La Scala in1972, with Gavazzeni in the pit.

In the last decade of her career, Gencer had several new roles that were, vocally and dramatically, very well suited to her abilities. One of these was Ponchielli's La Gioconda, but one small point annoyed purists: Gioconda describes herself as blonde, but Gencer wore her own black hair. Another very popular role was the heroine of Donizetti's Maria Stuarda, which she first sang at the Florence Maggio musicale and then in Naples. Verdi's Lady Macbeth, which Gencer sang under Gavazzeni's baton in Venice, and later in Rome and Florence, scored even greater triumphs.

Other Donizetti roles in which Gencer was greatly admired included Lucrezia Borgia, which gave the soprano scope for every conceivable emotional expression. She sang it first in Naples, then in Rome, Bergamo, Dallas and Florence; Antonina in Belisario in Venice, Bergamo and Naples; Caterina Cornaro in Naples and Pauline in Les Martyrs (the Paris version of Poliuto) in Bergamo were all great rarities, very well sung.
But Gencer's finest performance in the Seventies was not in an opera by Donizetti, but in Mayr's Medea in Corinto in Naples. In very good voice she was, as always, totally involved in the drama going on around her.

Elizabeth Forbes


Leyla Ceyrekgil, opera singer: born Istanbul 10 October 1924; married 1946 Ibrahim Gencer (deceased); died Milan, Italy 9 May 2008

Leyla Gencer, Turkish-Born Soprano and a Popular Star of La Scala, Dies
Published: May 13, 2008

Leyla Gencer, an operatic soprano who was among the last of a generation of larger-than-life divas that included Maria Callas, died on Friday at her home in Milan. As befits a prima donna, Ms. Gencer’s exact age was shrouded in carefully arranged mystery; she was believed to be either 79 or 83.

The cause was heart failure and respiratory problems, La Scala and the Turkish State Opera and Ballet told The Associated Press. Information on survivors was not made public.
Popularly known as La Diva Turca, Ms. Gencer performed in opera houses throughout Europe and the United States from the 1950s to the 1980s. Although her major career was in Europe — she sang at La Scala in Milan for many years — she was also admired by fans, and at least some critics, on this side of the Atlantic.

Ms. Gencer (pronounced GHEN-djer) sang more than 70 roles but was most closely associated with the bel canto style of Donizetti. Her singing was characterized by a burning intensity but was also widely praised for its exquisite pianissimo — the attainment of maximum audibility at minimum volume that eludes even many fine singers.

Though Ms. Gencer appeared on many of the world’s major stages, among them Covent Garden in London, she never sang at the Metropolitan Opera. She did not make her New York debut until 1973, when she sang the title role in Donizetti’s little-known opera “Caterina Cornaro” in a semi-staged production at Carnegie Hall by the Opera Theater of New Jersey.

By this time, Ms. Gencer was 50, give or take. Reviewing her performance in The New York Times, Harold C. Schonbergwrote: “Her voice shows signs of the abuse that comes from overwork and an insufficient technique. She clearly was an experienced singer of the old arm-waving school, and the middle range of her voice had moments of appealing beauty. But the top is virtually gone, and fortissimo high notes emerged in ear-splitting yells.”

Leyla Ceyrekgil was born in Istanbul on Oct. 10. Ms. Gencer was publicly coy about the year; sources give it variously as 1924 or 1928. The daughter of a Polish mother and a Turkish father, she grew up on the city’s Asian side.

From an early age, according to published accounts, she showed signs of the intensity that would serve her well. As Stefan Zucker wrote in a biographical article on the Web site of the Bel Canto Society (www.belcantosociety.org), “Her mother pulled her out of a lyceum at 16 because she had fallen in love with a 34-year-old Polish architect with whom she read Plato.”
Leyla enrolled briefly at the Istanbul Conservatory before leaving to study privately in Turkey with the noted Italian soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi. She later studied with the Italian baritone Apollo Granforte.

In 1946, she married Ibrahim Gencer, a banker. “She was temperamental and difficult,” Mr. Zucker wrote, “but he loved her.”

In 1950, Ms. Gencer made her operatic debut in Ankara, as Santuzza in Mascagni’s “Cavalleria Rusticana.” She made her La Scala debut in 1957, as Madame Lidoine in the world premiere of Francis Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites.” Her United States debut was with the San Francisco Opera in 1956, in the title role in Ricardo Zandonai’s “Francesca da Rimini.”

Ms. Gencer’s other roles included Verdi (Amelia in “Un Ballo in Maschera,” Violetta in “La Traviata,” Leonora in “Il Trovatore” and Aida), Mozart (the Countess in “The Marriage of Figaro” and Donna Elvira in “Don Giovanni”) and title roles in Donizetti’s “Lucia di Lammermoor,” Bellini’s “Norma” and Puccini’s “Madama Butterfly.”
In 1995, an international voice competition named for Ms. Gencer was inaugurated in Turkey.
Pre-empted by better-known contemporaries like Callas and Renata Tebaldi, Ms. Gencer did not have a contract with a major commercial record label. But her voice traveled the globe many times over in bootleg recordings, earning her the nickname the Pirate Queen.
If she “never made a lira” from these recordings, as Ms. Gencer told Opera News in 2003, they had other compensations.


“All the young people know me,” she said at the time. “They write me long letters. They tell me: ‘It’s as if we were in the theater. We see you. We hear you through your discs as if we were there.’ This is a great miracle!”





Leyla Gencer Imperious soprano known as the Turkish Diva who made a glittering career at La Scala. Last Updated: 2:14AM BST 13 May 2008

Leyla Gencer: her sublime voice was smokily Middle Eastern Photo: AP

Leyla Gencer, who has died aged 79, was one of the most remarkable bel canto sopranos of the 20th century; known as La Diva Turca (the Turkish Diva), she brought an exotic background and formidable temperament to the already rarified stage of La Scala, Milan – only to find herself overshadowed by the towering figures of Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi.

Musically, Gencer was more than able to hold her own in Italian opera, making Donizetti's Tudor queens – Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda and Elisabeth in Roberto Devereux – her calling card. To The Daily Telegraph's Michael Kennedy she was "often an erratic performer", but others found her performances to be magnetic and inspiring. Her voice was distinctive, smokily Middle Eastern and often sublime. When she was on top form she could mesmerise an audience; and even when she was not she could offer some interesting moments.

Off stage, Gencer could rival any of her contemporaries as an opera diva. On one occasion, refusing to accept a director's rejection, she demanded that her audition be reheard by the entire staff of La Scala. She was reinstated.

On another occasion she commandeered Jerome Hines's dressing room at Newark, New Jersey, claiming that her own was as humid as a Turkish bath; his objection to her invasion marked him as a "barbarian". As Hines – who was, appropriately, playing the title role in Verdi's Attila - said: "She did as she darn pleased." "Yes, I am imperious," Gencer would say. "That is, I say what I think. Con forza. But I'm not nasty or malicious." Of Callas she once remarked: "She had the most imperfect voice in the worlde_SLps She was full of flaws, but she had the sacred fire. She was wonderful. 

Where can you find her equal today?" Rivalry lingered long after Leyla Gencer retired. As recently as 1998, the pandemonium that followed when Renée Fleming caused offence at La Scala with her ornamentations in Donizetti's Lucrezia Borgia was widely attributed to "partisans of the old Turkish belle". On that occasion the conductor, Gianluigi Gelmetti, had to be taken away by ambulance after collapsing on the podium.

Rumours abounded about the Turkish officials and parliamentarians who were wrapped around Leyla Gencer's little finger, miraculously arranging for her to be released from her official commitments as a state artist to undertake overseas engagements. Meanwhile, she enjoyed a passionate and well-publicised affair with George McGhee, the American ambassador to Ankara from 1951 to 1953.

The truth was that everything Leyla Gencer did involved passion. She could not understand the concept of a more sanitised diva. "I actually cried on stage; once in a while a note would issue forth that was not orthodox – that's why the American critics don't like me. But I don't care. They want music with water and soap," she told one interviewer.

She was born Ayshe Leyla Ceyrekgil in the Çubuklu district of Istanbul, on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorous, on October 10 1928 (although some books suggest, not implausibly, 1922 or 1924). Her mother was a Polish Catholic descended from Lithuanian nobility, her father a Turkish Sunni Muslim. She was brought up as a model young sultana in a grand wooden palace with chandeliers, silverware, servants and a French governess. Tragedy struck in her early teens when her father was killed by a flash flood that roared through the house.

Aged 16 Leyla fell for a 34-year-old Polish architect with whom she read Plato, prompting her mother to withdraw her from school. She was sent to the conservatory in Istanbul – where famously she could hit the F above a high C – and later took lessons in Ankara with Giannina Arangi Lombardi, the Italian soprano, and the ageing tenor Apollo Granforte. On one occasion she was accompanied in recital by Alfred Cortot.

Her first taste of rejection came in 1946, when she failed to impress in a Dutch singing competition. She immediately vowed that in the future failure would not be an option. "When I had begun my career I had said to myself, 'Either I will sing at La Scala or I won't sing at all. Either I'll have a great career or none'," she later recalled.

She sang for Eisenhower, Tito and Adenauer, and made her debut in the Turkish capital in 1950 as Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana. She would reprise the role around the world, including for her Italian debut three years later in Naples before an audience of 10,000.
Staples such as Madam Butterfly and Eugene Onegin followed under the batons of Victor de Sabata, Gianandrea Gavazzeni and Vittorio Gui. Tullio Serafin was her favourite conductor because "he was the first to put me on the path towards bel canto". But she did not shy away from the heavier roles. Her performance of Lady Macbeth (Verdi) in a live recording from Palermo in 1960 has been described as "without peer, both as a singer and as an actress".

Her La Scala debut was as Mme Lidoine in the premiere of Poulenc's Les Dialogues des Carmelites. The composer was so entranced by the powerful coloratura of her voice that, learning of her exotic ancestry, he wrote a set of eight songs in Polish for her. She did sing in Poland on one occasion – La traviata, in Warsaw, in 1956.

Despite the presence of Callas and Tebaldi, Leyla Gencer successfully made La Scala her home, building up a remarkable repertoire of some 70 roles, including the First Woman of Canterbury, which she sang there in the premiere of Ildebando Pizzetti's L'Assassinio nella Cattedrale (Murder in the Cathedral) in 1958.

Her debut at the Royal Opera House, London, came in 1962, when she substituted for Gré Brouwenstijn as Elisabeth in Verdi's Don Carlos. She also sang Donna Anna at the Garden with Mirella Freni and Geraint Evans in Franco Zeffirelli's production of Don Giovanni under Georg Solti, a stunning performance that was reissued on CD last summer. She appeared in two seasons at Glyndebourne, in 1962 and 1963, and visited Edinburgh in 1972.

When Callas declined to sing the title role in Lucia de Lammermoor in San Francisco in 1957, Kurt Alder, the director, noticed that the part was on a list of Leyla Gencer's repertoire. The only problem was that she had simply "written down all these roles that I didn't really know. I knew it was a lie." She spent the next five days and nights locked in her hotel room before delivering a spellbinding account of Donizetti's tragic heroine.

There were talks about a Tosca at the Met in 1956, but in the end her career never reached New York.

Leyla Gencer retired in 1985 with a production of Gnecco's La Prova di un'Opera Seria at La Fenice in Venice. She was still at the height of her vocal powers and continued to give recitals for some years, in particular one in Paris in 1991 that was widely acclaimed. Latterly she worked at La Scala helping to develop the voices of younger singers.

In her native country Leyla Gencer was hailed as a role model for women in the arts. The Turkish government issued a commemorative coin bearing her image, worth about £5; it also arranges an annual singing competition in her honour and has named an opera house after her. A biography, Leyla Gencer: A Story of Passion, by the distinguished Turkish writer Zeynep Oral, appeared in 1997; and another, Leyla Gencer and the World of Opera, was published two years ago.

In the early part of her career the major record companies showed little interest in Leyla Gencer's work, but among aficionados she became known as "queen of pirates" because of the number of underground recordings that circulated.

Leyla Gencer, who died in Milan on May 9, married Ibrahim Gencer, a banker, in 1946. Her ashes will be scattered in the Bosphorous.


Turkish operatic soprano who excelled in bel canto and Verdi roles

Examining Leyla Gencer’s repertoire of 72 operatic roles leads one to conclude that the singer was possessed by a staggering musical curiosity. Performing for nearly four decades, she covered music spanning more than three centuries, from Monteverdi to Britten. She was an accomplished Mozartian, yet she also triumphed as heroines of Tchaikovsky and Prokofiev. But her greatest achievements were in bel canto and Verdi roles, with which she inspired an enthusiasm in legions of fans that bordered on hysteria.

Gencer’s vocalism was not flawless: her middle range could be peculiarly veiled and lacking in colour, her upper register could turn flat under pressure, her ravishing pianissimo notes were often approached from below the pitch. It was a unique nobility of expression that made her singing memorable. To hear her sculpt the phrases of an elegiac Donizetti aria was to feel transported back to the mid-19th century, so completely did she seem to connect with the composer’s intention. If her contemporary, Maria Callas (with whom she was often compared), was Bellini’s emissary on Earth, Gencer was Donizetti’s; she sang nine of his operas, most of which were unfamiliar at the time. Gencer’s Verdi roles numbered 16, emphasising operas of the composer’s early and middle period. Listen to Gencer in a Verdi cabaletta to hear the ideal rhythmic drive and vaulting flexibility that can make such numbers so exhilarating.

Gencer’s voice adapted not simply to the gamut of stylistic requirements, but also to music written for different vocal types. Like Callas, she confused many listeners by easily encompassing roles as light as Bellini’s Amina (La Sonnambula) and as heavy as Verdi’s Lady Macbeth. By nature a middleweight lyric soprano, she pushed her voice to a degree in order to perform dramatic coloratura parts to which her style, temperament, regal stage presence and patrician appearance were so eminently suited.

A Muslim by birth, Leyla Ceyrekgil was born in Istanbul to a Polish mother and a prosperous Turkish father. As early as 16 she was undertaking vocal training at the Istanbul Conservatory. More central to her development was her work in Ankara with two legends of Italian singing: the soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi and, after her death, the baritone Apollo Granforte. She was married to Ibrahim Gencer, a banker, in 1946.

Having made her debut at Ankara’s State Theatre in Cavalleria rusticana (1950), Gencer subsequently appeared there in Tosca and Così fan tutte. Well aware that only in Italy would she be able to fulfil her gifts, she moved there in 1953, making her debut that summer with a recital for the public service broadcaster RAI and in Cavalleria at the Arena Flegrea in Naples.

The next few years found Gencer consolidating her reputation in Italian houses. Her ascent to prominence received a significant lift with her exquisite performance as Mme Lidoine in the world premiere of Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites (1957), which introduced her to La Scala. The following year she returned in another world premiere, Pizzetti’s Assassinio nella cattedrale. Gencer was to sing no fewer than 17 roles at La Scala in 1973.

She made her debut in America as early as 1956, singing Francesca da Rimini at San Francisco Opera. Her association with SFO continued through the next two seasons (as Violetta, Lucia, Liù, Elisabetta di Valois, Manon Lescaut and Gilda). She did not return until 1967, when she sang Gioconda, her heaviest Italian role. Gencer’s other American performances were limited to Madame Butterfly (Dallas), Don Carlo (Chicago), and three strenuous roles during the 1970s, in which artistry and charisma nearly compensated for a worn voice: Verdi’s Odabella (Newark) and two Donizetti heroines, Caterina Cornaro (Carnegie Hall) and Lucrezia Borgia (Dallas).

Gencer’s international career also included the main houses of Monaco, Norway, Poland, Russia, Spain and Sweden. As for Britain, she sang at Covent Garden only in 1962, appearing in Don Carlo (debut) and Don Giovanni (her sublime Donna Anna is currently available in the ROH Heritage CD series).

Another Mozart role, Countess Almaviva, brought her to Glyndebourne, where she also portrayed Donizetti’s Anna Bolena. This was a signature role, as were the same composer’s Maria Stuarda and Rossini’s Elisabetta, both of which Gencer sang at the Edinburgh Festival.
The soprano found favour with many celebrated conductors, including von Karajan, Solti and two generations of Italians, from Serafin to Muti. She was an intense and probing collaborator, as the renowned American musicologist Philip Gossett discovered when they worked together on Anna Bolena in Rome (1977). Gossett, who considers Gencer “a mighty link to the beginning of the bel canto revival”, recalls her as “formidable, master of the role, savvy commentator on its characteristics, and knowledgeable bel canto protagonist. There was nothing of the ‘diva’ about the way she worked, although she had earned that title a hundred times over. Rather than being cast as the ‘heir’ to Callas, as several notices have declared, many at the time preferred her interpretations to those of Callas.”

Gencer gave her final opera performance in 1985, singing Francesco Gnecco’s La prova d’un opera seria at Venice’s Teatro la Fenice, where she was a great favourite. Already in the mid-1970s she was scaling down her operatic activity in favour of recitals. She continued to perform in public until 1992. In later years she coached young artists, in association with the Associazione Lirica e Concertistica Italiana and as director of La Scala’s opera academy. A prestigious vocal competition named for her has been held in Istanbul four times since 1995.
Lacking any association with a commercial recording company, Gencer in her heyday was widely known as “the pirate queen”; innumerable privately recorded (“pirated”) tapes of her performances made available first on LP, now on CD — 62 roles in all — have created a remarkable legacy. Gencer’s videography includes studio-made operatic films (Werther, Don Giovanni, Il trovatore) and a live Aida from the Verona Arena. Her husband predeceased her.

Leyla Gencer, operatic soprano, was born on October 10, 1924. She died on May 10, 2008, aged 83







Turkish soprano Gencer, who performed at La Scala, dies
AP Photo: In this undated photo released by Teatro alla Scala, Saturday, May 10, 2008,

By SUZAN FRASER, Associated Press Writer Sun May 11, 2:10 AM ET
ANKARA, Turkey (AP) — Soprano Leyla Gencer, who made her career at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, has died in Milan, officials said Saturday. She was 80.
The singer known as La Diva Turca — the Turkish Diva — died Friday of respiratory problems and heart failure at home in Milan, La Scala and the Turkish State Opera and Ballet said.

La Scala expressed "immense sorrow" over Gencer's death and said the singer had "one of the most emotional voices of any time." It said in a statement that her performances at La Scala had provided "years of unrepeatable splendor."

Gencer was born in Istanbul in 1928 to a Polish mother and a Turkish father. She studied privately in Ankara, the Turkish capital, with Italian opera singer Giannina Arangi Lombardi and made her operatic debut there in 1950, cast as Santuzza in Pietro Mascagni's "Cavalleria Rusticana" ("Rustic Chivalry") — a role she would later reprise on world stages. Gencer, a contemporary of opera legends Maria Callas and Renata Tebaldi, made her La Scala debut in 1957, playing Madame Lidoine in the world premiere of Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites." She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly" and Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" in Naples.

Her repertoire during a career spanning some 30 years included more than 70 roles. At La Scala, she was cast as the first woman of Canterbury in the world premiere of Pizzeti's "L'Assasinio nella Cattedralle" ("Murder in the Cathedral"). A debut at the Royal Opera House, in London, came in 1962 when she performed Elisabetta in Verdi's "Don Carlo."

"Leyla Gencer, a world artist, had become our honor in the international scene and has inscribed her name on the history of opera," Culture Minister Ertugrul Gunay said.

"The Turkish opera, the international art world, have lost a great personality. She was one of the most important opera singers of the 20th century," said Rengim Gokmen, director of the Turkish State Opera and Ballet.


After retiring from opera in 1985, the singer devoted herself to discovering and training young talent. An annual Turkish-sponsored voice competition is named after her. "Even if in her finals years she was not able to go on stage, she became a leader for Turkish opera stars and trained them," Gokmen said. "We owe her a lot." La Scala said a funeral will be held Monday in San Babila Church in Milan. The private Dogan news agency reported that her ashes will be taken to Istanbul to be scattered over the Bosporus, in line with her wishes. The strait forms the boundary between the European and Asian parts of Turkey.

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