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Biography of Italian Opera Singer Amelita Galli-Curci Part 1

About the famous Italian opera singer Amelita Galli-Curci, history and biography of the vocalist.

GALLERY OF GREAT PERFORMING AND CREATIVE ARTISTS

AMELITA GALLI-CURCI (1889-1963)

Opera's most famous coloratura singer, Amelita Galli-Curci was born in Milan, Italy. Entirely self-taught, she trained herself by listening to recordings of her own voice. In her early career, she often rejected the standard cadenzas as unsuitable and improvised her own fioriture into the E's and F's above high C. The Galli-Curci repertoire included 28 operatic roles, ranging from Mimi in La Boheme to Lucia in Lucia di Lammermoor.

She debuted at the Teatro Communale in Milan on Dec. 26, 1906, as Gilda in Rigoletto. Her "Caro Nome" of Act I gave notice of a new prima donna's arrival in grand opera. In the audience that night were the Marchese Carlo Curci and his 18-year-old son, Luigi, a music student in Rome. Romance blossomed between Amelita and Luigi, and the two were married in 1908. This gave Amelita the hyphenated professional name she used for almost 30 years.

Madame Galli-Curci first left Italy for a world tour, which took her to Alexandria, Egypt, where she sang the role that had launched her into fame. Faced by an unexpected calamity when a hurricane demolished the local opera house, she recouped with an unscheduled engagement in Cairo, where she sang Aida for the khedive (Egypt's Turkish Viceroy) himself. Throughout the next decade, Galli-Curci toured the world. In 1915 she almost died from typhus in Barcelona. Her six-week illness nearly ruined the opera season for Madrid, but the coloratura's indomitable courage saved the day. Unable to stand, she sang the role of Rosina in The Barber of Seville in a wheelchair. Fully recovered by summer, she gave operagoers in Buenos Aires a musical thrill never again experienced anywhere else in the world: two performances of Lucia di Lammermoor, to the Edgardo of Enrico Caruso.

On Nov. 18, 1916, in her incomparable Lucia, Amelita Galli-Curci debuted in Chicago. The city went mad. The Chicago American abandoned a long-standing policy of ignoring Saturday musical events to tell its readers of the 20 curtain calls taken by the new Italian singer.

In 1918, amid rumors that Galli-Curci would sign with the "Met," her husband filed suit for alienation of affections, asking $250,000. Galli-Curci countered with charges that the Italian nobleman had lived entirely on her earnings since their marriage. She further charged him with squandering money and denying her the right to become an American citizen. The impasse terminated when Madame Galli-Curci filed for a divorce--finally granted in 1920--that gave Curci nothing. Four hours after the decree took effect, she applied for U.S. citizenship. The action later proved redundant, for she fell in love with her American accompanist, Homer Samuels, and married him in January, 1921, thus automatically becoming a citizen.

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