|About Licia Albanese|
|On October 5, 1995, President Clinton presented to Licia Albanese the National Medal of Honor for the Arts. She received the prestigious Handel Medallion from New York City in 2000.|
On Friday evening, February 9, 1940, a rather shy, young and petite Italian soprano crossed the Japanese bridge of the Madama Butterfly set at the old Metropolitan Opera House, looking hopefully toward a new future. Following her considerable success in Italy, France, England, and Malta, Licia Albanese had been invited to make her United States debut at the Metropolitan Opera. Her success was instantaneous, and Mme. Albanese remained at the Met for 26 seasons, performing a total of 427 performances of 17 roles in 16 operas, and along the way, becoming a United States citizen. In recital, concert, and opera, she was heard throughout the country; she participated in benefits, entertained the troops, had her own weekly radio show, was a guest on other broadcasts and telecasts, and recorded frequently. She was a member of the San Francisco Opera for 20 seasons, singing more than 120 performances of 22 roles in 20 operas. In an age as video-oriented as ours, it may seem surprising that Licia Albanese appeared in the very first live telecast from the Metropolitan Opera - Verdi's Otello - opposite Ramon Vinay and Leonard Warren, conducted by Fritz Busch.
Outstanding in every role she undertook, Mme. Albanese was particularly renowned for her Cio-Cio San in Puccini's Madama Butterfly, Violetta in Verdi's La Traviata, and Mimi in Puccini's La Boheme. Her popularity in La Traviata was such that she sang more performances of that opera at the Met and the San Francisco Opera than any other singer in either company's history. To all of her work, Mme. Albanese brought passion and commitment, with her rich soprano voice equalized throughout its range, thrilling us in climaxes. Her sure theatrical instinct allowed her to match musical and dramatic mastery. She knew that acting was achieved, not just through the voice or the face, but through the entire body. When she sang, an object lesson materialized on stage in what constitutes the lifeblood of communication. Singing, to her, was a lot more than the succession of pretty notes. It was the production of a long arc of melody, infinitely varied, unfolding itself around the drama. One did not have to understand either Italian or French to understand what was happening to her characters. Her poignant portrayals had a quality that stands apart from the dramatic talent and transcends it the ability to create atmosphere and, through the great sincerity of her involvement, to reach us and touch us. She did not merely sing a role, she infused it, and it infused her.
Soprano Teresa Stratas has been quoted as crediting a Metropolitan Opera performance of La Traviata starring Mme. Albanese at Toronto's Maple Leaf Gardens for motivating her towards a singing career. Mme. Albanese has the gratitude of an extensive public, which has been profoundly moved by her artistry. Her recordings and performances, now reappearing on both compact disc and video, have come to mean more to us than ever before. From these, future generations will be able to form some impression of what she was like as a singer and to understand what made her unique as an artist.
Mme. Albanese, one of the finest singing actresses on the international scene, was both Stephen Sondheim and Thomas Shepard's choice to appear as the Operetta Diva with the New York Philharmonic in Sondheim's Follies at Avery Fisher Hall in 1985. During the 1987 spring season of the Theatre Under the Stars in Houston, Texas, Mme. Albanese starred in a stage revival of Follies, which was a great success.
Mme. Albanese turned her exceptional talents to directing the interpretation of operatic scenes for The Juilliard School of Music, Manhattan School of Music, and Marymount Manhattan College, as well as presenting master classes throughout the world. Mme. Albanese was chairman of the Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation and served as a trustee of the Bagby Foundation. She was committed to furthering the musical careers of gifted young artists and dedicated her time and talent to this endeavor. The recognition of her achievements in the academic field resulted in awards and honorary degrees from Marymount Manhattan College, Montclair State Teachers College, St. Peter's College, Seton Hall University, University of Southern Florida, Fairfield University, Siena College, Caldwell College, and Fairleigh Dickinson University. The world of opera salutes this phenomenal artist.
Mme. Albanese died on August 15, 2014 at her home in Manhattan.