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Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, Leyla Gencer, and Aida

By March 16, 2018December 17th, 2022No Comments

This is going to be very tricky to do.  I want to give you a youtube link of Giannina Arangi-Lombardi, who was a very great singer, and extremely well known for her Aida.  Then, I want to give you a youtube link, which in this case comes from a DVD, to show you a Turkish singer, Leyla Gencer, who was famous for everything and who lived in Italy for most of her career.  And finally, I want to show you an interview with Gencer about her experiences studying with Arangi-Lombardi.  These singers were a gift from Heaven.  There is nothing like them today.

I have the DVD of the Gencer Aida.  It is well worth owning.  In fact, it is amazing.  Also, the interview with Gencer is in Italian.  For those who can’t understand Italian, the youtube postings have summaries in English in the comments that describe the salient points.  This type of singing is no longer taught by the majority of voice teachers.

Giannina Arangi-Lombardi

Giannina Arangi-Lombardi (June 20, 1891, Marigliano – July 9, 1951, Milan) was a prominent spinto soprano (aka lyric dramatic soprano), particularly associated with the Italian operatic repertory.

Life and career

After studies in Naples at the Conservatory of San Pietro a Majella with Beniamino Carelli, she made her debut in Rome in 1920, singing mezzo-soprano roles for the next three years. After further studies with the retired singers Adelina Stehle and Tina Poli-Randaccio, she made a second debut as a soprano in 1923.

She sang at the La Scala in Milan from 1924 to 1930, making her debut as Elena in Boito’s Mefistofele, with Toscanini conducting. Rapidly invited to all the great opera houses of Europe, although she never appeared in Paris or London, she sang to great acclaim in South America. She was chosen by Dame Nellie Melba to take part in her farewell tour of Australia in 1928. The tour included Arangi-Lombardi creating the title role in the Australian premiere of Puccini’s Turandot.

Arangi-Lombardi was especially renowned in roles such as La vestale, Lucrezia Borgia, La Gioconda, and Aida. She sang in the first Italian performance of Ariadne auf Naxos. She appeared at the Salzburg Festival in 1935 but retired from the stage, while still in good voice, three years later. She then taught at the Music Conservatory in Milan, and later in Ankara, where she had the well-known soprano Leyla Gencer as a pupil.


She died in Milan shortly after her 60th birthday.

La Gencer

Ayşe Leyla Gencer (October 10, 1928 – May 10,2008) was a Turkish operatic soprano.

Gencer was a notable bel canto soprano who spent most of her career in Italy, from the early 1950s through the mid-1980s, and had a repertoire encompassing more than seventy roles. She made very few commercial recordings; however, numerous bootleg recordings of her performances exist. She was particularly associated with the heroines of Donizetti.

Leyla Gencer was born in Polonezköy (near Istanbul) to a Turkish father and a Polish mother. Her father was a wealthy businessman, whose family was from the city of Safranbolu. Her mother, Lexanda Angela Minakovska, was from a Roman Catholic family of the Lithuanian origin.  Gencer’s father died when she was very young. She grew up in the Çubuklu neighbourhood of Istanbul, on the Anatolian side of the Bosphorus strait. In 1946, she married İbrahim Gencer, a banker.

Education and early career

She began to study singing at the Istanbul Conservatory but dropped out to study privately in Ankara with her teacher, the Italian soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi. After Arangi-Lombardi’s death, Gencer continued her studies with the Italian baritone Apollo Granforte. She sang in the chorus of the Turkish State Theater until 1950, when she made her operatic debut in Ankara, as Santuzza in Cavalleria Rusticana. During the next few years, she became well known in Turkey and sang frequently at functions for the Turkish government.

Career in Italy

In 1953, Gencer made her Italian debut at the Teatro di San Carlo in Naples as Santuzza. She returned to Naples the following year for performances of Madama Butterfly and Eugene Onegin. In 1957, she made her debut at La Scala in Milan as Mme. Lidoine in the world premiere of Poulenc’s Dialogues of the Carmelites. She went on to appear regularly at La Scala, performing nineteen roles between 1957 and 1983..

In 1962, she debuted at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden as Elisabetta di Valois in Don Carlos and Donna Anna in Don Giovanni. Her United States debut had been at the San Francisco Opera in 1956, as Francesca in Zandonai’s Francesca da Rimini. She sang in other American opera houses as well, but never at the Metropolitan Opera, despite discussions about her being engaged to sing Tosca there, also in 1956.

She continued to appear in concerts until 1992. She was still active as of 2007, and had recently been appointed by La Scala’s music director Riccardo Muti to run its school for young artists.

Throughout her career, Gencer was particularly well known for her Donizetti.  Her most acclaimed and best-known performance was the Roberto Devereux she sang in Naples in 1964. Aside from bel canto roles, her repertory included works by such composers as Prokofiev, Mozart and Puccini. She appeared in many rarely performed operas.

Gencer rose to international stardom in a short time, singing under some of the greatest Italian maestros, such as Vittorio Gui, Tullio Serafin, Gianandrea Gavazzeni, and Riccardo Muti. She contributed to the ‘Donizetti Renaissance’ with her great performances of Donizetti’s forgotten operas. Her repertoire consisted of 72 roles, including operas by Monteverdi, Gluck, Mozart, Cherubini, Spontini, Simon Mayr, Puccini, Prokofiev, Britten, Poulenc, Menotti, and Rocca, encompassing lyric, coloratura, and dramatic soprano roles.

Starting in 1982, she dedicated herself to teaching young opera singers. She worked as didactic art director of As.Li.Co. of Milan between 1983–88, and was appointed by Maestro Riccardo Muti to run La Scala’s School for Young Artists in 1997-1998. As artistic director of the academy for opera artists in Teatro alla Scala, she specialized in teaching operatic interpretation.

Gencer died on May 10, 2008, aged 79, in Milan.