Gencer died ten years ago on 10 May 2008. The name of the Turkish soprano was linked with the theatre during her career and the relationship continued until her death when she coached opera students of the Academy.
The unique nature of her voice, her forceful stage personality, and the wide range of her repertoire at La Scala have made her part of the theatre’s bricks and mortar.
Leyla Gencer made her debut at La Scala on 26 January 1957 as Madame Lidoine in the world premiere of Poulenc’s Dialogues des Carmélites. From that moment on, the Milanese theatre became her second home. She sang frequently in the coming years until 29 December 1979 when she said farewell as Lady Billows in Britten’s Albert Herring.
In those 20 years, she sang Norma, Lucrezia Borgia, Poliuto, and was at the forefront of the Donizetti renaissance with Maria Stuarda, Roberto Devereux, Belisario, and Caterina Cornaro. She was also noted for Verdi heroines: Amelia in Un ballo in maschera, Elisabetta in Don Carlo, Elena in I vespri siciliani, Aida, Amelia/Maria in Simon Boccanegra, and Lady Macbeth.
She sang two fundamental roles from the second half of the 18th century: Gluck’s Alceste and Mozart’s Idomeneo. In 1958 she appeared in the world premiere of Pizzetti’s Assassinio nella Cattedrale. Other operas included Tchaikovsky’s The Queen of Spades, Boito’s Mefistofele and Monteverdi’s Incoronazione di Poppea.
After 1979 she became the head of the Interpretation Course, and then the Artistic Director of the Theatre Academy at La Scala.
Designer Pier Luigi Pizzi has supervised the photographic exhibition and says of Leyla Gencer,
Un Mito! An immense artist. I have total admiration for an extraordinary career built entirely on commitment, dedication, rigour, and self-criticism, and I am infinitely grateful for so many years of special friendship.
How can I not mention her style, elegance, class, intelligence, culture, irony, humour, frankness, generosity… A great woman.