When Licia Albanese made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Mimi, in 1940, she was
already a leading soprano in the opera houses of Italy, France, and England. Her
repertoire included Italian and French soprano roles, and she was particularly identified
and acclaimed for her Puccini heroines, including Butterfly, Tosca, Mimi, and Manon
Born in Bari, Italy in 1913, she won the Italian National Singing Competition in 1933.
She made her La Scala debut two years later as Lauretta in Gianni Schicchi, followed by
a debut at Covent Garden as Liu in Turandot. Her 1940 Metropolitan Opera debut was
as Cio-Cio-San in Madama Butterfly, a role with which she was particularly associated,
performing it more than 70 times at the Metropolitan alone.
Possessed of a rich, lyric soprano voice, and a strong theatrical sense, Mme. Albanese
enjoyed a long relationship with American opera houses, singing twenty-six seasons at
the Metropolitan Opera, and twenty seasons with the San Francisco Opera.
During these years, she performed in concerts and benefits across the country. She had
her own radio show, and sang many guest appearances on television. She appeared in
the first live telecast from the Metropolitan Opera in Verdi's Otello, with Ramon Vinay
and Leonard Warren. She also became a citizen of the United States.
She recorded frequently with RCA, including some historic performances in the 1940's
with the NBC Symphony under Arturo Toscanini. Many of her recordings have been re-
issued in CD format.
Through her efforts, The Licia Albanese-Puccini Foundation was created in 1974 to
provide assistance to young American and international artists. She continued to
serve as chairman, and to present master classes for its students. She directed master
classes as well for the Juilliard School of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. In
addition, she served as a trustee of the Bagby Foundation for the Musical Arts.
Mme. Albanese has been honored with multiple honorary doctorates and awards. In
1995, she was presented with the National Medal of Honor for the Arts by President
Clinton. She also was the recipient of New York's Handel Medallion, presented to her by
Mayor Giuliani in the year 2000.