opera singer dies at 97 – .

Virginia Zeani was an operatic soprano known for roles including her signature, Violetta in “La Traviata.”

Operatic career

A native of the Transylvania region of Romania, Zeani grew up with a love of music even as World War II ravaged her home and took the lives of her friends and loved ones. She began training as an operatic soprano in her teens, emigrating to Italy to study when the war was over. Her professional debut came in 1948 as she sang Violetta in “La Traviata” at Bologna’s Teatro Duse. She would go on to sing that role many hundreds of times over the years. Zeani originated the role of Blanche in Poulenc’s “Dialogues of the Carmelites.” She sang on noted stages including La Scala, New York’s Metropolitan Opera, and the Rome Opera. After retiring from her singing career in the early 1980s, Zeani became a sought-after voice teacher who mentored some of the leading sopranos of new generations.

Notable quote

“I’ve always been interested in imitating other singers to understand different techniques. The first time I listened to the agility of [Maria] Callas I returned home and learnt the most difficult phrases imaginable because I thought, well, if she is singing this, then I must be able to do so too.” —from a 2015 interview for Gramilano

Tributes to Virginia Zeani

Full obituary: The New York Times

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