ROM (AP) – Milva, one of Italy’s most popular singers in the 60s and 70s, who was also loved by many fans abroad, died on Saturday at her home in Milan. She was 81 years old.
Italy’s Minister of Culture, Dario Franceschini, announced her death and said Milva’s eclectic voice had “aroused deep emotions in generations.” No cause of death was given.
Milva also played as a stage actress with a repertoire that is heavily based on the works of the German playwright Bertolt Brecht. She often worked with the Milanese theater director Giorgio Strehler, who staged her in one of Brecht’s signature works, “The Threepenny Opera”, a musical drama.
Born in 1939 as Maria Ilva Biolcati in Goro, a delta town on the Po, she took the one-word stage name Milva. Together with the Italian singers Ornella Vanoni and Mina, another performer who only used a first name, Milva was considered one of the greatest popular singers in Italy.
According to the LaPresse news agency, Milva sold around 80 million records and recorded 173 albums. She was nicknamed “Milva the Red” for her voluminous red hair and “The Panther of Goro” for her vitality.
Germany, France and Italy have awarded them national prizes. Milva also had a following of fans in Asia, particularly South Korea. She performed 15 times at the San Remo Festival, the annual competition to promote Italian songs, and joked after her 12th time that she would never win.
One of their hits was the song “Alexander Platz”. It was composed in 1982 by the Italian songwriter Franco Battiato and explored love in divided Berlin during the Cold War. The name comes from the famous Berlin square Alexanderplatz.
Other top Italian songwriters whose works Milva sang were Luigi Tenco and Fabrizio De Andre.
Italian President Sergio Mattarella praised Milva on Saturday as “a cultured, sensitive and versatile interpreter who is highly valued abroad”. He expressed his condolences to her family.
Milva, who announced her resignation in 2010 after performing for more than half a century, lived in Milan with her daughter Martina Corgnati. The singer’s former husband, Maurizio Corgnati, was a television director who died in 1992.
Music critic Mario Luzzatto Fegiz wrote in Corriere della Sera that one of Milva’s many talents was the uncanny ability to sing almost any type of music in any language after hearing it only once.
“She learned by heart,” recalls Luzzatto Fegiz. “She couldn’t even order breakfast in German.”
Milva’s Piccolo Theater Strehler said it would hold a wake in its foyer on Tuesday and Milva’s subsequent funeral would be private. In a Facebook post, the theater paid tribute to her and said she was an “indomitable, sensitive, passionate woman, an artist with all her heart and her whole voice”.
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