This is the story of Leyla Gencerwhose name was written in gold letters in the history of opera, and achieved the most famous opera in the world, La Scala and became the subject of a fresh excitement with her clear voice and unique technique in the periods when the interest to opera was very little.
After graduating from the Italian High School, Leyla Gencer began her education at the Istanbul State Conservatory. Gencer, who revealed her difference from other students in a short time, had the opportunity to realize her dream that would open many doors in front of her: Proving herself to Giannina Arangi Lombardi… Her path had crossed with the famous soprano’s coming to Turkey for a five-day vacation.
Lombardi was impressed by the exaggerated dreams and confidence of this young woman. But these were just a dream for Lombardi. Lombardi, who could not resist the insistence of Gencer, gave a one-time chance and Leyla Gencer sang to prove herself as if her life depended on it. Lombardi was so impressed that he asked Gencer to leave conservatory and come to Ankara. Gencer began to move up the ladder of success as a special student of Lombardi.
She started her career in opera by creating wonders with the role of Santuazza in the opera of Cavallerina Rusticana that she participated with the offer of Muhsin Ertugrul, a famous theatre director, following the death of her teacher. She gave recitals before important statesmen at that time, high state official chose her as the exposed face and voice of the Turkish opera. Gencer had become the most famous opera singer of Turkey, but she wanted the world, beyond the borders. Her dreams had turned into targets with the route, and becoming the most famous soprano of the world was at the top. The road to La Scala slowly began to open for Leyla Gencer and she found herself singing in Cavalleria Rusticana in Naples. This opened widely the door to Italy. She began to receive the proposal to play the lead role in Eugenio Onegin and Madam Butterfly operas in Napoli’s famous San Carlo Opera in the next season. She had such a period in her life taking part in Italy’s newspaper headlines that famous actress Ingrid Bergman was lachrymosely congratulating Gencer.
At the end of all this, she managed to reach the stage of La Scala. Audiences were looking at each other with the surprise of meeting a new voice when she began to sing her first aria at the night when she was playing the leading role in the first performance in the world of French composer Francis Poulenc’s Dialogue of Carmelites, and they were witnessing the birth of a large soprano in La Scala. The opera was full of applause that night.
Leyla Gencer brought to light many forgotten works with her investigative personality and educational background; in addition, she brought in the concept of “Gencerate” to the world opera terminology by technicizing voice usage of “La Gencer”. This success was the result of her skill as much as her courage.
The artist, whose full name is Ayse Leyla Gencer is shown as one of the most important sopranos of the 20th century. Gencer, who was born on 10 October 1928 in Polonezkoy, passed away in Milan on May 10th, 2008 at the age of 79. Her opera repertoire included 23 composers’ 72 works throughout her life.
Opera of La Scala
La Scala located in Milan, Italy is one of the most famous opera buildings in the world. It was opened under the name of Nuovo Regio Ducal Teatro alla Scala with the opera of Europa riconosciuta written by Antonio Salieri on 3 August 1778. The tradition of opening the season on December 7 Saint Ambrose day is continuing.
Leyla Gencer Opera and Art Centre
The art center was opened on 10 October 2013 and it was built by Bakirkoy Municipality in order to perform opera productions and concerts in 2013 on behalf of the important name of Turkish Opera, Leyla Gencer, and its architectural design was done by Cemal Mutlu Architecture.
By: Emrehan Furkan Düzgiden
*This article was published in the May–June issue of Marmara Life.