Amelita Galli-Curci (18 November 1882 – 26 November 1963) was an operatic coloratura soprano, one of the best regarded of the early 20th century.
She was born as Amelita Galli into an upper-middle-class family in Milan, where she studied piano in her youth. She was inspired to sing by her grandmother. Operatic composer Pietro Mascagni also encouraged Galli-Curci's singing career. By her own choice, Galli-Curci's singing was largely self-trained, from listening to other sopranos, reading old singing method books, and practicing piano exercises with her voice.
Galli-Curci made her operatic debut in 1906 at Trani, as Gilda in Rigoletto and she rapidly became acclaimed throughout Italy.
In 1908 she married the Marchese Luigi Curci, and added his last name to hers. They eventually divorced and in 1921 Galli-Curci married Homer Samuels, her accompanist.
She toured widely in Europe and South America. In 1915 Galli-Curci sang two performances of Lucia di Lammermoor with Enrico Caruso in Buenos Aires. These were to be her only appearances with the legendary tenor. Galli-Curci arrived in the United States in 1916 a virtual unknown. Her stay was intended to be brief, but the acclaim she received for her performance as Gilda in Rigoletto in Chicago, Illinois was so wildly enthusiastic that she accepted an offer to remain with the Chicago Opera Company. She was a member of the company through 1924. Also in 1916, Galli-Curci signed a recording contract with the Victor Talking Machine Company and recorded extensively for the company until 1930. In 1921 Galli-Curci joined the Metropolitan Opera in New York remaining with this organization until her retirement from opera in 1930.
Galli-Curci was a student of the Indian yoga master Paramhansa Yogananda. She wrote the foreword to his 1929 book Whispers from Eternity.
Convinced that opera was a dying art form, Galli-Curci retired from the operatic stage in January 1930 to concentrate instead on concert performances. Throat problems had plagued her for many years and she underwent surgery in 1935 for the removal of a goitre. Her voice suffered following thyroid surgery performed in 1935. Great care was taken during her surgery which was performed under local anethesia. However, a nerve to her voice box, the external branch of the superior laryngeal nerve was damaged, which resulted in the loss of her ability to sing high pitches. This nerve is known as the Amelita Galli-Curci nerve.
The following year she made her ill-advised return to opera as Mimi in La Boheme in Chicago. It was painfully clear that her singing days were over and after a few more recitals she went into complete retirement living in California until her death in November 1963 at the age of 82. A portrait of Galli-Curci, by the artist Violet Oakley, hangs in the private collection of Bishop Council Nedd II in Harrisburg, PA.
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