17 July 1939
Goro, Ferrara, Emilia-Romagna, Italy
23 April 2021 (aged 81)
Milva, real name Maria Ilva Biolcati (July 17, 1939 - April 23, 2021) was an Italian singer, actress and TV personality. She is also known as the Red (due to the coulour of her hair) or as the Goro Panther, which stems from a journalist naming the 3 most talented Italian female singers of the 1970s with the birth place plus an animal name (the other two more are the Cremona Tiger and the Ligonchio Eagle).
She was born in Goro, province of Ferrara.
In 1959 Milva won a contest for new voices, and was named the overall winner from more than seven thousand participants. In 1960 she recorded her first 7" single with Cetra records: Édith Piaf's song "Milord". Her real debut was on the stage of the Sanremo Music Festival in 1961, where she took third place. She competed many times at the Festival (14 times in total, the last time in 1993). The highest position she has reached is second place in 1962, but she has never won to date.
In 1965, a fortunate meeting led to a definitiive change in her career: Italo-German actor, dramatist and director Giorgo Strehler helped to develop her skills in staging and singing in Italian theatres (especially the Piccolo Teatro in Milan) and she began to perform a more committed repertoire (songs of Italian resistance movement, songs from Bertold Brecht's pieces, etc.). In the following years she alternated success in singing (especially in Germany where she won platinum and gold records for top sales) and success in theatre, where a remarkable 1973 edition of The Threepenny Opera met with success all over Europe.
In 1962 Milva was the first singer to successfully sing Édith Piaf's repertoire at the prestigious Olympia theatre in Paris. In 1983 she performed again and again received a real ovation by the public and the French press, very surprised how a non-French artist could interpret with such a feeling and energy the songs of their most beloved French singer.
She was a highly eclectic artist, performing everything from pop music to opera (with Luciano Berio), from comedy theatre to committed theatre (she is the first non-German actress to achieve a huge success in Bertold Brecht plays, putting in a shadow the former actresses of the same roles), TV shows (Al Paradise in 1981 won the Rose d'Or at the Montreaux Festival) and musicals. She also occasionally appeared in some Italian movies of the 1960s, like The beautiful Ippolita with Gina Lollobrigida.
Her singing career has become more complex and various year by year, thanks to the collaboration with some of the most talented composers and musician in European scene: Ennio Morricone in 1965, Francis Lai in 1973, Mikis Theodorakis in 1978 (Was ich denke best selling album in Germany), Enzo Jannacci in 1980, Vangelis in 1981 and 1986, Franco Battiato in 1982 and 1986.
Her theatre career has also gone from success to success, touring the world's most prestigious theatres with Bertold Brecht's recitals and Luciano Berio's operas. She has performed in La Scala in Milan, in the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, in Paris Opera, in Royal Albert Hall in London, at the Los Angeles Olympic Games, at the Edinburgh Festival, and many others.
In 1984 she performed (with Ástor Piazzolla) the show El tango in the Les Bouffes du Nort Theatre in Paris. This was just the beginning of an important new collaboration, interpreting the tangos of revolutionary Piazzolla all over the world.
In the 1990s her mentor Giorgio Strehler died. She temporarily reduced her theatre activity and focused on music only. She received new inspiration collaborating with Thanos Mikroutsikos, James Last and Shinji Tanimura. She performed her tour number 14 in Japan.
In 2004 her last CD and tour was dedicated to set to music of the poetry of Milan poetress Alda Merini.
She had a relationship with actor Luigi Pistilli the ending of which contributed to his suicide.
She had a daughter named Martina, born after the marriage with Maurizio Corgnati in the early 1960s.
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