(Born 27th February 1935)
Mirella Freni is an Italian operatic soprano recently retired who has often been referred to as one of the last direct connections to a great Italian operatic heritage that seems to be dying.
She has always been much admired for the youthful quality of her voice, her phrasing and thoughtful character interpretations.
She has been a formidable actress and brought new life into roles such as Puccini's Mimi, Mozart's Susanna and Verdi's Nannetta.
Ms. Freni's Nannetta on the 1963 recording of Verdi's "Falstaff" conducted by Sir Georg Solti perfectly captures her miraculously beautiful singing from those early days.
That same year, she worked for the first time with the conductor Herbert von Karajan in a production of Puccini's "Bohème" at the Vienna State Opera a performance recorded live that has never been out of the catalogues.
It is said that Von Karajan wept when he first heard Ms. Freni sing Mimi and she certainly went on to become one of Von Karjan's favourite singers.
Her career took off in the early 60's and in the seventies and eighties she moved into heavier repertoire, excelling particularly in the great Verdi roles.
With a repertoire that encompassed some forty roles, Verdi and Puccini in particular, she also performed Mozart and Tchaikovsky.
She was always known to be exceptionally careful on choosing her roles and it was a strategy that worked well as her career outlasted those of many other sopranos who came and went while she was still actively performing.
She adherred strictly to preserving the voice and maintained an expressive legato line that is very much in the bel canto tradition.
On LP records, Ms Freni became one of the most recorded sopranos in history. She also was filmed as Butterfly with Placido Domingo as Pinkerton and Christa Ludwig as Suzuki in a production that was broadcast on television throughout the world in the seventies. It is still available today. She recorded Tosca but she has never played it onstage.
Mirella Freni was married for 27 years to the Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, with whom she performed and recorded frequently.
Today, she encourages new singers and teaches voice.
Here Mirella Freni is pictured as Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.
Mirella Freni is one of the featured stars on our "Legends" product range.