Organized by the Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), the 9th Leyla Gencer Singing Competition last year remembered famous Turkish Soprano Leyla Gencer on the 10th anniversary of her death.
Gencer is deemed one of the most important opera artists of the 20th century. İKSV also organized an exhibition titled "Primadonna and Loneliness" to honor her memory and now it has produced a documentary.
Directed by Selçuk Metin, "Leyla Gencer: La Diva Turca" features interviews with artists who met and had the chance to work with Gencer. Journalist and author Zeynep Oral worked as the scriptwriter for the documentary.
The shooting took place throughout 2018 in Milan, Rome, Napoli and Istanbul. It includes interviews with figures, including author Franca Cella; Carlo Fontana, the Founder of La Scala Theater Academy; Rossana Purchia, of San Carlo Opera; Pier Luigi Pizzi, the art director of Sferisto Opera, who worked as a decorator with Gencer at many operas over many years.
They also interviewed the 2006 finalist of the Leyla Gencer Singing Competition soprano Simge Büyükedes; 2006 winner soprano Nino Machaidze; 2008 winner mezzo-soprano Asude Karayavuz; Borusan Sanat General Manager Ahmet Erenli, İKSV General Manager Görgün Taner, Mimar Sinan Fine Arts University State Conservatory Lecturer, Director Yekta Kara and La Scala Theater Academy Music Department Director Daniele Borniquez.
"Leyla Gencer: La Diva Turca" premiered on Jan. 23 in Istanbul. İKSV General Manager, Görgün Taner; İKSV General Manager Assistant Yeşim Gürer Oymak; the director Selçuk Metin; and the scriptwriter Zeynep Oral talked about the artist and the documentary in a program ahead of the screening. Screenwriter Oral said that Leyla Gencer was a bright face of this country and the world.
"She was a pioneer. She created an ecole, set an example. She became the symbol of dedication and passion when she took over the world stages setting off from Turkey. For me, Leyla Gencer, is a never-ending adventure, an endless song. There could be not three for five, but thousands of books and hundreds of movies about her," she said.
Oral has also published a book on the life of the famous singer. The book titled, "Leyla Gencer – A novel of Passion," has been translated into Turkish, English, Italian and French.
Director Selçuk Metin noted that he was honored to direct the "La Diva Turca" musical.
"Oral's book was the basis of the scenario during the research of the documentary. All interviews and records of the 'Those Walking against the Wind' documentary shot by Nebil Özgentürk have been a very important source for us," said Metin.
"Leyla Gencer: La Diva Turca" will premiere at the 38th Istanbul Film Festival in April.
About Leyla Gencer
Leyla Gencer, who left her mark on the opera world of the 20th century, was born in Istanbul. She started receiving vocal lessons at Istanbul Municipal Conservatory and then continued with Italian soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi and Apollo Granforte.
After fulfilling the role of Santuzza in Mascagni's Cavalleria Rusticana on the Ankara State Opera in 1950, she became a well-known opera singer and was invited to many state events. She lit up Italian stages with the role of Santuzza at Napoli's San Carlo Theater.
From 1957 to 1980, Leyla Gencer was the prima donna at the La Scala Theater, which was the temple of the opera at the time. She worked with famous Italian conductors such as Vittorio Gui, Tullio Serafin, Gianandrea Gavazzeni and Riccardo Muti.
She revived the forgotten operas of Donizetti and contributed to the development of "Donizetti Renaissance." Leyla Gencer acted in some 72 roles with a wide repertoire ranging from lyric soprano to dramatic coloratura, bid farewell to the opera stage in 1985. She continued performing in concerts and recitals until 1992, before dedicating herself to training young artists. She continued to act as the art director of the academy established for the opera artists at La Scala Theater and the chairperson of the İKSV Board of Trustees until her death in 2008. Leyla Gencer passed away in her house in Milan on May 10, 2008.