27 April 2014


Italian singer, stage and film actress and television personality Milva (1939) is also known as 'La Rossa' (The Red). She has triumphed on stages all over the world, but she is particularly popular in France, Germany and of course in Italy, where she received the highest honours.

Italian promotion card by Dischi Cetra, Torino / Milano, 1964. Photo: Pietro Pascuttini, Roma.

The Panther of Goro

Milva was born as Maria Ilva Biolcati in Goro in the province of Ferrara in 1939.

In 1959, she won a contest for new voices, and was named the overall winner from more than seven thousand six hundred 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 has competed at the Festival a total of 15 times, the last time in 2007. The highest position she reached was second place in 1962. That year Milva was the first singer to perform Édith Piaf's repertoire at the prestigious Olympia theatre in Paris.

In 1965, a fortunate meeting led to a definitive change in her career: Italian director Giorgio 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 the Italian resistance movement, songs from Bertolt Brecht's pieces, etc.).

In the following years she starred in Giorgio Strehler's production of Brecht's The Threepenny Opera which was performed in several cities of Western Europe. The press nicknamed her the ' La Pantera di Goro’ (The Panther of Goro), and she is also known as 'La Rossa', (The Red), due to the colour of her hair.

Occasionally, she appeared in Italian films of the 1960s. Her film debut was the Musicarello Canzoni a tempo di twist (Stefano Canzio, 1962) with Tiberio Murgia.

In the comedy La bellezza di Ippolita/The Beautiful Ippolita (Giancarlo Zagni, 1963), she co-starred with Gina Lollobrigida. Later she appeared in the drama D'amore si muore/For Love One Dies (Carlo Carunchio, 1972) starring Silvana Mangano.

Italian promotion card by Dischi Cetra, Torino / Milano, no. 22, 1964. Photo: Pietro Pascuttini, Roma.

Italian promotion card by Dischi Cetra, Torino / Milano, no. 289, 1964.

Eclectic Artist

Milva is a highly eclectic artist. She performs both pop music and opera (in duet with Luciano Berio), but also plays in comedy, drama and musicals.

From 1973 to 1980, Milva was on tour with the band I Milvi. They toured though Italy, USA, Greece, France, Germany, Canada, Russia and Japan. She collaborated with such European composers and musicians as Ennio Morricone in 1965, Francis Lai in 1973, Mikis Theodorakis in 1978 (their Was ich denke became a bestselling album in Germany), Enzo Jannacci in 1980, Vangelis in 1981 and 1986, and Franco Battiato in 1982 and 1986.

Her stage productions of Bertolt Brecht's recitals and Luciano Berio's operas have toured the world's theatres. She has performed at La Scala in Milan, at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin, at the Paris Opera, in the Royal Albert Hall in London, at the 1984 Summer Olympics, at the Edinburgh Festival, and others.

She also returned to the big screen in the Italian drama Via degli specchi/Street of Mirrors (Giovanna Gagliardo, 1982) opposite Nicole Garcia. It was entered into the 33rd Berlin International Film Festival.

In 1983 she performed Édith Piaf's repertoire again at the Olympia in Paris and again she received an ovation from the audience. The French press was very surprised how a non-French artist could interpret with such a feeling and energy the songs of Piaf.

She also hosted the TV show Al Paradise (Antonello Falqui, 1983-1985), which won the Rose d'Or (Golden Rose) of the Montreux Festival 1983. In 1984 she performed with Ástor Piazzolla the show El tango in the Les Bouffes du Nord Theatre in Paris. This was the beginning of a collaboration with Ástor Piazzolla, interpreting the nuevo tango.

She continued to play in films, including Mon beau-frère a tué ma soeur/My Brother-in-law Killed My Sister (Jacques Rouffio, 1987) with Michel Serrault and Michel Piccoli, Wherever You Are... (Krzysztof Zanussi, 1988) with Julian Sands, and Prisonnières/Women in Prison (Charlotte Silvera, 1988).

Italian postcard by Rotalfoto, Milano, no. 1067.

Italian postcard. Photo: Ricordi.

In 1997 Milva’s mentor Giorgio Strehler died. She temporarily reduced her theatre activities and focused on music only.

She received new inspiration collaborating with Thanos Mikroutsikos, James Last and Shinji Tanimura. Then she performed her fourteenth tour in Japan.

In 1998, she sang with Alexia Vassiliou on Alexia's album, Alexia - Mikis Theodorakis, a double album with new approaches to 26 Mikis Theodorakis compositions.

Milva remains to this day one of the most popular Italian personalities in the fields of music and theatre. But she still appears regularly in films too, such as Celluloide/Celluloid (Carlo Lizzani, 1995) with Giancarlo Giannini and Massimo Ghini, and Tod für fünf Stimmen/Death for Five Voices (Werner Herzog, 1996).

Later, she was also seen in the German TV series Liebesau - die andere Heimat/Liebesau - The other home (Wolfgang Panzer, 2001).

Her artistic stature has been officially recognised by the Italian, German and French republics, each of which have bestowed her with the highest honours. She is the only Italian artist in contemporary times, in fact, who is simultaneously: Chevalier of the National Order of the Legion of Honour of the French Republic (2009), Commander of the Order of Merit of the Italian Republic (2007), Officer of the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany Berlin, 2006 and Officier of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1995).

Milva has a daughter, Martina, born during her marriage to Maurizio Corgnati in the early 1960s.

Milva sings Canzone (1968). Source: (YouTube).

Sources: Wikipedia and IMDb.

1 comment:

Bunched Undies said...

Thanks for the history lesson! I had heard of Milva but was sketchy on the details