Carla Fracci, one of the most famous ballerinas of the 20th century who emerged from humble origins in Italy to dazzle audiences in theatres around the world, has died, her family said on Thursday. She was 84 and had been suffering from cancer.
Fracci was born in Milan on Aug. 20, 1936, and spent World War II with relatives in the countryside to escape the frequent bombardment of the industrialized Lombardy capital. After the war, an observer remarked on her “grace and musicality,” recommending she try out for La Scala’s academy. She was accepted at age 10, riding her father’s tram each day to the academy, and graduated in 1954, at age 18.
Carla Fracci’s first stage appearance was “Cinderella” in 1955, and by 1958 had risen to the role of prima ballerina
Her first stage appearance was in 1955 with other graduating ballet students at the close of a staging of Bellini’s “La sonnambula” conducted by Leonard Bernstein, directed by Luchino Visconti and starting Maria Callas.
She got her first break substituting for French dancer Violette Verdy in “Cinderella” the same year, and by 1958 had risen to the role of prima ballerina.
Her global fame soon spread, with invitations to the Royal Festival Hall, followed by doors opening in the United States, even while remaining a central figure at La Scala. Fracci danced with the top male stars of her age, striking memorable partnerships with Rudolf Nureyev, Erik Bruhn and Vladimir Vasiliev, and was renowned in particular for her interpretation of great romantic ballets, notably “Giselle”.
In 1969, Fracci received the Dance Magazine Award, considered one of the greatest prizes for a dancer
Fracci last danced at La Scala in 2000, in the role of Luce in “Excelsior.” She was invited back in January of this year to teach a masterclass on “Giselle,” which was broadcast on La Scala’s social media channels and is part of a documentary series by RAI state television.