Director: Selçuk Metin
Screenplay and Texts: Zeynep Oral
Director of Photography: Gökhan Turnalı
Editing: Selçuk Metin
Narrator: Halit Ergenç
Producer: Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV)
International Copyright: Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV) / Turkey / 2019 / DCP / Colour / 85’ / Turkish; English subtitles
İKSV had commemorated one of the most prominent opera singers of the 20th century, Leyla Gencer in 2018, on the 10th anniversary of her death with both the 9th Leyla Gencer Voice Competition and the exhibition titled Primadonna and Solitude. This year İKSV continues to keep the memory of Leyla Gencer alive with a documentary.
The documentary Leyla Gencer: La Diva Turca produced by İKSV, which also holds the Leyla Gencer Archives, and directed by Selçuk Metin provides an opportunity to get to know Leyla Gencer more closely through interviews held with artists who personally met and worked with her. The screenplay and narrative texts for the documentary were written by journalist and author Zeynep Oral and enhanced with the voice of Halit Ergenç. Other artists who have contributed to the production include Selçuk Yöntem, Bergüzar Korel and Mehmet Günsür.
After premiering at the 38th Istanbul Film Festival in April, the documentary Leyla Gencer: La Diva Turca continued to meet the audience at national and international film festivals. The documentary has been screened at the 30th Ankara International Film Festival, the 33rd International İzmir Festival, the 20th International Golden Saffron Documentary Film Festival and at the 2019 season opening of the Ankara State Opera and Ballet, as well as at the Arcola Theatre / GRIMEBORN 2019 in London in August 2019, earning great acclaim. It can also be seen on all flights of Turkish Airlines until September 2020. In addition to the special screenings of institutions, another special screening was held in December for Istanbul residents hosted by the Istanbul State Opera and Ballet at the Kadıköy Municipality Süreyya Opera House.
Among the names that appeared before the camera for the documentary filmed throughout 2018 in Milano, Rome, Naples and Istanbul, are author Franca Cella, founder of La Scala Theatre Academy Carlo Fontana, director of San Carlo Opera House Rossana Purchia, Art Director of Sferisterio Opera House and her long-time collaborator stage designer Pier Luigi Pizzi, 2006 Leyla Gencer Voice Competition finalist Simge Büyükedes and winner Nino Machaidze, 2008 finalist mezzo-soprano Asude Karayavuz, General Director of Borusan Art Ahmet Erenli, MSFAU State Conservatory Faculty Member, opera and artistic director Yekta Kara and Supervisor of La Scala Theatre Academy Music Department Daniele Borniquez.
About Leyla Gencer
Leyla Gencer, one of the most prominent opera singers of the 20th century, was born in Istanbul. She started her vocal training at the Istanbul Municipal Conservatory and continued her studies with Italian soprano Giannina Arangi-Lombardi and Apollo Granforte. She quickly earned nationwide recognition after her rendition of the part of Santuzza from Cavalleria Rusticana by Mascagni at the Ankara State Opera stage in 1950 and received invitations to numerous state events as a soprano. Gencer stepped into the Italian opera stage at San Carlo Theatre in Naples, again with the part of Santuzza.
Between 1957 and 1980, Leyla Gencer was the prima donna of the La Scala Theatre, which is considered to be the temple of opera, where she worked with distinguished conductors including Vittorio Gui, Tullio Serafin, Gianandrea Gavazzeni and Riccardo Muti. She contributed immensely to the development of the “Donizetti Renaissance” by reviving and delivering successful renditions of forgotten Donizetti operas. Leyla Gencer, whose vast repertoire included 72 roles ranging from lyrical soprano to coloratura, retired from the opera stage in 1985. The soprano, who continued to perform at concerts and recitals until 1992, then devoted herself to raising young artists. Gencer continued to work as the artistic director for the academy established for opera artists at La Scala Theatre and chaired the Board of Trustees at Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts until her death. Leyla Gencer passed away in her home in Milano on the 10th of May, 2008.