Mirella Freni passed away on February 9th 2020. She was 84 years old. Freni was an Italian operatic soprano who had a career of 50 years and appeared at major international opera houses. She received international attention at the Glyndebourne Festival, where she appeared as Zerlina in Mozart's Don Giovanni and as Adina in Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore.
Freni is associated with the role of Mimi in Puccini's La bohème, which she sang at La Scala in Milan and the Vienna State Opera in 1963, conducted by Herbert von Karajan. She also performed the role in a film of the production and as her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in New York City in 1965.
Freni portrayed her characters convincingly in both acting and singing. Freni was married for many years to the Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, with whom she performed and recorded. Her obituary from The New York Times describes her as a "matchless Italian prima donna".
La belle Hélène or The Beautiful Helen, is an opéra bouffe in three acts, with music by Jacques Offenbach and words by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy. The piece parodies the story of Helen's elopement with Paris, which set off the Trojan War.
The premiere was at the Théâtre des Variétés, Paris, on December 17, 1864. The work ran well, and productions followed in three continents. La belle Hélene continued to be revived throughout the 20th century, and has remained a repertoire piece in the 21st.
2001 CD on Virgin Classics staring Felicity Lott as Helene.