|Year of Birth:||1935|
Mirella Freni (Italian: ; born Mirella Fregni on 27 February 1935) is an Italian soprano whose repertoire includes Verdi, Puccini, Mozart and Tchaikovsky. Freni was married for many years to the Bulgarian bass Nicolai Ghiaurov, with whom she performed and recorded.
Freni was born into a working-class family in Modena; her mother and tenor Luciano Pavarotti's mother worked together at a cigar factory, and an aunt was the soprano Valentina Bartolomasi. She was a musically gifted child, and when 10 years old sang "Un bel dì vedremo" in a radio competition; the tenor Beniamino Gigli warned her, however, that she risked ruining her voice and advised her to give up singing until she was older. She resumed singing at the age of 17.
Freni made her operatic debut at the Teatro Municipale in her hometown on 3 March 1955, when 20 years old, as Micaëla in Bizet's Carmen. She later married her teacher, the piano player and director Leone Magiera, resuming her career in 1958 when she performed Mimì in Puccini's La bohème at the Teatro Regio in Turin, and sang in The Netherlands Opera 1959–60 season. Her international breakthrough came at Glyndebourne, where she sang as Adina in Franco Zeffirelli's staging of Donizetti's L'elisir d'amore; in the Glyndebourne 1960–62 season she sang the Mozart comic roles of Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro and Zerlina in Don Giovanni.
In 1961, Freni made her Royal Opera House debut as Nannetta in Verdi's Falstaff, and in 1963, her La Scala debut also as Nanetta; Freni went on to become one of Herbert Von Karajan's favourite singers, working with him in operas and concerts. In 1965 she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Mimì, and later appeared there as Liù in Puccini's Turandot, Marguerite in Faust and Juliette in Roméo et Juliette. The following year she sang Mimì again for her Philadelphia Lyric Opera Company debut, with Flaviano Labò as Rodolfo.