Portrait of Lina Cavalieri by Giovanni Boldini, 1901.

Lina (Natalina) Cavalieri was born on Christmas Day 1874 in Viterbo. She lost her parents at the age of fifteen and became a ward of the state, sent to live in a Roman Catholic orphanage. She soon ran away, to Paris. Blessed with beauty and a good singing voice, she obtained work as a singer at one of the city’s café-concerts. She performed at a variety of music halls and other such venues around Europe, while working to develop her voice.

In 1900, she made her opera debut in Lisbon, as Nedda in Pagliacci and married the Russian Prince Alexandre Bariatinsky. In 1905, she starred opposite Enrico Caruso in Umberto Giordano’s opera Fedora at the Sarah Bernhardt Theater in Paris. She was at the height of her career, known for her grace and beauty as well as for her voice.

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