ROME — Milva, whose charisma, warm voice and flaming red hair made her one of Italy’s most recognizable divas from the 1960s through the ’80s, died on April 23 at a hospital in Milan. She was 81.
Her daughter, Martina Corgnati, said the cause was a neurovascular disease.
In an eclectic career that spanned more than 50 years, Milva sang at pop festivals and performed in high-culture houses like the Paris Opera and Milan’s prestigious Piccolo Theater. She became popular across Europe, especially in Germany. She crooned traditional songs and had contemporary hits. She wore glamorous dresses while singing leftist anthems.
President Sergio Mattarella, in a statement, called her “a protagonist of Italian music, a cultivated, sensitive and versatile interpreter.” Her body lay in state last month at the Piccolo, where fans lined up to pay their last respects.
“She used to say, ‘First I’ll finish the show, then I can die,’” Ms. Corgnati said. “The show came before everything.”
1954 Billy Wilder movie of the same name. But her family called her Milva, a fusion of her two first names, and it stuck professionally.
leftist views and her votes for Communist politicians. She sang about the killing of factory workers by the Italian police, performed traditional antifascist songs of the Italian Resistance, and sang musical versions of the work of anarchist poets. She became — also thanks in part to her blazing red hair — identified with the political left.
In 1968, when she sang the Resistance song “Bella Ciao” at the RAI Auditorium in Naples, she told the presenter, “I have a weakness for freedom songs.”