Carla Fracci, the queen of Italian and international ballet, was one of the major ballerinas of the 20th Century. She was born in Milan on August 20, 1936. Her father was a tram driver and a fan of the tango. At 10 she was admitted to the Teatro alla Scala Ballet School, which she first attended more out of convenience than passion: the school was free and offered her the opportunity to learn a skill she could turn into a career. After graduation, in 1955 she joined La Scala’s ballet company. Her career began officially on December 31, 1955, when Fracci stood in for Violette Verdy in a number of performances of Cinderella. In 1957 she was one of the four étoiles in Dolin-Pugni’s Pas de Quatre, a late 19th-century ballet deliberately designed to create competition among the four leading dancers in the production. Starting in 1958 she became La Scala’s prima ballerina. The choreographer John Cranko tailored the female protagonist of Romeo and Juliet to fit Fracci’s performance style.

23-year-old Fracci achieved international success the following year, performing Giselle for the first time at the Royal Festival Hall in London. Over the years various dancers would accompany her onstage, including Nureyev, Iancu, Bocca and Bruhn. In 1969 a film was made based on the ballet. In 1962 Carla Fracci married the director Beppe Menegatti. Four years later, the couple had a son, Francesco. While great ballet etoiles normally retired after maternity, Fracci started dancing again, appearing in even better shape than before. In 1974 she joined the American Ballet Theatre of New York, considered the world’s most important international ballet training center. Over her long career, Carla Fracci became one of the most refined interpreters of romantic ballet. She danced nimbly in Sylphide, displaying a light, ephemeral style Fracci considered a ballet dancer’s “most audacious level of technique.” Onstage she was at once delicate and dramatic. Fracci had a great expressive strength, and was often compared to Eleonora Duse, an Italian actress of the early 20th Century. In 1981 she made her cinematic debut in Mauro Bolognini’s Lady of the Camelias. The following year she acted in a TV serial based on the life of Giuseppe Verdi. Fracci became director of the San Carlo ballet company in Naples in 1988, and directed the Verona Arena ballet company from 1995 to 1997. Carla Fracci has been the director of Rome Opera’s ballet company since 2000, and hasn’t stopped dancing. At age of 66 she played Hamlet in Luc Bouy’s Hamlet, Prince of Dreams.
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