Italian President Sergio Mattarella said Fracci's "extraordinary artistic and human qualities made her one of the greatest classical dancers of our time"

By Joelle Goldstein
May 28, 2021 04:55 PM
Carla Fracci
Carla Fracci

Carla Fracci, an Italian ballerina who was known as one of the world's greatest dancers, has died, according to multiple outlets. She was 84.

Fracci's family confirmed the loss in a statement, noting that the legendary dancer died Thursday at her home in Milan, according to ABC News.

Italian news outlets and Reuters reported that Fracci had been suffering from cancer.

In a statement on Facebook, Milan's famed Teatro alla Scala — which also confirmed her death — said the theater, city and world of dance had lost a "historic, legendary figure."

Fracci "left a strong mark in our identity and made a fundamental contribution to the prestige of Italian culture in the world," the statement read. "Carla Fracci is a key figure in the history of dance and the history of the Teatro alla Scala, but also a reference character for the city of Milan and for all Italian culture."

Born in 1936, Fracci was raised by her father, a tram driver, and her mother, who worked in a factory, Reuters reported.

By the time she was 10, Fracci joined Scala Theatre's Ballet School, where she studied dance under ballet instructors Esmée Bulnes and Vera Volkov, according to the theater's statement.

Carla Fracci
Carla Fracci
| Credit: Venturelli/Getty Images

Despite initially believing that classical dancing was boring, Fracci soon became hooked on the style after watching British star Margot Fonteyn perform, Reuters reported.

"That's when a spark ignited, a spark that became a fire and that has never left me," she told Corriere della Sera newspaper in 2008, according to Reuters.

Scala Theatre called her early beginnings a "fairytale story" and credited Fracci's "talent, obstinance and work" for helping her become "the world's most famous ballerina [who] has inspired generations of young people, not only in the world of dance."

Her illustrious career spanned multiple decades and notably included playing the titular role in Giselle, the famous romantic ballet, at the Scala Theatre, according to their statement.

Throughout her lifetime, Fracci danced alongside other legendary names, such as Mikhail Baryshnikov, Vladimir Vassiliev, Erik Bruhn and Rudolf Nureyev, the theater said. She was also invited to the Royal Festival Hall in London and received the prestigious Dance Magazine Award, ABC News reported.

Later in life, Fracci directed several Italian ballet companies in Naples, Verona and Rome, and was looking to bring dance to provincial towns so ballet would stay alive, according to ABC News.

In her personal life, Fracci wed director Beppe Menegatti in 1964 and went on to welcome one son, Francesco, Reuters reported.

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Her last dance at La Scala occurred in 2000 when she played the role of Luce in Excelsior, per ABC News.

She recently returned to the theater this past January to teach a masterclass on Giselle, which was used in part of a documentary series by RAI state television, the theater said.

"She intimately tied her name to the history of this theater... in January we were so happy to have her back to pass on her experience to the young interpreters of the last Giselle, which was an unforgettable moment for everyone," La Scala's general manager, Dominique Meyer, said in a statement, per the theater's post.

"We will always think of her with affection and gratitude, remembering the smile of the last days spent together, when she felt like she was back home," Meyer continued.

Added La Scala's ballet director, Manuel Legris: "She leaves us in amazement, on tiptoe like Giselle, a spirit that remains with us, filling the ballrooms, the stage and our hearts. We feel a great void that, at the same time, makes us feel full and rich in all her history — which is the history of ballet — and privileged to have shared her art."

Following news of her death, Italian President Sergio Mattarella also issued a statement, saying Fracci's "extraordinary artistic and human qualities made her one of the greatest classical dancers of our time."

"Carla Fracci has honored our country with her elegance and her artistic commitment," Mattarella added. "I express my heartfelt condolences to family members and to the world of dance, which today, loses a precious and unforgettable reference."