Semiha Berksoy Biography
Semiha Berksoy was born in Istanbul. Her mother was a painter. Semiha studied music and the visual arts at Istanbul Conservatory.
Semiha Berksoy Career
Berksoy started her acting career the role of Semiha in the first Turkish sound movie İstanbul Sokaklarında directed by Muhsin Ertuğrul in 1931. She was cast in operettas in Istanbul theaters early in her career. She sang in the first Turkish opera Özsoy in 1934 (commissioned by Kemal Atatürk, composed by Adnan Saygun). She was honored as the First Turkish Opera Singer and awarded with the opportunity to go to Berlin Music Academy for further training. She started her international singing career in 1934, performing in Turkey, Germany, and Portugal, becoming known as a Wagnerian soprano. In 1939, for the 75th birthday of Richard Strauss in Berlin, she sang the role of Ariadne in Ariadne auf Naxos, becoming the first Turkish prima donna to perform on stage in Europe. Back in Turkey, she worked with Carl Ebert helping him in his efforts to create the Turkish State Opera and Ballet. This initiative leads to the creation of the Experimental Stage of the Ankara State Conservatory 1940.
— Emre Akdaş (@yunusemreakdas) May 24, 2019
She retired from the Istanbul Opera in 1972. She was decorated with the “Atatürk Opera Award” at the 50th-anniversary ceremonies commemorating the introduction of women’s rights to vote and to be elected. She received the title of “State Artist” in Turkey in 1998. Following her retirement, she remained active mostly as a theater artist.
Four years preceding her death, at the age of 90, she appeared in a dramatic scene singing Liebestod in Robert Wilson’s opera The Days Before: Death, Destruction and Detroit III at the Lincoln Center in New York City (1999).
She died in Istanbul at the age of 94 due to complications related to heart surgery. She is survived by a daughter, Zeliha Berksoy.
Semiha Berksoy Google Doodle
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— TVMagazin.com (@TVMagazincom) May 24, 2019
Remembered as the first lady of Turkish opera, Semiha Berksoy was the first Muslim woman to sing opera professionally in Turkey. Born in Çengelköy, Istanbul on this day in 1910, Berksoy was also an accomplished painter who became a major cultural figure in the early years of the Turkish Republic.
Artistically inclined since her youth, Berksoy studied music, drama, and the visual arts in Istanbul. When her father tried to convince her to leave the conservatory, she answered him with a passionate letter stating, “I have found something to light me on fire and make my spirit soar, that is the love of art.”
Semiha Berksoy’un 109. Yaş Günühttps://t.co/kI8qUhF9Ra
— Eda (@lavyanee) May 24, 2019
Berksoy was 21 years old when she starred in the first Turkish sound movie, Istanbul Sokaklari (The Streets of Istanbul.) She was also invited to sing in the first Turkish opera “Ozsoy,” which was attended by Atatürk himself, who was said to be stunned by her voice.
Winning a scholarship to the Berlin Music Academy, Berksoy studied in Germany and appeared as the lead in Richard Strauss’s “Ariadne Auf Naxos,” making her the first Turkish opera singer to star in Europe. Despite her international success, she returned home to help establish Ankara’s first opera house.
Known for her signature makeup, Berksoy became an icon of Turkish culture. She was also renowned for pushing the envelope with her fashion choices, once performing in a transparent self-painted costume. Her paintings, which were shown in such renowned exhibitions as the 2003 Venice Biennale, often depicted a little girl which was said to personify the artist herself.
— İibfmağduru? (@_republici) May 24, 2019
- İstanbul Sokaklarında (“In the Streets of Istanbul”), (1931)
- Söz Bir, Allah Bir, (1933)
- Büyük Sır (“The Big Secret”), (1956)
- Karanlık Sular (“The Serpent’s Tale”), (1993)
- Boulevard Bio, (2002)