Great artists find forms of expression for their individuality, striving to reach a state of transcendence in their artistic works while always exhibiting that desire to improve so true to human experience.
”My life is a dance,” Carla Fracci states exuberantly, yet serenely. The eloquence of the Italian ballet dance icon and primadonna conveys her bigger-than-life energy brilliantly with this vivid and inspirational metonymy. It’s an example of her lucidity and the generous-spirited personality which marks both her rich life and her extraordinary artistic work.
In her autobiography, entitled ”Step by Step” (originally ”Passo Dopo Passo, La Mia Storia”), curated sublimely by the renowned Italian biographer and journalist Enrico Rotelli, and released at the end of 2013, Carla Fracci recollects her rich life experiences and magnificent performances throughout her amazing career, while immersing the readers in the magnificent world of ballet with all its intricacies. The book proudly avers that she has been “fortunate to know the world of dance and be a part of it”. She also considers that ”art should be for everyone,” not only for select audiences. True to her generous nature, she is especially proud of bringing ballet to people in less fortunate social classes, for whom she performed with the same passion as she did on the world’s famous stages, in various locations such as circus tents, cut-off areas of the Italian peninsula and remote town squares, despite the fact that touring this way was anything but easy.
Sprinkled with amusing episodes and exclusive details on her face-to-face meetings with some of the world’s biggest artists, the books includes portraits of the likes of the legendary Maria Callas (”la Maria” in her own words) and describes collaborations with some of the most famous ballet dancers of the 20th Century, including the brilliant yet difficult and very competitive Russian ballet icon Rudolf ”Rudy” Nureyev, who “loved putting his partners to the test” and, above all, her lifelong partner Eric Bruhn.
The Italian legend also dedicates multiple pages to her friend, the world-famous Italian director Franco Zeffirelli, and to one of her biggest influences, Dame Margot Fonteyn, Prima Ballerina Assoluta and her ”spiritual mother.” She writes as well of her family, son Francesco and husband Beppe Menegatti, director of production, who has directed many of the ballet masterpieces starring Clara Fracci. The title of the book has a double significance, alluding both to her famous ballet dance steps and the steps of a full, splendid life, yet one that was tiresome at times. “I like living,” l’étoile of ballet continues in her autobiography, testifying to a rewarding and rich life both onstage and in real life. In her own words: ”My life has been surrounded by poetry, wonderful music and many maestri both on- and off-stage”. The chapters in ”Step by Step” unfold in chronological order, starting with her simple yet happy life in Lombardy and culminating with her success stories that have made history.
Born on August 20th, 1936 in Milan, Italy, actress and ballet legend Carla Fracci (”la mitica signora della danza” as she is known in her native country) looks and feels as young as ever. She continues to enchant and touch the hearts of ballet lovers with her signature and unparalleled grace, impeccable and awe-inspiring technique, intense interpretations of dramatic and complex characters and, most of all, her emotion-laden bravura steps. At 77 years old, the internationally-acclaimed star of the romantic ballet masterpiece ”Giselle” is a paragon of artistic longevity, with six decades in the spotlight. She is an inspirational model of excellence in the world of performing arts. Carla Fracci’s lifelong passion for ballet has fueled a life dedicated, body and soul, to the stage. It has been a surreal tour de force brimming with timeless, emphatic and effervescent performances that have given a new meaning to the illusion of weightlessness in Romantic ballets and have transfigured the supernatural into a larger-than-life exercise in verismo.
The daughter of a worker mother and a tram driver father who worked for ATM (the Milanese Transport Company), Carla Fracci was a precocious and gifted child with an innate talent for dance. In 1946, at the age of 10, she began studying classic ballet at the La Scala Ballet School in Milan, a constituent of the La Scala Theatre Academy and one of the premier classical ballet schools in the world. There she learned the Cecchetti method and was trained by Russian professional ballet dancer Vera Volkova (1905-1975) among other reputable choreographers.
After earning her diploma in classical ballet in 1954, she began her professional career as a member of the corps de ballet of the prestigious La Scala Theatre Ballet, founded in 1778 and one of the oldest and most famous ballet companies in the world. At the same time, Miss Fracci continued her artistic formation and polished her technique by participating in advanced internships in Paris, London and New York.
In 1956, after only 2 years of performing with the resident classical ballet company at La Scala, Carla Fracci was promoted to the rank of soloist and only 2 years later, in 1958, she was honored with the highest rank: principal dancer. As first ballerina, the most prominent and coveted position for any ballet dancer, Carla Fracci was the star of the renowned professional ballet company and the protagonist of numerous classical ballet dance works that reflected her boundary-pushing originality, innate theatrical sense, effervescent pathos and multi-dimensional generosity of spirit, the latter overlapping from her artistic work into everyday life.
At La Scala Theatre Ballet she achieved international fame as she interpreted renowned yet challenging characters such as Juliet in choreographer John Cranko’s ”Romeo and Juliet” (1958), Elvira in Leonide Massine’s ”Don Giovanni” (1959) and Aurora in ”Sleeping Beauty”, alongside Margot Fonteyn. From the late 1950s until the late 1960s she performed with world-famous ballet companies such as London Festival Ballet, in both 1959 and 1962, Royal Ballet in 1963, Stuttgart Ballet in 1965 and Royal Swedish Ballet in 1969. From 1967, Carla Fracci was a principal guest star with the American Ballet Theatre (ABT), based in New York.
Throughout her exceptional career spanning six decades, her magic-filled, emphatic and memorable artistic performances have made headlines across the globe and have been characterized by enviable physicality, exquisite ballet technique, surreal lightness, leonine strength and majestic grace. She gave life to romantic, dramatic and even tragic characters such as ”La Sylphide” (The Sylph), Juliet, Swanilda (in ”Coppelia”), Francesca de Rimini and above all, Giselle: the apotheosis of her career. In ”Giselle,” Carla Fracci portrayed the innocent peasant girl of the title who dies of a broken heart, but whose death-transcending love for young Duke Albrecht saves his life.
Throughout the years, she has interpreted the role of Giselle alongside famous dance partners such as Rudolf Nureyev, Henning Kronstam, Vladimir Vasiliev, Mikhail Baryshnikov and, of course, the Danish ballet dancer and choreographer Erik Bruhn (1928-1986). Her fabulous and larger-than-life interpretation of Giselle with Eric Bruhn, filmed in 1968, has stood the test of time and to this day it remains her most viewed performance on YouTube. As emphasized in her autobiography ”Step by Step,” the most famous and respected Italian primadonna considers that a refined dance technique is not sufficient: emotional interpretation is utterly essential for the success of a ballet performance. This is why all her artistic works are nothing short of spectacular.
Carla Fracci lives and breathes ballet dance and at 77 years old, she is still active and continues to be in the limelight and make history with her vibrant, intense and emotion-rich artistic performances. Since the publication of her autobiography, she has performed in two productions, at the San Carlo Theatre in Naples and the Politeama Greco Theatre in Lecce, Puglia. At the latter, the divine ballet icon continues to mesmerize ballet aficionados as the protagonist of Gluck’s opera-ballet ”Orpheus and Eurydice,” choreographed by Fredy Franzutti and directed by Francesco Ledda. Her generosity of spirit and humanity in relation to her audience extends to real life: Carla Fracci is a Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), a United Nations agency whose efforts are focused on eliminating hunger in both developed and developing countries across the globe.
On behalf of ballet and art lovers worldwide, ATIM’s team wishes to conclude with a gigantic ”Grazie mille, Signora” addressed to the one and only ballet living legend Carla Fracci!