Turkish soprano Leyla Gencer, 79, who made her career at Italy's famed La Scala opera house, died Friday of respiratory problems and heart failure at her home in Milan, a Turkish arts foundation announced.
La Scala expressed "immense sorrow" over Gencer's death and said the singer -- known as La Diva Turca, or the Turkish Diva -- had "one of the most emotional voices of any time."
Her career spanned about 30 years and included more than 70 roles.
In 1956, Gencer became the first Turkish soprano to be heard in opera in the United States when she sang the title role of "Francesca da Rimini" with the San Francisco opera.
The next year, she debuted with La Scala, playing Madame Lidoine in the premiere of Francis Poulenc's "Dialogues des Carmelites." She moved to the Milanese opera house after successful performances in "Madame Butterfly" and Tchaikovsky's "Eugene Onegin" in Naples.