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Leyla Gencer: A Story of Passion

                AT THE EDGE OF THE CLIFF…

"Please, Guard Hasan, let's go to the edge of the cliff, the edge of the cliff!"

A little girl with jet-black hair, pitch-black eyes -- she is maybe four years old, maybe not -- climbed up to Guard Hasan's arms, pointing out the edge of this plain, the very edge of the cliff.

This is a game they both like and play often: Guard Hasan throws the little girl up high and catches her. The little girl flies in the sky for a while; then, while she is falling down, she finds herself in the trusted arms of Hasan. She wants to play this game, not at any place on the plain, but always at the very edge of the cliff.

That's why she is insisting again today. "Let's go to the edge of the cliff! Let's go to the edge of the cliff!"

Here they are at the edge of the cliff (well, almost). Guard Hasan is throwing the little girl up high to the skies. While flying with laughter up there (at that moment), she is dominant over the plain, the valley and even the skies. Then the falling starts. She is falling and falling and falling…

While falling and falling and falling, at that moment when the laughter is replaced by the greatest fear, as if everything is going to disappear, she finds herself in the dependable arms of Guard Hasan: Oh, I am saved again!

She might start to insist again: "Please Guard Hasan, again please, once again!"

There, at the edge of the cliff, it is the hills of Cubuklu, Istanbul.

Leyla Ceyrekgil is a tiny little girl.

The Arena Flegra in Naples is an open theater that holds 10,000 people. That night there is not one empty seat. There is no corner that a childhood memory, a dream, which can give courage or hope, can sit. Well, the time for the show has arrived; all the lights go down.

A young woman is standing in the dark at the top of the amphitheater that ascends layer by layer, a woman with jet-black hair, pitch-black eyes. She is looking at the steps descending in front of her, as if they are not going to end, and looking to the stage at the edge of the steps.

She is at the very top, at the peak. Below is the tiny stage. The Arena is huge. The Arena is ready to swallow her. It's a cliff.

All of a sudden, all the lights are on her. She is starting to walk down the stairs. Ten thousand pairs of eyes are watching her. Ten thousand people are ready to swallow her.

She is going down the first step, the second step. Her knees are trembling. Third step, fourth step, fifth…

It was five days ago during an exam (yes, yes, it was an exam) that she told a lie. "Yes, I know Cavalleria Rusticana. I can sing it," she said. But she did not know it. In other words, she did not know it in Italian. She has not sung this opera in Italian until now. But once she said, "I know, I can sing it…"

Now, at the edge of the cliff, while she is going down the endless well, her knees are trembling.

Fifth step, sixth step. At that moment the fear grew, in that moment when the cliff was about to swallow her, a voice inside her, her voice said: "Come on, conquer them. Come on!" And she did. When she reached the other end of the cliff, when she reached the stage, she dominated the arena. She was dominating 10,000 people.

Oh! She did not fall into the emptiness, the nothingness this time either!

Naples, the night of 16th July, 1953.

A young woman: Leyla Gencer.

She is at the edge of the cliff again. Because she is going to take her place on the stage in a little while. Her only weapon, assurance, is her passion: not to roll over the cliff, not to get mixed up with nothingness, emptiness, nonexistence.

Her voice is a human voice at the end. It is the most sensitive tool she carries inside her; she has trained, augmented, colored it inside her. It can be destroyed any time; it can be bruised, spoiled any time.

Her passion, her belief, love, lust, power, weakness, loneliness, magnificence, magic, and her reason for existence, to sing.

She is not the black-haired little girl now who would say: "Please, let's go to the edge of the cliff" from the trustworthy arms of Guard Hasan. No, she does not want the edges of the cliff anymore.

Being at the edge of the cliff is not a matter of choice anymore. It is a must.

What takes her to the edge of the cliff all the time is her passion and her voice.

Her passion and her voice are always saving her from rolling over the cliff. That is, they have saved her until now. What about tonight? What about in a little while onstage? What if she falls down to the below, the emptiness, the nothingness at the edge of the cliff this time?

She will take the stage now. This is why she is so afraid, as if she is going to die of fear.

This jet black-haired, pitch black-eyed woman does not have an age.

She is at the age of Lucia, Norma, Lady Macbeth, Queen Elizabeth, Floria Tosca, Lucrezia, Madame Butterfly, Alceste, Aida, Violetta and Leonora.

She is in Milan, Vienna, Paris, San Francisco, Koln [Most English-speakers know this as "Cologne." You might want to change it.], Buenos Aires, Stockholm, London, Rio de Janeiro, Bilbao or Chicago.

Her name is Diva -- La Diva Turca