Levantines of Note


Yolanda Cristina Gigliotti (17 January 1933 – 3 May 1987), better known as Dalida was an Egyptian-born French and Italian singer and actress who performed and recorded in more than ten languages, including Arabic, Italian, Greek, German, French, English, Japanese, Hebrew, Dutch and Spanish. She spent most of a career in France and acquired French citizenship in 1961 upon marriage, while maintaining her original Italian one. Twice honoured with the Oscar mondial du succès du disque (the "World Oscar of Recording Success"), she is the only European singer to have won this award more than once. Dalida ranks among 7 biggest singers of all time. Her 30-year career began in 1956 and ended with her last album in 1986, half year before her death, while continuing to held concerts until last days. Her suicide led to an iconic image as a tragic diva and renowned singer. She received more than 70 gold records and was the first singer to receive platinum and diamond disc.

Yolanda Cristina Gigliotti was born in Cairo, Egypt. Her family was from Serrastretta, Calabria, Italy, but lived in Egypt, where Dalida's father, Pietro Gigliotti (1904-1945), was first violinist (primo violino) at the Cairo Opera House, Dalida′s mother Giuseppina (née. Rose) (1904-1971) was a seamstress.

Until the Second World War and the post-war instability in Egypt that eventually led to the Nasser revolution, the country was very multi-cultural and the various communities mostly got on with the job of making a living. It was a true Levantine port and it did have an artistic scene beyond transient pleasures of cafes and music halls. Some of the greatest Egyptian singers of the day arose in this era and from the European population clearly Miss Gigliotti was the most successful. However her life did mirror that of Egypt, a roller coaster of emotions and mistakes along the way, culminating in her suicide having suffered the multiple suicides of former lovers and friends in the latter stages of her life. This week marks the 30th anniversary of her death... gone but not forgotten, the flower of the Levant...

Dalida visiting the house where she was born in Cairo, Egypt.