Celebrated Italian singer Milva dies at 81

Milva and Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla in 1986
Milva and Argentine composer Astor Piazzolla in 1986 Georges BENDRIHEM AFP
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Rome (AFP)

Celebrated Italian singer Milva, who achieved fame with her beloved performances in the 1960s and 70s, has died aged 81, Italian media reported on Saturday.

She died Friday evening in Milan after a long illness, her daughter told the Ansa agency.

"Her voice has aroused intense emotions for entire generations," Culture Minister Dario Franceschini said.

"A great Italian, an artist who started from her homeland and rose to international stages."

Maria Ilva Biocati -- her full name -- was born in the village of Goro in Emilia-Romagna. She was later nicknamed "The Panther of Goro."

Known for her striking red hair, her career went far beyond Italy's borders, with fans in Latin America, Spain, France and especially Germany, a country whose language she learned.