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Singer and actress Milva reigned for decades among the most popular and far-ranging performers in her native Italy. Born Maria Ilva Biolcati in Goro on July 17, 1939, at 20 she beat out more than 7,000 rivals to claim top honors in an influential talent showcase, and in 1960 cut her debut single, a cover of Édith Piaf's "Milord." In 1961 Milva earned third place at the influential San Remo Music Festival. A year later she came in second and returned to the competition often in the years to follow despite never earning first prize. In 1962 Milva headlined Paris' legendary Olympia Theatre, performing a set of Piaf songs to rapturous reception. Soon after, she befriended actor and director Giorgo Strehler, who nurtured her interest in musical theater and encouraged the expansion of her repertoire, recommending works spanning from the Italian resistance movement to Bertold Brecht. Milva would become the first actress outside of Germany to prove successful in Brecht adaptations, in addition moving into film, appearing in Mario Mattoli's musical comedy Appuntamento in Riviera. She remained a remarkably eclectic and adventurous performer in the years to follow, collaborating with composers including Luciano Berio, Ennio Morricone, Mikis Theodorakis, and Ástor Piazzolla and performing at venues including Milan's La Scala, Berlin's Deutsche Oper, London's Royal Albert Hall, and even the 1984 Summer Olympics in Los Angeles. With 1981's Ich Hab' Keine Angst Milva inaugurated a long-running collaboration with electronic composer Vangelis. In the years to follow, she also worked on a recurring basis with composer Franco Battiato. With the death of Strehler, Milva curtailed her theatrical pursuits, although she continued exploring new musical directions via collaborations with Thanos Mikroutsikos, James Last, and Giorgio Faletti.