Amelita Galli-Curci (1882-1963), born in Italy, was a leading soprano of her day. She specialized in coloratura (singing elaborate ornamentation with improvised or written-out passages), earning up to $2,500 per performance by 1920.
Discovered by famed composer Pietro Mascagni, she sang opposite Enrico Caruso and Beniamino Gigli before developing a throat tumor in 1935 (surgeons removed a six-and-a-half-ounce goiter) and retiring. Fondly recalling San Diego and her performances at the Savoy Theater on 236 C Street, she moved to Rancho Santa Fe with her husband in 1949. They hoped the local air would help her mate's asthma, though he died in 1956.
Moving to La Jolla in 1961, she designed her home to resemble a Tuscan villa and told friends she liked to "converse with and caress trees." After developing an interest in occult subjects like palm reading, she became friends with Paramahansa Yogananda, leader of Encinitas' Self Realization Fellowship. She died of respiratory failure and was cremated, with her ashes interred at Cypress View Mausoleum and Crematory (Imperial Avenue at 40th Street).