The US opera star, Licia Albanese, has died at her home in New York aged 105. The Italian-born soprano sang in hundreds of performances at New York Metropolitan Opera between 1940 and 1966.

Famous for her interpretations of the title roles in Puccini’s Madame Butterfly, and Verdi’s Tosca, Albanese was revered worldwide. In retirement she gave master classes around the globe and set up a foundation to support young singers.

Known as one of the last surviving prima donnas of the mid-20th Century, Albanese denied being a diva. “Diva? Hah! I was never a diva. No, no. What does it mean? Only God makes a diva,” she told the San Francisco Chronicle in 2004. “No, just call me a plain singer with lots of expression.” Born in Italy in 1909, she made her professional debut in the 1930s. She went on to work with many of the great singers of her generation, including a late-career performance with Luciano Pavarotti.

Following early success in Italy, France and England, Albanese went to New York, where she made her first appearance at the Metropolitan Opera in 1940, singing the role of Cio Cio San in Madame Butterfly. A Puccini specialist, she sang the role more than 300 times during her career.

She also wowed the critics as Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, a role she performed with the New York Met more than 90 times - a record for the company that still stands. Revered for her pinpont diction and sensitive dramatic interpretations, Albanese appeared in the first telecast form the Metropolitan Opera in 1940 in a production of Verdi’s Otello. A frequent collaborator with the conductor, Arturo Toscanini, she recorded regularly for the record label, RCA Victor. Avoiding heavier roles that could be detrimental to her voice, she continued to sing into the 1980s, when she gave concert performances of Steven Sondheim’s Follies with the New York Philharmonic orchestra.