RIO DE JANEIRO (AFP).- Maria Della Costa, a renowned Brazilian theater and TV actress whose career spanned seven decades, has died aged 89, Globo television reported Sunday.
The daughter of immigrant Italian farmers, Della Costa was well-known for her eponymous theater house in Sao Paulo, which first brought globally renowned plays to a Brazilian audience.
Globo reported the actress died late Saturday of a pulmonary embolism in a Rio hospital.
Born Gentile Maria Marchioro Della Costa on New Year's Day in 1926 in the southern town of Flores da Cunha, Della Costa was already a model by age 14.
But she swiftly developed a love of theater. Encouraged by first husband Fernando de Barros, Della Costa made her stage debut in 1944 in "A Moreninha" ("The Brunette").
After marrying her second husband, theater producer Sandro Polloni, also of Italian origin, the couple turned their attention to producing.
Together they founded the Theater of Popular Art in Rio in 1948 and then the Teatro Maria Della Costa in Sao Paulo.
Della Costa was known for producing oeuvres today regarded as classics but which were controversial and liable to censorship in a conservative country on the threshold of military rule.
She also assumed a number of television roles from 1969, starting with "Beto Rockfeller," a soap series about a shoe salesman mixing with high society and telenovela "Estupido Cupido" ("Stupid Cupid").
In 2002, Brazil's culture ministry bestowed the Order of Cultural Merit on Della Costa, by then retired and helping to run a hotel in the colonial coastal resort of Paraty.
Della Costa had no children from either of her marriages. Her second husband, Polloni, died 1995.
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