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Biography: Ġemma Portelli


Born in Valletta, daughter of Paolo Schembri and Maria née Tonna, Gemma studied at St Joseph High School, Rabat and at St Catherine High School, Sliema.

Portelli started broadcasting at a tender age in radioplays with Rediffusion. In 1957 she joined the Radio Muskettieri with Charles Clews and Johnny Catania. In the sixties, together with her husband Paul, they formed ‘The Bluebirds’ who produced and presented a children’s programme. In 1976 Portelli was one of the protagonists in the radio-serial F’Baħar Wieħed, while in 1980 she presented a series of comedy programmes Fuq Tlieta Toqgħod il-Borma.

Portelli has participated in several television drama productions in Maltese. She has written many works for the theatre, radio, and television. She was also a regular contributor to the Maltese/Australian paper The Maltese Herald and has visited Australia in 1982, in 1984, and in 1988 where she travelled from Adelaide to Mackay in Queensland as guest of the Maltese migrants’ committees. She has recorded two cassettes with Maltese songs and sketches. In her visit to Australia in 1984, as the guest of the Maltese Australian Cultural Group of NSW, Portelli produced a musical comedy Imħabba fil-Buskett which was a great success.

In 2000 Portelli was awarded the Midalja għall-Qadi tar-Repubblika (M.Q.R.).

Portelli married Paul and they had a son, Martin, and a daughter, Kora.

This biography is part of the collection created by Michael Schiavone over a 30-year period. Read more about Schiavone and his initiative here.