Romanian soprano Mariana Nicolesco dies at 73

Romanian soprano Mariana Nicolesco who sang Romanian Christmas carols at the Vatican to a huge global audience has died at the age of 73.

Ms Nicolesco died on Friday at a hospital in the Romanian capital. No cause of death was given.

The Romanian National Opera of Cluj called her “a memorable star of the lyrical world”.

“With sorrow, we say goodbye to Prima Donna Assoluta: Mariana Nicolesco…. Mariana Nicolesco leaves behind a universe that she has enriched beyond measure with her presence in this world”, the opera said in a statement.

 Invited by Pope John Paul II, Mariana Nicolesco sang the wonderful Romanian  carols at  the First Christmas Concert in the Vatican, transmitted and watched by over a billion people,” the opera said.

Born in the small Danube village of Găujani close to the Bulgarian border in 1948 just after the communists came to power, she studied the violin at the Music School in Braşov and later studied singing at the Conservatory in Cluj, Agerpres news agency reported.

She won a scholarship to the Santa Cecilia Conservatory in Rome, where she studied with Jolanda Magnoni, then worked with Rodolfo Celletti and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf.

She took part in the International Canto Voci Rossiniane Competition organized by the Italian Radio and Television RAI in Milan which was the most important international singing competition at the time and launched her international career.

As an artist, Mariana Nicolesco had a vast musical repertoire, from the Baroque to the contemporary style, and became known for her performances of Mozart and Verdi, performing recitals and concerts on stages around the world.

In 1982, she made her debut at the Scala Theater in Milan, in the premiere of “La Vera Storia” by Luciano Berio.

Italian critic and musicologist Paolo Isotta called her performances true “miracles of expression, vocal technique, lyrical transfiguration, starting with her mythical debut Traviata”, at the Maggio Musicale Fiorentino.

She also performed at the Metropolitan Opera in New York, in Munich, Vienna, Paris, Hamburg, Rome, Chicago, Barcelona, ​​Dresden, Tokyo, at the Salzburg Festival and at the Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, as well as in Rio de Janeiro, Pretoria, Caracas, Toronto, San Francisco.

Her  voice riveted audiences at the Carnegie Hall in New York, Royal Festival Hall London, Accademia Santa Cecilia in Rome and Great Hall of the Moscow Conservatory.

She was conducted by Thomas Schippers, Carlo Maria Giulini, Wolfgang Sawallisch, Riccardo Muti, Seiji Ozawa, Lorin Maazel, Colin Davis and Alberto Zedda and worked with Luchino Visconti, Franco Zeffirelli, Luca Ronconi, Giorgio Strehler , Jean-Pierre Ponnelle, Patrice Chereau, Jonathan Miller.

She was elected as an honorary member of the Romanian Academy in 1993.

 She was decorated in France with the Order of Arts and Letters in the rank of Officer, as well as the Order of the Star of Romania in the rank of Grand Officer.

She was also awarded the UNESCO Medal for artistic merit.

She is survived by her husband, the art critic Radu Varia.

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