Mariana Nicolesco, a great voice of our time, brings Europe to Romania
Marina Nicolesco with the winners of The Darclée Grand Prix 2007, sopranos Aurelia Florian (l.) and Georgeta Grigore.
Celebrated soprano Mariana Nicolesco left her native country, Romania, in the 70’s, with a scholarship she won in a national contest to study voice at the Conservatorio Santa Cecilia in Rome. Her superb dark voice, with an enormous extention and her solid musical background - she studied violin from age 6 to 18 - brought her immediately to general attention.
Still in the Conservatory, she is the Page in Verdi’s Don Carlos at Teatro dell’Opera in Rome in Luchino Visconti’s last production.
Fascinated by the stage and the company, Cesare Siepi, Martina Arroyo, Grace Bumbry, she misses her replica: - Il Re (The King). She laughs, with her laugh that became legendary, and begs Visconti’s pardon. Not disturbed at all by the incident, the great director decides: - This girl should be on stage all the time. She is a presence.
This presence will soon be applauded and get ovations all around the world: unpaired Violetta in Verdi’s La Traviata, Donna Elvira in Don Giovanni or Elettra in Idomeneo by Mozart, Queen of belcanto in Bellini’s Beatrice di Tenda and Donizetti’s Anna Bolena, Maria Stuarda, Elisabeth I in Roberto Devereux or Maria di Rohan, she sang from La Scala in Milan to the Metropolitan Opera in New York, from Salzburg Festival to Bunka Kaikan in Tokyo, with Muti, Giulini, Maazel, Sawallisch, Ozawa in productions signed by Strehler, Ronconi, Ponnelle or Jonathan Miller.
A dramatic moment for her was the very beginning of her career. At the end of her studies in Rome, after her success in Milan at the International Contest Voci Rossiniane, she applied for three more months visa, that the communist regime in Romania refused to allow her. She decided then not to come back to her native country, following her artistic destiny. In Romania therefore she was condemned, in absentia, to a five year prison. At the same time, at her debut in New York, the New York Times was stating: “Miss Nicolesco is the kind of soprano capable to raise passion if not real battles between opera lovers. Her eventual weaknesses will ever be considered more interesting than the virtues of other sopranos”.
This great voice and personality - who was designated to welcome Pope John-Paul II at La Scala, who sang at His invitation in the first ever Christmas Concert in the Vatican watched by one billion people, who appeared in the Holly City at its 3000 years anniversary singing the soprano part written for her voice by Penderecki in his Seven Gates of Jerusalem - sang for the first time ever on a Romanian stage only in 1991, in a memorable Concert at the Romanian Atheneum in Bucharest, a concert that she had to repeat three times at public request. As soon as she established in New York The Romanian Atheneum International Foundation, she donated the Atheneum a Great Steinway Concert Piano that this famous temple of music was missing for half a century.
Many young artists, and not only singers, came to her after her concerts, tears in their eyes, asking for advice, for guidance, for help. She decided to do for them as much as she could.
(Mariana Nicolescos Haricléa Darclée Int. Singing Competition, 2007, finalists' concert)
In 1995 she created the Hariclea Darclée International Voice Competition in Braila, the City on the Lower Danube where the future first Tosca (in 1900, in Rome), Wally and Iris in Puccini, Mascagni and Catalani’s operas was born in 1860 and sang for the first time on stage in 1881. The same stage, precisely, where since 1995, due to Mariana Nicolesco, almost 1500 young voices from 45 countries and 5 continents appeared, to honour Darclée’s memory and to find a way in life and art. For the Braila musical events are from the very beginning not limited to a simple contest. The Master Classes Mariana Nicolesco offers in the years between an edition and the next of the Competition proved to be essential for the new generation, while the opera performances, concerts and recitals are often their first contact, as artists, with the public. Josef Hussek, former Artistic Director, Salzburg Festival: «I don’t know any other voice competition able to rank in all its events at such a high level as the one dedicated to Hariclea Darclée’s memory in Braila, and I think that the explanation consists in the extreme intesity of the event under all its aspects. This is more than a usual voice contest, it is at the same time a competition, a Master Class and a true music festival. This is what makes it incomparable and unique». Mariana Nicolesco’s implication in every aspect and detail related to the events she creates is total. As Clauspeter Koscielny, the director of Berlins Orpheus opera magazin states: «There is no onother Queen of the Art of Singing, like Mariana Nicolesco, who would want and succeded in transmitting to the young talents, with such a devotion, the mastery of interpretation and the capacity of expressing the soul of the characters at such a high level».
As a result, the 2007 edition of the Darclée Contest was exceptional. “Almost a dozen young competitors are ready for an international career”, appreciate maestro Marco Balderi who conducted since 1997 all the concerts and Galas of the Laureates. Including the recent popular concert Europe sings with us, attended by 15000 people on the Esplanade of the Danube, concert that Mariana Nicolesco scheduled to celebrate the reintegration of Romania into that Europe, from which history crually separated it.
« - I brought to the West a part of the soul of my native country. Time has come to bring to Romania the best of the European great traditions of the art of singing that I inherited from my masters and from the great artists I sang with on the most prestigious opera stages. The result is extraordinary and I could not be happier».
In her speech preceding the concert Europe sings with us, Mariana Nicolesco pointed out the great ideas that inspired Europe and its culture, its ideals of independence and freedom. And it was not by pure chance that this UNESCO Artist for Peace sang herself, gloriously, in the wonderful night of July 28 the soprano part of the Anthem of Europe from Beethoven IXth Symphony.
(f.r.t.l.)KulturForum Europa’s president Dieter Topp welcomed Mariana Nicoleco and The Haricléa Darclée International Voice Competition to the reunited Europe. In the name of the German jury and festival delegation he made her the present of a wonderful portrait picture handpainted by artist and director of the NRW-Kunstkreis Academie for Art+Design, Christian Bauer.
(Resplendent Mariana Nicolesco (middle) and delegation members Jacques Fournier, Clauspeter Koscielny, Thomas Krtschka, jury president Nicolea Herlea and his collegue, vocal expert Dr. Stephan Poen from Israel.)