Mariana Nicolesco (born November 28, 1948 in Guajani) is a Romanian operatic soprano, particularly associated with Mozart and the bel canto repertory.
Born Mariana Niculescu in Guajani, she trained first as violinist at the Cluj-Napoca Conservatory, she then went on a scholarship to the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome, where she studied voice with Jolanda Magnoni, and later had lessons from Rodolfo Celletti and Elisabeth Schwarzkopf in Milan. Upon graduation, she won the Rossini International Voice Competition organized by RAI. She came in contact with conductor Thomas Schippers, who did much to further her career, and invited her to Cincinnati, where she made her operatic debut as Mimi in 1972. She returned to Italy, and appeared at the opera houses of Trieste, Venice, Florence, and Rome. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1978, as Violetta (a role she has sung over 200 times around the world). She also appeared in Chicago and San Francisco.
Nicolesco went on to perform in a multitude of opera houses; notably La Scala in Milan, Opéra de Paris, Vienna State Opera, Munich State Opera, Liceo in Barcelona, Semperoper in Dresden, Berlin State Opera, Monte Carlo Opera, as well as numerous concert halls (Carnegie Hall, Royal Festival Hall, Concertgebouw Musikverein, Moscow Conservatory), and classical music festivals (Salzburg Festival, Rossini Opera Festival, Casals Festival).
Nicolesco defended a wide repertoire from baroque to verismo, with a special affinity for Mozart and the Italian bel canto, notable roles included; Donna Elvira, Celia, Elettra, Anna Bolena, Beatrice di Tenda, Maria Stuarda, Elisabetta, Amalia, Desdemona, etc. A soprano drammatica d'agilità, she has a rich and vibrant voice and a strong stage presence. She can be heard in a few recordings, notably: Beatrice di Tenda and Maria di Rohan. She had a rather surprisingly short career - the voice had top quality. One of many great Romanian Violettas: Zeani, Gheorghiu...
Mariana Nicolesco lent support to Romanian orphanages and to the promotion of young artists of exceptional talent. In New York, she created The Romanian Atheneum International Foundation Inc. which helped restore the Atheneum's organ and the magnificent 1888 Romanian Atheneum Concert Hall in Bucharest. The Foundation and Mariana Nicolesco have donated a Steinway grand concert piano. In Brasov she organized in 1993 the first National Festival and Romanian Song Competition and in Venice, she organized the first National Festival, the Romanian Song Competition and, in Venice, The Gran Gala UNESCO-UNICEF Romania.
Mariana Nicolesco is an Honorary Member of the Romanian National Council for the Protection of the Child and of the Romanian National Committee for UNICEF, an Honorary Citizen of Bucharest, Cluj-Napoca, Brasov and Braila, President of the Darclée Foundation and Honorary President of the Hariclea Darclée International Voice Competition which was held in 2005 from July 19 to 31, celebrating 10 years of great music, style and art since its creation by the great soprano. It is the most important music event in Romania and one of the most important worldwide. Mariana Nicolesco offered the Romanian young artists and public a great and fantastic school of art and magnificent opportunities to the young artists.
Mariana Nicolesco is a Ph.D. in Arts from the Cluj-Napoca Academy of Music, Doctor Honoris Causa of the same Academy, Honorary Professor and Doctor Honoris Causa of the Transilvania University in Brasov, Honorary Member of the Romanian Academy and a member of the Honorary Committee of the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation.
She was made a Grand Officer of the National Order the Star of Romania and Officer of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres by the French Government. She received the UNESCO Medal for Artistic Achievements and was awarded the title of UNESCO Artist for Peace. She is a Commander for the Order of the Star of Italian Republic. She was proclaimed The Most Successful Woman in Romania. In Berlin, she was proclaimed Musician of the Year for "her extraordinary performances and for everything she does for the young generation. A great voice for the Renaissance of Culture".
A recent study shows that, in the long history of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Mariana Nicolesco is the soprano who appeared in the most prime assolute. In 2005, commemorating 50 years since the great Romanian composer passed away, Mariana Nicolesco presented in world premiere concert George Enescu's Complete Songs. As a result of the great success of the evening, Mariana Nicolesco and her young friends were invited for a Gala Concert dedicated to Enescu's Songs at the World Exhibition in Japan.