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Maria Bieshu (Soprano)

Born: May 5, 1934 - South Moldova (former USSR)
Died: May 16, 2012

The Moldavian soprano, Maria (Lukyanovna) Bieshu [Bjeshu], was born into a peasant family where everyone loved to sing. Within the walls of her native home the future singer acquired a natural style of singing with an easy breath which permitted specialists later to talk of Bieshu’s innate voice training. While studying in school, and then at the agricultural technical college, Maria began to perform at amateur concerts, but the singer did not think about a profession. However, pedagogues at the Kishinev Conservatory and the Minister of Culture himself, after hearing Maria sing at an amateur arts festival, sent her to study at the conservatory in 1955.

During her studies at the conservatory Maria Bieshu worked as a soloist in the country’s popular orchestra of Moldavian folk music – ‘Fluerash’. But the opera stage attracted her. After finishing the conservatory in 1961, Bieshu joined the troupe of the Moldavian Theater of Opera and Ballet. Her debut in the part of Tosca immediately revealed her outstanding operatic talent. In a short period she prepared the roles of Tatyana in Eugene Onegin, Liza in Queen of Spades, and Cio-Cio-San in Madame Butterfly.

In 1965 the young singer was sent to the La Scala theatre in Milan, where the vocal teacher and conductor, and assistant to the great Arturo Toscanini - Enrico Piazza - became her tutor. During her two-year stay the parts of Cio-Cio-San, Tosca, Aida, and Leonora in Il Trovatore were prepared. Maria’s stay in Milan coincided with her participation in major international competitions. In 1966 she became a prize-winner at the Third International Tchaikovsky Competition, and in 1967 in Tokyo she won first prize and honorary ‘Gold Cup’ prize, and won the title ‘Best Cio-Cio-San in the World’ at the First International Competition in Memory of Miura Tomaki.

After Maria Bieshu’s brilliant success at the Tokyo competition, her name gained wide-spread recognition. She played the roles of Cio-Cio-San, Aida, Leonora, Tosca, Tatyana, and Liza on the stages of many theatres in Europe. In 1971 the Moldavian singer was invited to New York’s Metropolitan Opera to play the part of Nedda in Leoncavallo’s I pagliacci. After playing this part she was offered a year-long contract for performing at the Metropolitan Opera. The New York Times wrote about this show: “Maria Bieshu is a charming and talented actress. She has a very beautiful and plastic voice. The singer carries herself surprisingly naturally on stage.” The press was unanimous in its appraisal of Maria Bieshu’s art.

Nature fully endowed Maria Bieshu with the qualities necessary for an opera performer: voice, musical talent and acting talent. This presented her singing with enormous repertorial opportunities. She is equally successful with lyrical parts (those such as Jolanta, Mimi), dramatic-passionate parts (such as Santuzza, Nedda, Turandot, Tosca) and bright-masterly parts (Leonora). She is a musician with a flawless sense of musical truth. Hr performances always breathe with heartfelt warmth and spontaneous expression. There are more than thirty diverse roles in Bieshu’s opera record. To those already mentioned, we can add Verdi’s heroines – Leonora (La Forza del destino), Elisabeth (Don Carlos), Abigaille (Nabucco), Amelia (Un Ballo in maschera), and also Turandot in Puccini’s opera, Adriana (Adriana Lecouvreur by F. Cilea), Nastasya (in P. Tchaikovsky’s The Enchantress). Maria Bieshu’s greatest artistic achievement was he role of Norma in Bellini’s opera. This work established Bieshu as an opera artist of powerful tragic incandescence.

Maria Bieshu is an opera singer ‘blessed by God’, as they say. But no less significant is her chamber-concert activity. In chamber performances Bieshu is attracted to a delicate sense of style, careful work with musical and poetic texts, depth of emotional imagery, and emotional fullness and sincerity. The concert repertoire of the singer is very wide: J.S. Bach and George Frideric Handel, Caccini and Gretry, Robert Schumann and Schubert, Franz Liszt and Grieg, Ottorino Respighi and Gabriel Fauré, Sergei Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev and Sviridov, old Russian and Moldavian romances, folk songs, and compositions by contemporary Moldavian authors.

Maria Bieshu is a People’s Artist of the USSR, Hero of Socialist Labour, winner of the Lenin and State prizes. Today she is a professor at the Muzichesku National Musical Academy, chairperson of the Union of Musical Performers of Moldova, vice-president of the International Union of Musical Performers (Moscow), judge at many international and Moldavian competitions, founder and manager of the International Festival of Opera and Ballet (Maria Bieshu Invite) held annually in Kishinev.

Source: Liner notes to the CD ‘Maria Bieshu – Russian Vocal School’ (Talents of Russia, 1996)
Contributed by
Aryeh Oron (August 2001); Manfred Krugmann (Dates & Photos 03-08, June 2012)

Recordings of Bach Cantatas & Other Vocal Works




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