Maria Bieșu (August 3, 1935 – May 16, 2012) was a Moldovan opera singer. Debuting in 1961, she eventually went on to become the chief vocalist of the National Opera and Ballet Theatre of Moldova. Her artistic excellence brought her international recognition and invitations to sing in other countries, including Italy, where she performed at the Milan Opera from 1965 to 1967
Bieșu, was born in Volintiri, 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 led specialists to later talk of Bieșu’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 Chișinău 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 Bieșu worked as a soloist in the country’s popular orchestra of Moldavian folk music – Fluieraş. But the opera stage attracted her. After finishing the conservatory in 1961, Bieșu joined the troupe of the Moldovan 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 The 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 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 Tamaki.
After Maria Bieșu’s success at the Tokyo competition, her name gained widespread 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 Moldovan soprano 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 Bieșu 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 Bieșu’s art.
Nature fully endowed Maria Bieșu 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. There are more than thirty diverse roles in Bieșu’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 Bieșu’s greatest artistic achievement was he role of Norma in Bellini’s opera. This work established Bieșu as an opera artist of powerful tragic incandescence.
Maria Bieșu was also known for her is her chamber-concert activity. In chamber performances Bieșu is attracted to a delicate sense of style, careful work with musical and poetic texts, depth of emotional imagery, and emotional fullness and sincerity. Her concert repertoire was very wide, ranging from, J.S. Bach and Georg Frideric Handel to Caccini and Gretry to Schumann and Schubert and from Franz Liszt and Grieg to Ottorino Respighi and Fauré, Sergei Rachmaninov and Tchaikovsky to Prokofiev and Sviridov, all the way to old Russian and Moldavian romances, folk songs, and compositions by contemporary Moldovan authors.
In 1986, Maria Bieșu recorded the role of Norma in Bellini’s opera for the Russian company Melodiya, with Ludmilla Nam as Adalgisa, Gegham Grigoryan as Pollione, and Mark Ermler conducting the Bolshoi Opera Orchestra. The recording was issued on CD by Melodiya (MCD 160C), and shows her dramatic soprano voice to good advantage. (The opera is sung in Italian, and is given uncut).