|Born: June 9, 1939 - Galati,
The Romanian soprano, Ileana Cotrubaș, grew up in a very musical family and her father, Vasile, was a tenor in an amateur chorus. Her musical career began at the age of nine when she became a member of a children's radio chorus. By the age of 11, she was one of its leading soloists.
When her family moved to Bucharest in 1952, she enrolled in the Scoala Speciala de Musica for musically gifted children. She continued her vocal studies until 1958 when, at the age of 19, she was accepted into the Ciprian Porumbescu Conservatory where she studied with Constantin Stroescu. Six years later, in 1964, she made her operatic debut at the Bucharest Opera as Yniold in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande. With the Bucharest Opera, she expanded her repertory to include roles such as Oscar in Un Ballo in Maschera, Gilda in Rigoletto, and Blondchen in The Abduction from the Seraglio.
In 1965, Cotrubaș gained international recognition in Hertogenbosch, Holland, where she won first prize in opera, lieder, and oratio at a local singing competition. The following year, she won a radio-television competition in Munich and. Those awards, and her great success in the role of Pamina at Brussels, led to appearances in Vienna, Hamburg, Berlin and Salzburg, and to a contract with the Frankfurt Opera. During the next few years, she made her debuts in the major opera houses in Europe. She also made her British debut at the Glyndebourne Festival in 1969 as Mélisande, and in her two succeeding seasons there the title-role in Cavalli’s Calisto. One of the highlights of her career was her début at Covent Garden in 1971 as Tatyana in Eugene Onegin.
Cotrubaș signed a three-year contract with the Vienna State Opera in 1970. During her time there, she sang Susanna in Le Nozze di Figaro, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Violetta in La Traviata, Mimi in La Bohème, and Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier. Her contract, though, allowed her to sing abroad, and she made her American operatic debut in 1973 at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Mimì. On January 7, 1975, she replaced Mirella Freni at La Scala as Mimi. She had to fly from her home in Kent and arrived 15 minutes before curtain time. The applause that followed her first act aria was fantastic and her interpretation was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike.
She made her Metropolitan Opera debut in New York on March 23, 1977, as Mimi. She returned to the Met as Gilda in a televised performance of Rigoletto in the 1977-1978 season [DVD shown at right], and as Violetta with Plácido Domingo in the 1980-1981 season. She is also much in demand as a concert artist, and has sung in many recordings.
In 1981, she was named a Kammersangerin by the Austrian government. In 1989, she announced her retirement, and focused her energies on teaching. Her best-known pupil is Angela Gheorghiu, her Romanian compatriot. She married musician Manfred Ramin in 1972.
© 1986 Bruce Duffie
This conversation was recorded in Chicago on January 7,
1986. Portions were broadcast on WNIB later that year,
and again in 1987, 1989, 1994 and 1999.
A brief portion was used on the Lyric Opera of Chicasgo Website as
tribute to their Jubilarians during the Gala 50th Anniversary
Season. This transcription was made in 2014, and posted on this
website in 2015.
To see a full list (with links) of interviews which have been transcribed and posted on this website, click here.
Award - winning broadcaster Bruce Duffie was with WNIB, Classical 97 in Chicago from 1975 until its final moment as a classical station in February of 2001. His interviews have also appeared in various magazines and journals since 1980, and he now continues his broadcast series on WNUR-FM, as well as on Contemporary Classical Internet Radio.You are invited to visit his website for more information about his work, including selected transcripts of other interviews, plus a full list of his guests. He would also like to call your attention to the photos and information about his grandfather, who was a pioneer in the automotive field more than a century ago. You may also send him E-Mail with comments, questions and suggestions.