Born: February 10, 1910 Died: June 9, 1949
A singer of enormous native talent and imperishable will, Maria Cebotari applied her silvery soprano to roles that seemed far beyond her means. Yet through astute musicianship and a driving need to master the dramatic repertory, she succeeded far beyond expectations, essaying such daunting, vocally destructive roles as Turandot and Salome. Recording producer Walter Legge, who acquired her services after WWII, recalled her readiness to perform at a moment's notice and her fortitude in the face of the cancer that led to her premature death. When still a child, Cebotari became a member of the Moscow Art Theatre Company. One of the company's actors (whom she subsequently married) introduced her to conductor Issay Dobroven, who arranged for a scholarship to study voice and interpretation in Berlin. After only a half-year's training, Cebotari was prepared to assume a position with the Dresden Opera, where she quickly rose to stardom. Although slight of voice, she was convincing in roles such as Butterfly, where her trim figure afforded her uncommon credibility. By the outbreak of WWII, she had sung in nearly every major European venue, taking time along the way to create the role of Aminta in Strauss' Die schweigsame Frau (Dresden, 1935). From 1936 to 1944, she was a member of the Berliner Staatsoper. By the war's end, Strauss asserted that she was Europe's most complete artist. The roles within her active repertory were an astonishing lot: both Susanna and the Countess in Le nozze di Figaro, all three female roles in Don Giovanni, both Micaëla and Carmen, Mimi and Turandot, and large doses of leading roles in operetta. She frequently sang nearly every day of the week, often taking over performances from less-hearty colleagues. Singing seven months into pregnancy, she was back on-stage within days of delivery. Although her voice gained more body in the lower register, Cebotari remained the same artist with much the same crystalline, incisive instrument until the end. Her grasp of notes and meaning made her the delight of each conductor with which she collaborated. Her attractive appearance led to leading roles in six motion pictures.