Annamaria (b Maria Caliopi) Popescu. Mezzo-soprano, b Montreal 24 Feb 1961; diploma (Academy of Vocal Arts, Philadelphia) 1987. Annamaria Popescu grew up in a Romanian Canadian family in Montreal, singing in the Orthodox church at which her father was the priest. She attended Marianopolis College 1977-9 and McGill University 1979-83, but left before graduating from the latter. In Philadelphia 1983-7, she studied at the Academy of Vocal Arts with Nancy Williams and Beverly Wolff, and sang in the Philadelphia Singers professional chamber choir. Returning to Montreal, she was a member of l'Opéra de Montréal's Atelier Lyrique 1978-90. During 1987-9 she took masterclasses at the Britten-Pears School in Aldeburgh, UK. Later, she studied with Jean-Pierre Blivet in Paris. Annamaria Popescu made her stage debut as Ulrica in Un Ballo in Maschera in 1990 for l'Opera de Montréal. In 1993, she was a finalist in the Montreal International Music Competition.
Popescu made her European concert debut as Anna in Berlioz' Les Troyens for Sir Colin Davis at the Barbican Centre in London (1994). Davis then engaged her to repeat the role at La Scala in Milan. Her debut there 6 Apr 1996 made her the fifth Canadian woman to sing at La Scala (after Emma Albani, Teresa Stratas, Edith Wiens and Maureen Forrester). Popescu's success there led to Canada Council career grants 1995-6 and 1996-7. She then chose to base her career in Europe, moving to Milan in 1999. Subsequent La Scala roles include Meg in Falstaff; Mère Jeanne in Dialogue des Carmélites; Suzuki in Madama Butterfly (three productions); Olga in Eugene Onegin; Rosette in Massenet's Manon; Madame Dangeville (Adriana Lecouvreur); Pieretto in Linda de Chamounix; and the Page in Salome.
In Europe, Annamaria Popescu has sung in Venice (La Fenice) and for Florentine Opera, Frankfurt Opera, Opéra de Toulon, and companies in Portugal, Spain, and elsewhere, as well as at the Aldeburgh, Czech Republic, and other festivals.
Performances in Canada
Popescu has returned often to perform in Canada, eg with Pacific Opera Victoria (Charlotte in Werther, 1998); Opera Hamilton; Opera Lyra Ottawa (Marcellina in La Nocce di Figaro, 1995); Opéra de Montréal (Annina in Der Rosenkavalier, 1991; La Ciesca in Gianni Schicchi, 1991; Olga in Eugene Onegin, 1992; Meg Page in Falstaff, 1994; Zerlina in Don Giovanni, 1995; La Cieca in La Gioconda, 1999; Suzuki in Madama Butterfly, 2007). She has sung in concerts with the Edmonton, Kitchener-Waterloo, Montreal, Quebec, Toronto and Winnipeg symphony orchestras; the National Arts Centre Orchestra; the CBC Vancouver Orchestra; the Toronto Mendelssohn Choir; and often with the Orchestre Métropolitain under Agnes Grossmann. As well, she has sung with Les Grands Ballet Canadiens in Les Noces; the St Lawrence Choir (Messiah, 1996); and at Festival international de Lanaudière. In recital she is often accompanied by Michael McMahon.
Popescu's recordings include R. Murray Schafer's The Garden of the Heart and Rachmaninoff's Complete Songs. Writing for MusicWeb International about the latter, Jonathan Woolf said, "Mezzo Maria Popescu has a finely produced voice - it's flexible and even of production. . . . She sounds intimately attuned not only to the melodic curve of the settings but also to the sometimes morose but more often introspective intimacy of her chosen settings." She can also be seen on DVDs of Nabucco and Dialogues des Carmélites.