Ileana Cotrubaș (Romanian pronunciation: [iˈle̯ana kotruˈbaʃ] born June 9, 1939) is a Romanian opera soprano whose career spanned from the 1960s to the 1980s. She was much admired for her acting skills and facility for singing opera in many different languages.
Life and career
Cotrubaș was born in Galați. She grew up in a musical family; her father, Vasile, was a tenor in an amateur choir. Cotrubaș' musical career began at the age of nine when she became a member of a children's radio choir. By the age of eleven, she was one of its leading soloists.
In 1952, she moved to Bucharest to study at the Școala Specială de Muzică school for the musically gifted. Cotrubaș made her stage debut with the Bucharest Opera as Yniold in Debussy's Pelléas et Mélisande in 1964. She subsequently 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 and began appearing in productions throughout Europe.
In 1965, Cotrubaș won an important competition in 's-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands where she won first prize in opera, lieder, and oratorio. The following year, she won a radio-television competition in Munich. Those awards, together with her great success in the role of Pamina at Brussels, led to appearances in the Vienna State Opera, Hamburg State Opera, Berlin State Opera and Salzburg Festival, and to a contract with the Frankfurt Opera.
In 1969, she also made her British debut at the Glyndebourne Festival as Mélisande, and sang two succeeding seasons there in the title role of Cavalli's Calisto. She made her début at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden in 1971 as Tatyana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin.
Cotrubaș signed a three-year contract with the Vienna State Opera in 1970. During her time there, she learned the roles of Susanna in Le nozze di Figaro, Zerlina in Don Giovanni, Violetta in La traviata, Mimi in La bohème, and Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier.
In 1973, she made her American operatic debut at the Lyric Opera of Chicago as Mimi, and at Glyndebourne sang Susanna opposite the Figaro of Knut Skram.
Cotrubaș made her international breakthrough on January 7, 1975, when 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. Her interpretation was acclaimed by critics and audiences alike.
Cotrubaș made her Metropolitan Opera debut on March 23, 1977, as Mimi in a production with José Carreras and Renata Scotto. While with the Met, she appeared as Gilda, opposite Plácido Domingo and Cornell MacNeil, in a televised performance of Rigoletto on November 7, 1977, and as Violetta, again opposite Domingo and MacNeil, in a televised performance of La traviata on March 28, 1981. She sang a total of three other roles at the Met: Ilia in Mozart's Idomeneo (in its Metropolitan Opera premiere), Tatiana in Tchaikovsky's Eugene Onegin, and Micaëla in Bizet's Carmen, the role of her final performance with the company on March 26, 1987.
Cotrubaș is also well known for being very demanding of directors and colleagues. On several occasions — Eugene Onegin in Vienna in 1973 and Don Pasquale at the Met in 1980 — she walked out of productions when she disagreed with the stage director.
Cotrubaș retired from public singing in 1990, but she continues to teach, giving master classes and coaching promising young singers.