Virginia Zeani has been honoured by King Michael 1st of Romania for her great operatic career, She has travelled to Bucharest to receive the award on 11th May 2011
Born in Solovastru in Transylvania, her family moved to Bucharest where she began vocal studies at the age of 13. with Lucia Anghel. Having a naturally large, rich voice, she was first trained as a mezzo soprano, but once she began to study with the famous coloratura Lydia Lipkowska, her full range was revealed.
In 1946 she left Romania to study in Italy with Aureliano Pertile. On arriving in Italy, she quickly sought political asylum and became an Italian citizen,
After only a year, she was offered the chance to deputise for Margherita Carosio, as Violetta in a performance of La traviata in Bologna. She had never previously set foot on an operatic stage, but the performance was a triumph and she was immediately offered thirty more.
For a few years she built her career in smaller theatres in the Italian provinces. But she soon attracted attention from the larger houses in Florence, Venice, Rome and Naples. Her debut at La Scala, Milan came in December 1956 when she sang Cleopatra in Handel's Giulio Cesare opposite Nicola Rossi Lemeni. The couple fell in love and married soon afterwards.
Zeani subsequently enjoyed a hugely successful international career, chiefly in Europe. In the early 1960s she managed to arrange for her parents to leave Romania and come to live in Italy. This enabled her to return to Romania for the first time herself and she was able at last to sing and make recordings in her homeland.
Although she performed only a few times in the USA, she and her husband left Italy in 1980 to teach in the opera school of Indiana University at Bloomington. There they had the most highly regarded studio and were both made "Distinguished Professors".
After her husband;s death in 1991, Zeani taught on at Bloomington until 2002, when she moved to Florida. She continued teaching privately and, after completing thirty years as a teacher, in 2010 was named "Teacher of the Year" by the "Classical Singer" magazine
This video celebrates one of her most distinguished awards, the highest honour which can be granted by King Michael of Romania, "Nihil Sine deo". She is to be presented with the award on 10th May 2011.
Here she sings the aria "In quelle trine morbide" from Puccini's Manon Lescaut.
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NB The recordings of Mme Virginia Zeani are mostly from radio broadcasts or private or in-house tapes. They were saved by her fans and later, without her permission, sometimes transferred to CDs by companies who pay her no royalties. They are now posted on YouTube so that new opera lovers can freely experience and enjoy her remarkable performances.