Romanian soprano Nelly Miricioiu has had one of the major operatic careers beginning in the last two decades of the twentieth century. She is a lyric/dramatic soprano with a repertory that embraces the most powerful Italian dramatic roles and the great bel canto heroines.
She studied in Iasi, a regional center in Romania, then continued her schooling in Milan. Her first appearance was as the Queen of the Night in Mozart's Die Zauberflöte in Iasi in the mid-1970s. Stardom did not come overnight. She became a member of the roster of the Brasov Opera in Romania in 1975 and remained there through 1978. She sang on various stages, learning her craft, left the repressive Ceaucescu Communist regime in Romania, and obtained a position with the Scottish Opera from 1981 to 1983. Her debut role in Glasgow was as Tosca.
Then the Scottish Opera was not as highly regarded as it would be later, and Miricioiu was not widely noted, giving her an opportunity to broaden her repertory. It was at that point that her voice gained the maturity that allowed her to move into dramatic territory with roles such as Violetta Vallery in Verdi's La Traviata, and Puccini's Tosca and Manon Lescaut.
In 1982, things began to happen for her. She made her debut at Covent Garden in London as Nedda in I Pagliacci opposite the great Canadian tenor Jon Vickers, with Piero Cappuccili and Thomas Allen also in the cast. Then in the Opéra-Comique of Paris she sang the leading female roles in all three main acts of Offenbach's Les Contes d'Hoffman, again to general acclaim.
Her rise to stardom occurred in 1983 when she triumphed at La Scala, Milan in her debut there, as Lucia di Lammermoor. By then Covent Garden had already engaged her to return, and in short order she sang Musetta in La bohème, Valentine in Meyerbeer's Les Huguenots, and Marguerite in Gounod's Faust. She first sang with the English National Opera in 1984 as Violetta, which has become one of her signature roles.
As an artist at the peak of the operatic hierarchy, she has sung in most if not all of the world's great houses. Her Metropolitan debut was in 1989 as Mimì in Bohème, and with some of the greatest stars of the operatic stage, including José Carreras, Plácido Domingo, Rento Bruson, Roberto Alagna, Franco Bonisooli, José Cura, Neil Shicoff, and Alfred Kraus.
In the 1990s, she expanded her repertory into the great bel canto roles and has become one of the sopranos most in demand for that repertory. She sings heroic parts in Rossini operas such as Armida, Semiramide, and Ermione, the role of Queen Elizabeth in Donizetti's Roberto Devereux, Donizetti's Rosamunda d'Inghilterra and Maria De Rudenz, Rossini's Ricciardo e Zoraide, and Elvira in Verdi's Ernani.
In addition, other operas she has sung are Mercadante's Orazi e Curiazi, Madama Butterfly, Norma, Zandonai's Francesca da Rimini, Respighi's La Fiamma, Cilea's Adriana Lecourvreur, Meyerbeer's Robert le diable, Bellini's Norma, Elisabeth de Valois in Don Carlos, and Elena in I Vespri Siciliani.
She is also active as a concert singer. In 1986, she established an important series called the Vara Matinee Concerts at the Amsterdam Concertgebouw and is particularly well known for her interpretations of the songs of Duparc. She has made numerous recordings.