The Canadian-born Italian mezzo-soprano, Annamaria [Anna-Maria] Popescu (b Maria Caliopi), 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 1977-1979 and McGill University 1979-1983, but left before graduating from the latter. In Philadelphia 1983-1987, she studied at the Academy of Vocal Arts with Nancy Williams and Beverly Wolff obtaininh her diploma in 1987, and sang in the Philadelphia Singers professional chamber choir. Returning to Montreal, she was a member of l'Opéra de Montréal's Atelier Lyrique 1978-1990. During 1987-1989 she took master-classes 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. Shealso studied with Alexandrina Milcheva and now collaborates with Janine Reiss in Paris, James Vaughan in Milan and both Michael McMahon and Esther Gonthier in Montréal in preparation for various roles.
Annamaria Popescu has graced the operatic and concert stages of Europe, Asia and North America. Ever since her sensational 1994 debut on short notice in the role of Anna in Les Troyens by Berlioz with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra, she has established herself as a force on opera stages around the world. Comfortable in both the mezzo and contralto idiom, She is best known for her refined technique in singing, the warm and velvety quality of her tone and her ability to communicate with the audience. She has been praised for her "dark and velvety voice" (Montréal Gazette), "a svelte, penetrating contralto, by turns bubbly-urbane and stricken," according to The Financial Times. Following her success in London, she was soon invited to La Scala, where she made her European stage debut in the same role on April 6, 1996, also under the baton of Colin Davis. Popescu's success there led to Canada Council career grants 1995-1996 and 1996-1997. She then chose to base her career in Europe, moving to Milan in 1999. La Scala has now become the anchorpoint of her career, appearing in 14 productions ever since with such conductors as Riccardo Muti, Vladimir Jurowski, Myung-Whun Chung and Carlo Rizzi.During past seasons at La Scala, she has portrayed Mme Dangeville in Adriana Lecouvreur, Mère Jeanne in Dialogues des Carmélites, (conducted by Riccardo Muti), La Duena in Cyrano de Bergerac where she shared the stage with Plácido Domingo, the Page in Salome by R. Strauss, Pierotto in Linda de Chamounix, Meg Page in Falstaff (conducted by Riccardo Muti), Rosette in Massenet's Manon, and Olga in Eugene Onegin, a role she recreated at l’Opéra de Montréal and the Florentine Opera. Suzuki is one of her signature roles, having performed it not only in three different productions of Madama Butterfly at La Scala (the most recent conducted by Myung-Whun Chung), but also at the Teatro Sao Carlos in Lisbon, in her debut in Spain in Santander, Madrid, Altea and Córdoba, as well as the Puccini Festival in Torre del Lago (first appearance in July 2008), the Teatro Bellini in Catania, and Palacio de Festivales de Cantabria. She has also sung under the baton of Sir Colin Davis, Bruno Bartoletti, Charles Dutoit, Andrew Davis, Michael Tilson Thomas, Christoph Eschenbach and many others. She is now prepared to sing major roles such as Tancredi, Isabella (Italiana in Algeri), Orfeo, Duchessa Federica (Luisa Miller), Dulcinée (Don Quichotte), Carmen.
Other opera engagements include Geneviève in Pelléas et Mélisande where she had the honour of performing with Nicolai Ghiaurov at the Teatro Regio in Torino, Roggiero/Isaura in Tancredi with the Frankfurt Opera, Charlotte in Werther at Pacific Opera, Stéphano in Roméo et Juliette at the Teatro Massimo in Palermo, Erika in the French premiere of Samuel Barber’s Vanessa at the Opéra-Théâtre de Metz and collaborations with Charles Dutoit and the Montréal Symphony as Mother in I. Stravinsky’s Mavra and La Mère in L’enfant et les Sortilèges, respectively; Rai broadcast of Fenena in Nabucco in Genoa.
Annamaria Popescu has performed oratorio and sacred works such as George Frideric Handel's Messiah, J.S. Bach's St. Matthew Passion (BWV 244) and St. John Passion (BWV 245), Rossini’s Stabat Mater and Petite Messe Solennelle, Giovanni Battista Pergolesi's Stabat Mater, a work which was conducted by Agnes Grossmann with whom she also performed the Missa Solemnis by L.v. Beethoven and Verdi's Requiem. She was then invited by the Radio Svizzera Italiana in Lugano to perform the role of Juditha in Antonio Vivaldi's seldom-performed masterpiece Juditha Triumphans.
With a special interest in symphonic works Annamaria Popescu has performed and recorded The Garden of the Heart by R. Murray Schaffer conducted by Mario Bernardi with the National Arts Centre Orchestra in Ottawa and with Jacques Lacombe and the CBC Vancouver Orchestra. She sang Sir Michael Tippett's Crown of the Year with the Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Andrew Davis and The Mask of Time with Sir Colin Davis and the London Symphony Orchestra. She was also a soloist in L.v. Beethoven's Ninth Symphony with the London Symphony Orchestra under Michael Tilson Thomas and the Houston Symphony Orchestra under Christoph Eschenbach. She sang in two ballet productions, Les Noces with the Grands Ballets Canadiens and Felix Mendelssohn's Midsummer Night's Dream with the Balletto del Teatro alla Scala. She returned to Montréal for a Radio-Canada broadcast of Les Noces, Berceuses du Chat and Pribaoutki by Igor Stravinsky with Charles Dutoit and the Montréal Symphony Orchestra. She has sung Gustav Mahler’s Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen and Kindertotenlieder as well as his symphonies. On her first trip to Taiwan, she sang G. Mahler's Songs of a Wayfarer, Igor Stravinsky's Lied der Waldtaube and Schnitke's Faust Cantata under the direction of Agnes Grossmann.
Annamaria Popescu along with accompanist Michael McMahon, has performed at various festivals in Canada and recorded recitals for the CBC and the SRC.
Annamaria 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, 199; 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.
Her 2007-2009 and 2008-2009 seasons included several engagements in the Czech Republic, including the Beethoven Festival and Dvorak Festival, an evening of opera arias at the International Festival Cesky Krumlov where she performed with the Prague Radio Symphony,. She also sang in the productions of Rossini’s Viaggio a Reims and The Makropoulos Case at La Scala. She returned to Canada to perform with l’Opéra de Montréal as Suzuki in Madama Butterfly; “Canadian mezzo soprano Annamaria Popescu is brilliantly cast as Cio Cio San’s maid, Suzuki” as per Alan Conter of the Globe and Mail, “Annamaria Popescu est parfaite en Suzuki” as noted by Christophe Huss of Le Devoir. She gave a recital in Toronto with the Off Centre Music Salon.and then went to Montréal for her first Das Lied von der Erde with the Conservatoire de Musique de Montréal; “The Milan-based Montréal mezzo-soprano Annamaria Popescu kept the line fresh and hopeful rather than old and weepy. With her handsome, focused voice and personable stage deportment she turned the Von der Schönheit movement into a little opera scene” according to Arthur Kaptainis of the Montreal Gazette.
This season (2011-2012) Annamaria Popescu will be in Montreal for the 14th annual Gala de l'Opéra de Montréal then she will be back in Canada twice more in the spring. First in April for a concert with the Off Centre Music Salon to be held at the Glen Gould Studio in Toronto and then in Montréal, Vald'Or and Québec City at the end of May she will sing G. Mahler's monumental work, Das Lied von der Erde, under the direction of Raffi Armenian.
Annamaria Popescu collaborated with British pianist Howard Shelley on a recording of the complete songs by Sergei Rachmaninov, which was released on Chandos to international critical acclaim. For CBC Records, she has recorded the Garden of the Heart by R. Murray Schaffer, conducted by Mario Bernardi, and is shown on DVD as Fenena in a live recording of Nabucco at the Teatro Carlo Felice in Genoa, as Mme Dangeville in Adriana Lecouvreur and as Mère Jeanne in Dialogues des Carmelites both at the Teatro alla Scala.
Annamaria Popescu has recently been giving master-classes in the interpretation of Italian and French repertoire at various Canadian colleges, universities and young artists programs. Her keen interest and experience in the use of language in music and vocal techinique have lead her to teach voice and Italian Diction for Singers at McGill University in Montréal, Canada since September 2010.
Annamaria Popescu now shares her time between her home in Milan and Montréal.