Maia Morgenstern

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Maia Morgenstern
Maia Morgenstern 01.jpg
Morgenstern in November 2018
Born (1962-05-01) 1 May 1962 (age 60)
Alma materI. L. Caragiale Institute of Theatre and Film
Years active1980–present
Known forThe Blessed Virgin Mary in The Passion of the Christ
TelevisionAniela (2009)
Iubire și onoare (2010–11)
Las Fierbinți (2012–14)
Claudiu Istodor
(m. 1983⁠–⁠1999)

Dumitru Băltățeanu
(m. 2001⁠–⁠2015)
PartnerAndras Istvan Demeter
ChildrenTudor Aaron (b. 1984)
Eva Leea Cabiria (b. 1999)
Ana Isadora Băltățeanu (b. 2003)
Parent(s)Usher Morgenstern (father)
Sara Rappaport (mother)
Maia Morgenstern in concert, singing Jewish songs. Timișoara, Romania, May 25, 2010.

Maia Emilia Ninel Morgenstern (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈmaja ˈmorɡənʃtern] (listen); born 1 May 1962) is a Romanian film and stage actress,[1] described by Florin Mitu of AMOS News as "a symbol of Romanian theater and film".[2] In the English-speaking world, she is best known for portraying the Blessed Virgin Mary in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. In Romania, she has been nationally known since her 1992 role as Nela in Balanța, a film known in the United States as The Oak, set during the waning days of Communist Romania.[1] She received a star on the Romanian Walk of Fame in Bucharest on 1 May 2011.[3]


Born in Bucharest, Romania, to a Jewish family,[1] she attended the Zoia Kosmodeminskaia High School in her native city,[4] and graduated from the Film and Theatre Academy of Bucharest in 1985. She then played at Teatrul Tineretului (Youth Theater) in Piatra Neamț until 1988, and at the Teatrul Evreiesc de Stat (State Jewish Theatre) in Bucharest 1988, 1989, and 1990. From 1990 to 1998 she was a member of the company of the National Theatre in Bucharest, and since 1998 of Teatrul Bulandra, also in Bucharest;[5] in addition, she continues to act at the Jewish State Theatre and other Bucharest theaters[1] and elsewhere in Romania.[5] Among her notable stage roles in recent years, in a Romanian-language production of The Blue Angel (Îngerul Albastru in Romanian) at Bucharest's Odeon Theater, in 2001-2 she played (to great critical acclaim) Lola Lola, the character made famous by Marlene Dietrich. At the same time, she was also playing the role of Kathleen Hogan in a Romanian-language production of Israel Horovitz's Park Your Car in Harvard Yard at the State Jewish Theater.[1]

Morgenstern has appeared in numerous films, primarily in Romanian language roles. In The Passion of the Christ, she performs a role in Aramaic, but like the other actors in the cast of that film, she simply memorized her lines phonetically.[6]

Her surname, Morgenstern, means "Morning Star" in German, a title of the Virgin Mary, the character she played in The Passion of the Christ. Mel Gibson, a devout Traditionalist Catholic, thought this of great significance when casting her.[7] In interviews, she has defended The Passion of the Christ against allegations of antisemitism,[8] saying that the high priest Caiaphas is portrayed not as a representative of the Jewish people, but as a leader of the establishment, adding that "Authorities throughout history have persecuted individuals with revolutionary ideas."[9]

On 29 March 2021, a Romanian man was arrested after Morgenstern received an email stating "I intend to throw her in the gas chamber".[10]

Personal life[edit]

She has been married twice, first to Claudiu Istodor (1983–1999), and then to Dumitru Băltățeanu (2001–2015). She has 3 children: Tudor Aaron, an actor, Eva Leea Cabiria and Ana Isadora.[11]

Awards, recognition[edit]

She has won several major awards as an actress:

  • Best Actress for: Cei care platesc cu viața ("Those who pay with their lives", 1991), Romanian Filmmakers Union
  • UNITER (Romanian Theatrical Union) Lucia Sturdza Bulandra Prize (1990) for her stage role as Medea in Trilogia antică (Ancient Trilogy), directed by Andrei Șerban.[11]
  • Best Actress for: Balanța (1992), European Film Awards[12]
  • Best Actress for: Balanța (1992), Cinéma Tout Ecran (Geneva Film Festival)[12]
  • Best Actress for: Balanța (1992), Romanian Filmmakers Union[12]
  • UNITER best actress award (1993), for her role in Ghetto at the Romanian National Theatre.[11]
  • UNITER (1995) award for her performance in the stage production of Lola Blau.[11]
  • Best Film Actress for: The Passion of the Christ (2004), Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards (EMMA Awards), UK[13]


Where translations of titles are italicized, it indicates use of the translated title for the film in English-language release.

What About Love 2020 Sister Martina English, Spanish
Sacrificiul 2019-2020 Eva Oprea/ Eva Ioanid Romanian
Capra cu trei iezi 2022 Capra Romanian
Fructul oprit (TV series) 2019 Mgda Popa Romanian
High Strung 2016 Madame Markova English
#Selfie69 2016 Femeie Bila Romanian
Miss Christina 2013 Mrs. Moscu Romanian
The Secret of Polichinelle 2013 Maya Romanian
Fata din Transilvania 2011 Romanian
La fin du silence 2011 the mother French
Sânge Tânăr, Munți și Brazi 2011 Mama Romanian drama
Luna verde 2010 Simona Romanian
Iubire și onoare (TV series) 2010–2011 Marieta Romanian
Aniela (tv series) 2009–2010 Maica Stareţa Romanian
The House of Terror 2008 Eszter Somos English
Eva 2009 Maria English
The Fence 2007 Herman's mother English
Mansfeld 2006 Mrs. Mansfeld Hungarian / English / Russian / German
Margo 2006 Margo's stepmother Romanian
Visuri otrăvite ("Poisoned Dreams") 2006 Ada's mother Romanian
15 2005 Irene Romanian / French
L'Homme pressé 2005, TV Bonne de Bois de Rose French
Orient Express 2004 Amalia Frunzetti Romanian
Damen tango 2004   Romanian
The Passion of the Christ 2004 Mary Aramaic
Căsătorie imposibilă ("Impossible marriage") 2004, TV series   Romanian
Bolondok éneke (Fool's Song) 2003 Gina Hungarian / French / Romanian
A Rózsa énekei (Rose's Songs) 2003 Olga Hungarian
Patul lui Procust (Procust's Bed)
Based on Camil Petrescu's novel Patul lui Procust
2001 Doamna T. Romanian
Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula 2000, TV woman at the fountain English
Marie, Nonna, la vierge et moi 2000 Nonna French
Kínai védelem (Chinese Defense) 1999   Hungarian
Față în față (Face to Face) 1999   Romanian
Triunghiul morții ("Triangle of Death") 1999 Regina Maria Romanian
Az Álombánya 1998, TV, short   Hungarian
Witman fiúk (Witman Boys) 1997 Mrs. Witman Hungarian
Omul zilei (The Man of the Day) 1997   Romanian
Ulysses' Gaze (original Greek title: Το Βλέμμα του Οδυσσέα, To Vlemma tou Odyssea) 1995 playing opposite Harvey Keitel as Ulysses' wife English / Greek
The Seventh Chamber 1995 Edith Stein (the starring role) Hungarian
Nostradamus 1994 Helen English
Trahir (Betrayal, Romanian title: A trada) 1993 woman in prison French / Romanian
Casa din vis ("The House from the Dream") 1993   Romanian
Cel mai iubit dintre pămînteni (The Earth's Most Beloved Son)
based on Marin Preda's novel Cel mai iubit dintre pământeni
1993   Romanian
Balanța (The Oak) 1992 Nela (the starring role) Romanian
Rămînerea (Forgotten by God) 1992   Romanian
Băiatul cu o singură bretea, also known as Flăcăul cu o singura bretea
("The Boy with a Single Brace")
1991   Romanian
Cei care plătesc cu viața
(Those Who Pay with Their Lives)
1991   Romanian
Pasaj 1990   Romanian
Marea sfidare ("The great defiance") 1989   Romanian
Maria și marea ("Maria and the Sea") 1988 Maria Romanian
Anotimpul iubirii (The Season of Love) 1986   Romanian
Secretul lui Bachus
(The Secret of Bacchus)
1984 the girl in the restaurant
(as Maia Morgenstern Istodor)
Dreptate în lanțuri (Chained Justice) 1983   Romanian
Prea cald pentru luna mai
("Too hot for the month of May")
1983   Romanian


  1. ^ a b c d e (in Romanian) Gabriela Dumba, Pur și SIMPLU, Maia Morgenstern Archived 2008-05-27 at the Wayback Machine, ("Pure and simple, Maia Morgenstern", but with a pun, because Simplu is a Romanian musical group with whom she had done a video), Gardianul, December 23, 2006. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  2. ^ (in Romanian) Florin Mitu, 2007 Interviu: Maia Morgenstern, AMOS News, November 17, 2007. He addresses her, "Sunteți un simbol al teatrului și filmului românesc…". Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  3. ^ "Maia Morgenstern received a star on Walk of Fame, for her birthday", Adevă
  4. ^ "Absolvenți ai Școlii Centrale care au adus o contribuție importantă la dezvoltarea culturii, artei, științei, economiei" (PDF). (in Romanian). Școala Centrală. Retrieved May 28, 2021.
  5. ^ a b (in Romanian) Florin Mitu, 2007 Interviu: Maia Morgenstern, AMOS News, November 17, 2007. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  6. ^ The Passion of the Christ: About the Language, Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  7. ^ Marco R. della Cava, J.C., 'morning star' and Mel Gibson, USA Today, posted 2/22/2004 9:39 PM, updated 2/23/2004 11:21 AM; retrieved March 1, 2005.
  8. ^ 'Passion' actress: Film not anti-Semitic Archived 2008-07-25 at the Wayback Machine, CNN, February 4, 2004. Accessed 20 December 2007.
  9. ^ Naomi Pfefferman, Jewish Actress Proud to be Mel Gibson’s Virgin Mary Archived 2006-06-28 at the Wayback Machine, The Jewish Journal, November 1, 2003. Reproduced on the New American Media Archived 2008-08-28 at the Wayback Machine site, a site focusing on ethnic journalism. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  10. ^ "Romanian Arrested for Sending Death Threats to Jewish Actress". Balkan Insight. 29 March 2021. Retrieved 29 March 2021.
  11. ^ a b c d (in Romanian) Evelyn Badea, Maia Morgenstern, femeia care ştie să aibă succes în toate Archived 2007-12-20 at the Wayback Machine, Adevărul, 20 October 2007, Accessed online 20 December 2007.
  12. ^ a b c Awards for Balanta (1992), IMDB. Accessed 20 December 2007.
  13. ^ Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards, UK: 2004, IMDB. Accessed 20 December 2007.