Maria di Balbi
|Maria di Balbi|
Simone Ritscher as Maria di Balbi
|Verbotene Liebe character|
|Portrayed by||Simone Ritscher|
|First appearance||Episode 3313
21 January 2009
|Last appearance||Episode 3760
7 January 2011
|Created by||Holger Badura|
|Other names||Maria Galdi
Francesca von Lahnstein
|Occupation||Former private secretary of the Waldensteyck family|
Maria di Balbi is a fictional character on the German soap opera Verbotene Liebe (Forbidden Love) portrayed by actress Simone Ritscher since 21 January 2009. The character was also known by the alias Maria Galdi and the identity of her late sister Francesca von Lahnstein. She left the series on 7 January 2011. Two months later, on 17 March 2011, the character was killed off off-screen, to the anger of many fans.
The loyal secretary
Maria is the loyal private secretary of the Waldensteyck family and arrives together with Princess Luise (Mascha Müller) in Düsseldorf. She schedules every meeting for her and tries to groom her for her assignments as representative of her family. Maria can be very caring, but also very protective when it comes to Luise's indiscretions. When Luise meets the charming pilot Gregor Mann (Andreas Jancke), Maria tries to be the voice of reason and wants her to stop seeing him. Not only is Luise engaged to Eduard von Tepp (Hubertus Regout), she also has a life to live that just wouldn't fit in with the life that Gregor seems to live. Luise listens to Maria and decides to keep her distance from Gregor. She sees him one last time and tells him that she won't return and is leaving town. Only days later, Luise and Gregor meet again at a masked-ball, which is taking place at Castle Königsbrunn.
Gregor, a good friend of the Lahnstein family and cousin to Stella (Anne Wis), the caretaker of the castle, is also on the guest list. Hidden behind masks Luise and Gregor dance most of the night together under the watchful eyes of Maria. When the masks fall and Luise sees who she is dancing with, she runs off. Gregor asks Maria whether she knew the woman he was dancing with, but Maria denies knowing her. She tries to advise Luise to marry Eduard, but realizes that Luise loves Gregor and can't talk her out of seeing him. Maria tries to stay loyal to Luise and even covers for her when she goes off to see Gregor. When suspicions are aroused that Maria isn't who she says she is and some think that maybe she is the supposedly dead Francesca von Lahnstein, Maria quits her job as private secretary.
The mysterious woman
With her arrival at Castle Königsbrunn, Maria seems to have a connection with the Lahnstein family. She looks fondly at the Lahnstein children and also acts suspiciously whenever something personal is mentioned. When Maria is alone in the workroom of the castle, she looks at a family photo and touches it tenderly with her hand. Later, in a private moment with Carla von Lahnstein (Claudia Hiersche) she gets the feeling that she needs someone to confide in. Maria tells her that she will always be there for her, if she needs anything. Alone with Carla's daughter Sophia, she also mentions that the little girl would have the eyes of her mother. Followed by recent events, when she looks curious to Elisabeth (Martina Servatius), when she was talking about the late Johannes von Lahnstein (Thomas Gumpert) and when she gets a very weird look by looking at a picture of Johannes' first late wife Francesca. Who is Maria really and what is her connection to the Lahnstein family? After a while some people on Königsbrunn become very suspicious about Maria. While she is interested in the past of Francesca, Leonard von Lahnstein (Lars Korten) begins to think that there might be a connection between Maria and his dead mother Francesca. He tries to find out everything about the woman that there is to know. That's how he discovers that Maria can't be Maria Galdi. The woman that Maria claims to be has been dead for years. Leonard informs Luise about this and they both want to talk to Maria about it. Maria walks away and gives up her job as private secretary of Luise. Leonard can't let the mysterious woman go, without knowing more about her and asks her if she is his supposedly dead mother. Maria is shocked and can't give him a straight answer. Leonard lets Luise in on his suspicion and finds a way that he can prove that Maria really is Francesca von Lahnstein. A birthmark that his mother always tried to hid. He meets with Maria one last time and in fact finds Francesca's birthmark on the same position, where his mother had hers. Maria runs away and is missing for a while. Leonard searches for her and hires a private investigator. Then he lets his siblings Ansgar (Wolfram Grandezka) and Carla in on his suspicion, who are outraged and can't believe that Leonard could actually be right. But his siblings keep thinking about the strange possibility. The very next day, the Lahnstein family gets the surprise of their lives when Maria returns to Königsbrunn and claims that she is in fact Francesca von Lahnstein, the mother of Ansgar, Carla, Leonard and Constantin (Milan Marcus), who currently attends a journalism school in London.
Taking the identity of Francesca
While Leonard is willing to believe Maria and accept her as his mother, Carla and Ansgar are outraged about Maria's allegations. When asked what kept her all those years away from her family, Maria tells the Lahnsteins that she was witness to a murder by the Italian mafia, while on vacation with Leonard in Italy. The car accident, in which Francesca supposedly died, was faked to save her own life and also the lives of her children. Scared that the mafia would harm him, she had to stay away. Carla doesn't believe anything coming out of Maria's mouth and laughs at her. Ansgar won't believe her either, but when he checks out her story he finds out that Maria is telling the truth about the murder and the anonymous witness. Ansgar decides that he has to be sure and asks her some things from his childhood that only his mother could knew about. Maria doesn't want to answer some questions and proving herself to Ansgar. She wants him to believe her, because he really thinks Maria is who she says she is - Francesca, his mother. Maria does answer Ansgar's questions anyway; Ansgar is shocked with the result and runs away. When Leonard later invites Maria for dinner, Ansgar stands up announcing Maria as head of the family, because she is in fact Francesca. Carla and Elisabeth are shocked and speechless that Ansgar believes Maria too and leave the table. Ansgar's wife Tanja (Miriam Lahnstein) welcomes the idea of Maria being Francesca with open arms. Was Ansgar always Maria's favorite and maybe could win back more power in the family and holing with her help. Maria seems to be open to Tanja at first, but when Ansgar tells her that his marriage is only one of convenience and not love, she tells Tanja what she thinks about her, saying "I can see a misplaying hussy, when it stands right in front of me!". Without doubt an open a declaration of war on Tanja. But not everyone believes Maria just yet and there are still some unanswered questions. The biggest one of all: Is Maria really Francesca von Lahnstein or are Carla and Elisabeth right not to trust her?