Yolanda Marculescu

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Yolanda Marculescu
Yolanda Marculescu (Iolanda Mărculescu).jpg
Marculescu c. 1940s
Iolanda Mărculescu

(1923-04-02)2 April 1923
Bucharest, Romania
Died19 December 1992(1992-12-19) (aged 69)
Milwaukee, Wisconsin, United States
American (naturalized 1974)
Other namesYolanda Marculescu-Stern
OccupationOpera singer, educator
Years active1943–1992

Yolanda Marculescu (also Yolanda Marculescu-Stern; 2 April 1923 – 19 December 1992) was a Romanian American coloratura soprano and diva of the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest from 1948 to 1968. Fleeing the communist bloc, Marculescu became a naturalized American citizen in 1974. In the United States she founded the International Festival of the Art Song at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee in 1981. The festival was held biennially until her death in 1992.


Iolanda Mărculescu was born on 2 April 1923 in Bucharest, Romania to a family of Wallachian boyars. She studied at the Conservatory of Bucharest under the direction of the tenor Constantin Stroescu.[1] When she was twenty years old, she joined the Romanian State Radio Chorus Ensemble.[2] At the end of World War II, she joined the Romanian National Opera in Bucharest[3] and by 1948 was the leading soprano.[4]

Mărculescu married Sandu Stern,[5] who was the first violinist of the Bucharest Symphony Orchestra[6] and of Jewish heritage.[7] She was the prima donna of the Bucharest Opera for 20 years, appearing in more than 1500 performances.[3] She starred extensively throughout Europe and the Far East in engagements in Austria, Czechoslovakia, East Germany, Finland, Hungary, Poland, the Soviet Union and Yugoslavia, as well as China and Vietnam.[8] Some of her most noted roles were as the title role in Lakmé by Léo Delibes; Despina in Così fan tutte, Susanna in The Marriage of Figaro and Zerlina in Don Giovanni by Mozart; and Lisetta in Amorul doctor by Pascal Bentoiu.[1] Besides Susanna, her personal favorite roles included Rosina in Rossini's The Barber of Seville; Gilda in Rigoletto and Nannetta in Falstaff, both by Verdi.[9] Her specialty was singing lieder.[1] In addition to performance, she taught voice at the Bucharest Music Academy[3] from 1962 to 1968.[2]

Shortly after Nicolae Ceaușescu assumed control of the State Council in December 1967, becoming de jure head of state of Romania,[10] Mărculescu and Stern began making plans to leave. It took from March to August 1968 to obtain the tourists visas from Romania, but they were unable to secure permission for Mărculescu's mother.[4] The couple fled with her husband's mother to Austria[11] and their defection branded them as enemies of the state. Convicted of treason, they were sentenced to twenty years in prison should they return, forcing friends and relatives to distance themselves or face persecution. Her records and television recordings were destroyed, though a few managed to survive.[1] When they left, she had just recorded an album containing arias of Bizet, Gounod, Mozart and Rossini. She was surprised that it was pressed, but received copies of it from friends, though it was banned on the radio.[9] With the assistance of the Viennese branch of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society,[11] and the American Jewish Joint Distribution Committee[7] they relocated to the United States, in October 1968, first settling in Chicago, where Marculescu taught at Roosevelt University.[2]

In 1969, Sandu was hired by the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra and the couple moved to Wisconsin. Marculescu found a teaching position that same year at the University of Wisconsin–Milwaukee.[2] She began as an associate professor and taught French and German repertory. She also directed the Opera Theater of the School of Fine Arts. In 1974, the couple became naturalized American citizens[4] and in 1975, she recorded an album for Orion Records featuring songs by the Romanian composer George Enescu and French composer Albert Roussel.[8] In 1981, Marculescu founded the International Festival of the Art Song, which was held biennially until her death in Milwaukee.[12] The festival was designed to teach art song to students and the public by bringing European artists to perform and conduct master classes.[5][12]

In 1991, after the fall of communism, Marculescu was invited to return to Romania as a juror for the George Enescu Festival.[1] She returned to the United States and that same year received the Distinguished Teaching Award from the University of Wisconsin—Milwaukee. In 1992 she was honored by the Milwaukee Civic Music Association Award and then retired from her professorship in June, 1992.[11] Marculescu-Stern died on 19 December 1992 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin after a year long battle with cancer.[2] Posthumously, a scholarship bearing her name was instituted at the National University of Music Bucharest by a former student, Georgeta Stoleriu.[1] In 2013, a book about her life, written by Ileana Ursu was released by Editura Muzicală.[8]


  1. ^ a b c d e f Mateescu, Răzvan (3 February 2013). "Iolanda Mărculescu, soprana condamnată la moarte de comuniști" (in Romanian). Bucharest, Romania: Editura Mateescu. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  2. ^ a b c d e "Yolanda Marculescu-Stern". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 21 December 1992. p. 12A. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  3. ^ a b c Cornfield 2013, p. 204.
  4. ^ a b c Daniell, Constance (13 September 1974). "New Citizens and a New Life". The Milwaukee Journal. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. p. 4, Part 2. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  5. ^ a b Stefan, Adina (August–September 2014). "Iolanda Marculescu, o primadona de neuitat". Revista VIP (in Romanian). Bucharest, Romania: Editura Arte. 23 (4). Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  6. ^ "Talented Reds Gained by the U.S." The Kansas City Times. Kansas City, Missouri. 24 October 1968. p. 29. Retrieved 11 January 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  7. ^ a b "Violinist, Newcomer to City, Thanks Campaign Workers for New Life Here". The Wisconsin Jewish Chronicle. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. 27 March 1970. p. 7. Retrieved 11 January 2016 – via Newspapers.com. open access
  8. ^ a b c Haralambie, Lucian (16 January 2014). "'Diva Imperiului Muzicii - Yolanda Mărculescu şi epoca sa' – interviu cu Ileana Ursu". Bucharest, Romania: Radio România Muzical. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  9. ^ a b Johnson, Lawrence B. (31 August 1973). "Sing Opera in the Language of Audience, Diva Urges". The Milwaukee Sentinel. Milwaukee, Wisconsin. p. 25. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  10. ^ "Nicolae Ceaușescu". Encyclopædia Britannica. 24 February 2014. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  11. ^ a b c Duvall, William; Goodberg, Robert; LaBruce, Evelyn; Nelson, Daniel (22 April 1993). "Memorial Resolution for Professor Yolanda Marculescu" (PDF). Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. Retrieved 11 January 2016.
  12. ^ a b "Yolanda Marculescu-Stern Papers, 1949–1992". Milwaukee, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Digital Collections. April 2006. Retrieved 11 January 2016.


Further reading[edit]

  • Ursu, Ileana (2013). Diva imperiului Muzicii, Iolanda Mărculescu și epoca sa (in Romanian). Bucharest, Romania: Editura Muzicală. ISBN 978-973-42-0569-1.