Opera Singer. A mezzo soprano known for both her vocal prowess and tempestuous personality, she possessed a range stretching from contralto to high soprano and had a short but spectacular career during which she was perhaps music's first "media superstar". Born Maria Felicia Garcia Sitchez to the celebrated tenor Manuel Garcia and his second 'wife' Joaquina Sitchez, she was raised within the artistic milieu of Paris, becoming familiar with music and fluent in multiple languages from a young age. Maria began vocal training with her father somewhere around age six ,though it was probably not an enjoyable experience for either as both were intelligent and strong-willed, leading the elder Garcia to shift the responsibility onto Ferdinand Herold and Auguste Panseron. An 1816 stay at a Hammersmith, England boarding school added English to Maria's repertoire of skills, and from around age 10 her father took-over her education, though the battle of egos continued. Having appeared onstage with her father from around eight, Maria made her professional debut on June 9, 1824 in a London concert featuring selections from Rossini's "La Cenerentola". After singing with the chorus at King's Theatre, London, she made her operatic bow as Rosina in Rossini's "The Barber of Seville", a piece in which her father had created the role of Count Almaviva, on June 11, 1825, filling-in for an indisposed Giuditta Pasta. Joining with her entire family for an extended New York engagement during which her English fluency would prove valuable to her father, she made her American debut as Rosina on November 29, 1825. During the tour she sang the lead roles of eight different operas, two of them by the elder Garcia, but on March 23, 1826 she married Francois Eugene Malibran, a rich banker 28 years her senior. Stories surrounding the marriage conflict: in some there was strong familial opposition, with Maria simply fleeing a tyrannical father, while in others Garcia actually 'sold' his unpleasant daughter for a good price. Whatever the truth, within a few months Malibran went bankrupt leaving Maria to support him, at least until she left after about a year. Returning to Europe, she made her Paris Opera debut as the title lead of Rossini's "Semiramide" on January 14, 1828; from then on she was "La Malibran", superstar and favorite of Europe's leading opera houses. Throughout her brief career, she was best known in what are today called "bel canto" operas but which were then current works. Assuming roles in numerous of Rossini's pieces including the title lead of "Tancredi", Desdemona in "Otello", and Arsace (as well as the title character) from "Simiramide", she was also to gain renown in operas by Vincenzo Bellini appearing as Amina in "La Sonnambula" and as Elvira in "I Puritani", for both of which the composer made adjustments to suit her voice, and as Romeo in "I Capuletti e i Montecchi". In 1829, Maria met violinist Charles de Beriot with whom she was to live for six years and have one child, while her younger sister Pauline would serve as de Beriot's piano accompanist. Living in England from 1834 on, she eventually divorced Malibran and married de Beriot on March 29, 1836. Always doing things her own way and evidencing a disregard for her father, directors, conductors, and colleagues (Rossini, who admired her ability, called her a "spoiled child of nature"), she proved equally disobedient to the demands of political censors when singing the title role in the world premiere of Donizetti's "Maria Sturada" at La Scala Milano on December 30, 1835, in the process creating some problems for the composer. Having met and performed with composer Michael Balfe in Paris, she sang the London world premiere of his "The Maid of Artois" on May 27, 1836; injured in a horse riding accident at Regent's Park, London, on July 5, 1836, she refused medical care and continued singing despite obvious disability. Having given her last operatic performance on July 16th of that year in "The Maid of Artois", she insisted on performing concerts scheduled for September in Manchester though manifestly too ill to do so; after the last one she lapsed into a coma and never regained consciousness. Today, Maria remains one of the legendary names in the history of opera, with countless scholars and fans dreaming of recording equipment and a time machine to transport it; depicted several times during her life by noted painters and sculptors, Maria's story has made it to the silver screen at least three times, the last in 1971 when Candy Darling portrayed her in "The Death of Maria Malibran". In 2007 mezzo soprano Cecilia Bartoli released the album "Maria" featuring arias and modifications written for her.
Bio by: Bob Hufford