Born in the historic town of Oderzo, near Venice, Maria Chiara studied at the Conservatorio Benedetto Marcello in Venice between 1960 and 1965 as a pupil of the distinguished bass Antonio Cassinelli (1912–1993), whom she subsequently married. She was also a pupil of the famous soprano Maria Carbone in Turin. After her 1965 début as Desdemona/Otello in a production staged at the Doge’s Palace in Venice, Chiara was invited to appear at Amsterdam, Brussels and Paris, as well as at the San Carlo, Naples. She made her début at the Verona Arena in 1969 singing Liù/Turandot opposite Plácido Domingo, and sang Micaela/Carmen there the following year.
During the 1970s Chiara was active across Europe. She appeared for the first time at Munich and Vienna in 1970, returning to each opera house frequently, and at Berlin, Hamburg and the Maggio Musicale in Florence in 1971. Her début at La Scala, Milan, came in 1972 as Micaela, and at the Royal Opera, House, Covent Garden as Liù in 1973. Chiara’s American début was in Chicago as Puccini’s Manon Lescaut in 1977, followed by Violetta/La traviata at the Metropolitan Opera, New York, at the end of the same year.
Having taken an early step towards more dramatic parts with her 1974 assumption of the title rôle in Tosca at the San Carlo, during the 1980s Chiara enjoyed a reputation as a dramatic soprano of considerable power: appearing for instance at the Verona Arena in the title rôle of Aida (1980–1986), as Odabella/Attila (1985), Amelia/Un ballo in maschera (1986) and Leonora/La forza del destino (1989). She sang Aida opposite Luciano Pavarotti at La Scala in 1985, in a production that formed the basis of commercial sound and video recordings; in front of the temples of Luxor in Egypt in 1987; and at the fiftieth anniversary celebrations of the open-air opera festival at the Caracalla Baths in 1991.
Other rôles of note included the title parts in Anna Bolena (Turin, 1982), Maria Stuarda (Zürich, 1984), Adriana Lecouvreur (Brescia, 1986), Suor Angelica (Barcelona, 1987) as well as Amelia/Simon Boccanegra (Florence, 1988) and Matilde/Guglielmo Tell (Zürich, 1988). Following her retirement from the stage Chiara remained active as a teacher.
Possessing great personal beauty and elegance, Chiara developed in her mature years a very powerful stage presence based on the art of gesture. While her singing in lyric rôles was always extremely attractive, later in her career she also proved to be an excellent dramatic soprano in the true Italian line.
© Naxos Rights International Ltd. — David Patmore (A–Z of Singers).