Maria Fołtyn studied voice in Poland, where her teachers included Adam Didur, Ada Sari and Iwo Gall, and abroad. She also held a degree in directing from Warsaw’s Theatre Academy (1972). Between 1946 and 19672 she was a soloist of the Warsaw Opera, creating a number of memorable roles, including Halka in the famous production by Leon Schiller (1953). She subsequently joined the Leipzig Opera, where she sang in Wagner’s The Flying Dutchman (Senta), Lohengrin (Elsa) and Tannhaüser (Elizabeth). She also worked with the Lubeck Opera, where beside her showpiece Tosca, she was also Giulietta in Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffmann and Amelia in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera. Between 1967 and 1970 she was a soloist of the Teatr Wielki in Łódź, with appearances including Yaroslavna in Borodin’s Prince Igor.
Ms Fołtyn made guest appearances at opera houses and concert venues all over the world: the Soviet Union, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Iran, Turkey, France, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Hungary, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Japan and Cuba. She sang Halka in every Polish opera house as well as in Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest, Chicago, Havana, Helsinki, Kiev, Moscow, New York, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Saarbrücken and Toronto.
She began studying directing still as an active singer. She made her debut directing Halka at the Opera National in Havana (1971) and later staged a variety of productions, incluidng pieces from the operatic canon (Gounod’s Faust in Gdańsk, Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades and Bellini’s La Sonnambula in Bytom, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in Kraków), works by contemporary composers (Twardowski’s Lord Jim and Maria Stuada in Łódź), musicals (Bock’s Fiddler on the Roof in Łódź) and Spanish zarzuela (Roig’s Cecilia Valdes in Gdańsk and Poznań).
Polish repertoire holds a special place among her achievements: Różycki’s Casanova; Kurpiński’s Jadwiga, Queen of Poland; Nowowiejski’s Baltic Legend; Paderewski’s Manru; and especially the operas of Moniuszko, of which she was a tireless promoter in Poland and abroad. She staged The Haunted Manor in Bucharest, Tokyo and Samara; and Halka in Havana, Mexico City, Ankara, Novosibirsk, Osaka and Curitiba.
She was artistic director of the Moniuszko Festival in Kudowa-Zdrój (1977–98). In 1984 she founded the Moniuszko Music Lovers Society, which he then led as its first president. In 1992 she founded the International Stanisław Moniuszko Vocal Competition in Warsaw.
She became an Honorary Citizen of her home town of Radom in 2000, and held an honorary doctorate from the Academy of Music in Wrocław.
Maria Fołtyn died on 2 December 2012 in Warsaw.
(top) Maria Fołtyn as Queen of Spades, 1955, photo: Polish National Opera Archive
(bottom) Maria Fołtyn during the 7th International Stanisław Moniuszko Vocal Competition, photo: Polish National Opera Archive
Watch a film documentary charting the history of the Moniuszko Compettiion and its foudner Maria Fołtyn (with English subtitles):