Maria Fołtyn was a singer, opera director, animator of musical life. She studied in Poland - where her teachers included Adam Didur, Ada Sari and Iwo Gall – and abroad. She is also a graduate of the directing department of Warsaw’s Theatre Academy (1972). She was a soloist of the Warsaw Opera in 1949–62, creating a number of great vocal interpretations, to mention but Halka in the famous production by Leon Schiller (1953). Subsequently, she joined the Leipzig Opera, where she first performed the works of Wagner (Senta in The Flying Dutchman, Elsa in Lohengrin, Elizabeth in Tannhaüser). She also worked with the Lubeck Opera, where beside her showpiece performance as Tosca, she was also Giulietta in The Tales of Hoffmann by Offenbach, and Amelia in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera.
She was a soloist of the Teatr Wielki in Łódź in 1967–70 (appearing as Yaroslavna in Borodin’s Prince Igor, for example). She has been a guest performer at opera houses and concert venues all over the world, including the Soviet Union, Sweden, Finland, Germany, Iran, Turkey, France, Romania, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Hungary, Mexico, the United States, Canada, Japan, and Cuba. She has sung the part of Halka in all the opera theatres of Poland, and also in Berlin, Budapest, Bucharest, Chicago, Havana, Helsinki, Kiev, Moscow, New York, Ottawa, Pittsburgh, Saarbrücken, and Toronto. She began studying directing when she was still active as a singer, and then used her huge stage experience in her work as a stage director in Poland and abroad. Her directing debut was Halka at the Opera National in Havana (1971). She has prepared a very diverse range of productions, from the great world repertoire (Gounod’s Faust in Gdańsk, Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spadesand, Bellini’s La Sonnambula in Bytom, Donizetti’s Lucia di Lammermoor in Kraków), through works by contemporary composers (Twardowski’s Lord Jim and Maria Stuart in Łódź), to 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. Outside Poland, she produced 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 Festivals in Kudowa-Zdrój in 1977–98, founded the Moniuszko Music Lovers Society in 1984, and become its first president a year later. In 1992, she organised the First International Stanisław Moniuszko Vocal Competition and its subsequent editions. 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 passed away in Warsaw on 2 December 2012.