piu grande Carmen della mia carriera
Giuseppe di Stefano
una ideale interprete di Amneris per la dinamica vocale e interpretativa di grande classe
Franco Corelli
una magnifica voce dall’unico fascino
Mario del Monaco
mezzosoprano dalla voce ed interpretazione singolari
Plácido Domingo

The greatest Romanian mezzo-sopranos of the 20th century Elena Cernei was born on 1 march 1924 in Bairamcea near Cetatea Alba (now Bilhorod-Dnistrovskyi in Ukraine). She was the first Romanian mezzo-soprano with international career. The specialized press has greatly eulogized Elena Cernei's appearance on various stages, pointing to her remarkable voice and artistic personality. "The triumph of the evening undoubtedly went to mezzo-soprano Elena Cernei, who has an extraordinarily rich and beautiful voice" writes the newspaper "Le people" of Brussels, London "Music and Musicians" writes "Elena Cernei is really a great singer according to her highest international standards", New York Herald Tribune, USA - "...the Romanian-born Elena Cernei must be counted as this season's most arresting, if not most voluptuous Dalilah" . After retire Cernei settled in Rome with her husband, the physician and musicologist Dr. Stephan Poen, and in her later years taught voice and served on the juries of several singing competitions in Italy and Romania. Amongst her scholarly publications were L'enigma della voce umana (1987) and Et fiat lux (1999). Many of her performances in Romania were recorded on LP by Electrecord. A DVD documentary on her life and career (with extracts from live recordings of her performances) was issued by TVR Media in 2005.

Education and Early Career

Elena Cernei had a diploma in vocal music, musicology and opera direction obtained at the National Academy of Music in Bucharest.; There she studed with professors: maestro Constantin Storiescu, tenor with international career, student of great artist Jean de Reszke in Paris; Marcela Ionescu, piano and vocal music master, excellent for the musical arrangement of the repertoire; maestro Jean Ranzescu, first director at the Romanian National Opera House in Bucharest, for stage direction and acting, assisted by his wife, soprano Maria Ranzescu, student of the great artist Félia Litvinne; Elena Cernei had great activity as a soloist with the "George Enescu" Philharmonic and Romanian National Opera House in Bucharest, working with both during the first years of her career;She sang in eight foreign languages. During her career she approached all schools and styles of lyrical and symphonic vocal capability and unique stylistic versatility in the range of mezzo-soprano and contralto.

She had begun her musical activity before finishing her studies at the "Ciprian Porumbescu" Conservatory in Bucharest. While a 2nd year student Elena Cernei joined the "George Enscu" Philharmonic orchestra in Bucharest as solist, carrying on a very rich activity and appearing over 350 vocal-symphonic concerts in solo roles mezzo-soprano, such as : Verdi's Requiem, Mozart's Mass in C minor, Mozart's Requiem, Beethoven's Mass Solemnis, Bethovem's IX'th Symphony, Bach's Grosse Messa, De Falla's Amour Sorcier, and other great works by Khachaturian, Prokofiev, Thaikovsky, Mahler, Brahms etc. She also gave recitals interpreting various works of the most famous composers: Shubert, Schuman etc.

Owning to her superb voice and great artistic talent she became a first solist of the Bucharest Opera and Ballet Theater creating a considerable number of roles. She made her debut in Carmen in 1957 scoring a brilliant success. There followed another great successes in Auzena(Il Trovatore), Amneris (Aida), Octavian(Der Rosenkavalier), Kneaghina(Rusalka ) by Antonín Dvorák, Polina(The Queen of Spades), Maria Doamna(Prince John the Terible) by G.Dumitrescu, Ulrica (A Masqued Ball), Dalilah(Samson et Dalila), Marina(Boris Godunov), Orpheus(Orpheus by Gluck), Jacasta(Oedipe by George Enescu) etc.

International Career

Elena Cernei's activity is very rich around the world. The concerts, recitals, broadcasting, recordings, TV appearances as well as opera performances made her quickly acquire a highly praised reputation. She has toured to a various foreign countries among which: the Soviet Union, Yugoslavia, Poland, Hungry, Bulgaria, Czechoslovakia, France, the German Democratic Republic, United States, Mexico, enjoying remarkable success.

Her brilliant international career started in 1963 on the occasion of the opening of the International Musical Week in France. Mezzo-soprano Elena Cernei appeared on the stage of the Grand Opera House in Paris, in the role of Amneris(Aida) under the baton of Georges Prêtre and developed with great rapidity. Elena Cernei often was invited to sing on the great lyrical stages of Europe("La Scala" of Milan, the "Grand Opera" of Paris, the "Théâtre Royal de la Monnaie" of Brusseis, the "Bolshoi Theater" of Moscow, the "Wiener Staatsoper" of Vienna, the festival of Prague, Wiesbaden, Athens etc.) and overseas, in the United States (at the New York "Metropolitan Opera House" and Mexico (at the International Musical Festival of Mexico City)). She sang under the baton of famous conductor such as Gianandrea Gavazzeni , Thomas Schippers, Zubin Mehta, Georges Prêtre, Hans Swarowsky, Fausto Cleva etc., in the company of the greatest opera stars as Renata Tebaldi, Birgit Nilsson, Leontyne Price, Franco Corelli, Richard Tucker, Giuseppe di Stefano, Jon Vickers, Carlo Bergonzi, Nicolai Gedda, Gabriella Tucci, Galina Vishnevskaya, Nicolae Herlea, Plácido Domingo, Virginia Zeani, Giangiacomo Guelfi, Piero Cappuccilli, Robert Merrill,Dimiter Uzunov etc.

Titles and Awards

  • 1962, Bucharest: Honoured Artist of Romania;
  • 1964, Paris: the Award of the French National Academy for the integral recording of the "OEDIPE" opera by Enescu;
  • 1964, Tokyo: the Award of the Japonese NAtional Academy for the integral recording of the "OEDIPE" opera by Enescu;
  • 1966, Mexico City: the "Gold Medal Giuseppe di Stefano" awarded by the Fine Arts Academy in Mexico City;
  • 1970, Wiesbaden: the "Gold Pen of the Critic", awarded at the International Festival in Wiesbaden for the interpretation on Azucena's part in the "Trubadour"(Il Trovatore) by Verdy;
  • 1985, New York: active member of the Academy of Science in New York, in recognition of her scientific interdisciplinary activity, as the first lyrical artists in the world to undertake such activity
  • 1987, Sicily, Italy: at the "Vincenzzo Bellini" international Festival, the "Gold Plaquette" awarded for special merits in interdisciplinary scientific activity, on the occasion of the relese of her book "ET FIAT LUX" as well as for being a member and president of the jury on several occasions
  • 1988, the International Festival "Vincenzzo Bellini" Sicily, Italy: the "Gold Plaquette" for special interdisciplinary scientific merits, on the occasion of the Italian version her boolk entitled "ENIGMAS OF HUMAN VOICE"
  • 1989, Rome, Italy: awarded the International Prize and Gold Plaquette "Tito Gobbi", in recognition of
    her international career and interdisciplinary scientific activity.
  • 1990, Rome, Italy: awarded the International Prize and Gold Plaquette "Tito Schipa"
  • 1991, Rome, Italy: awarded the International Prize and Gold Plaquette "Maria Caniglia"
  • 1995, Rome, Italy: Honorable Member of the European Cultural and Scientific Academy
  • 1997, Rovigo, the International
    Society of Environmental Physicians: International Meeting on "Cooperation between the North and South; Climate Changes; International Waters; Ozon Holes; Biodiversity" -awarded the Gold
    Plaquette for the merit of being the only lyrical artist in the world to act as interdisciplinary scientific researcher
  • 1999, Bucharest, Romania: at the University of Music , awarded the title "Doctor Honoris Causa", for the entire artistic and scientific activity performed in the Romania and the world.


The first Romanian-born mezzo-soprano in the entire world history of lyrical music on the greatest opera stages in the world: TEATRO ALLA SCALA IN MILAN, NEW YORK METROPOLITAN OPERA HOUSE (the last mezzo-soprano act as Amneris at the Old Metropolitan in the last performances of "Aida" before closing down, and the first as Amneris in the inaugural performance at the New Metropolitan); GRAND OPERA in Paris (75 years after Harlclea Daclee); WIENER STAATOPER, BERLINE DEUTSHE STAATSOPER, ACCADEMIA DES DELLAS ARTES in MEXICO CITY; GRAN BARCELONA, GRAN TEATRO DEL LICEU;

  • the first artist world-wide to perform as a librettist, director and first interpreter of an original opera in absolute premiere: the opening performance of the "DOAMNA CHIAJNA", by Buicliu, at the Romanian  National Opera House in Bucharest, October 1973;
  • formulation for the first time in the world of the CEPHALIC PHASE OF NON-RINGING VOICE correlate with SUB-GLOTTIC PRESSURE, consciously guided as the SECOND TYPE OF BREETHING, with the FIRST METHOD OF PERSONALIZED SCIENTIFIC VOCAL MUSIC,  1980.
  • formulation for the first time in the world of certain phenomena concerning biogravity and biostructure, in studies and experiments she has been working on since 1984;
  • the first lyrical artist performing at the New York Metropolitan Opera who was awarded the distinguished title of Active Member of the Science Academy in New York

Other Activities

  • author of two books: "ENIGMAS OF HUMAN VOICE" (Bucharest, "Litera" Publishing House, 1982, and Rome, "Quo Vadis" Publishing House, 1988); and "ET FLAT LUX" (Rome, "Quo Vadis" Publishing House, 1987, and Bucharest, Encyclopedic Publishing House, 1999);
  • 40 scientific papers presented in various international conferences on specialized topics; member of the jury in many famous international contests on vocal music, held in Italy and other countries;
  • interdisciplinary research work and experiments confirming all her hypotheses published in the Romanian version of her book "ENIGMAS OF HUMAN VOICE", Bucharest, 1982
  • successful practical application of theories dealing with preventive and oxygenation of the body, in close cooperation with specialized physicians, thus gathering a wide range of case studies, witch were developed in scientific and statistical specialty papers;
  • practical applications in field of vocal music pedagogy, presented in international conferences and festivals
  • together with Dr.Stephan Poen, she founded a new field of study, called CERNEI-POEN BIOLARYNGEAL-RESPIRATORY RYTHMOLOGY, meant to make best use of phonic capacity of the human body with view to helping diagnosis, preventive and curative treatment;
  • she founded the new field of CERNEI-POEN VOCAL BIO-TECHNICS, with spectacular results for the speaking and singing voice pedagogy at all professional levels, applicable to beginner students and great artists needing control and recalibration of their vocal performance;
  • active participation in all scientific and cultural events, with a keen focus on keeping Romanian included in the European and world-wide cultural environment.

Existed recordings




Conductor and Orchestra



G.Bizet Carmen

Carmen - Elena Cernei

Don José - Pedro Lavirgen

Escamillo - Norman Treigle

Micaela - Gilda Gruz-Romo

Dancairo - Alberto Hammin

Remendado - Marco A.Saldana

Frasquita - Graciela Saavedra

Mercedes - Dora de la Pena

Zuniga - Federico Dacia'

Morales - Palafox

Carlo Felice Cillario

Chorus and Orcestra del Palacio de Bellas Artes

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City


W.A Mozart Le Nozze di Figaro

Il Conte Almaviva - Kim Borg

La Contessa - Arta Florescu

Cherubino - Elena Cernei

Figaro - Dan Iordachescu

Susanna - Magda Iordachescu

Marcellina - Patricia Jonson

Bartolo - Constantin Gabor

Basilio - Cornel Rusu

Don Curzio - Dimirtie Scurtu

Antonio - Alexandru Badulescu

Barbarina - Matilda Onofrei

Mihai Brediceanu

Orchestra and Chorus of the Bucharest National Opera

Live broadcast recording International Festival George Enescu Bucharest


G.Verdi Aida

Aida - Leontyne Price

Radamès - Franco Corelli

Amneris - Elena Cernei

Amonasro - Sherrill Milnes

Ramfis - Jerome Hines

King - Raymond Michalski

Messenger - Robert Nagy

Priestess - Mary Ellen Pracht

Zubin Mehta

Metropolitan Opera House Orchestra & Chorus

Metropolitan Opera House, New York


F.Cilea Adriana Lecouvreur

Adriana Lecouvreur - Renata Tebaldi

Maurizio - Plácido Domingo

Princess di Bouillon - Elena Cernei

Michonnet - Anselmo Colzani

Bouillon - Lorenzo Alvary

Abbé - Paul Franke

Jouvenot - Colette Boky

Dangeville - Nedda Casei

Duclos - Skiles Fairlie

Poisson - Robert Schmorr

Quinault - Paul Plishka

Major-domo - Edward Ghazal

Dance - Patricia Heyes

Dance - Tania Karina

Dance - Carolyn Martin

Dance - Ivan Allen

Dance - William Breedlove

Fausto Cleva

Metropolitan Opera House Orchestra & Chorus

Metropolitan Opera House, New York


C.Saint Saens - Samson et Dalila

Samson – Ludovic Spiess

Dalila – Elena Cernei

High Priest of Dagon – Dan Iordãchescu

Abimelech – Constantin Dumitru

An old Hebrew – Nicolae Florei

First Philistine – Vasile Moldoveanu

Second Philistine – Constantin Dumitru

A messenger – Alexandru Tassian

Kurt Adler

Chorus and Orchestra of Rumanian Radio-Television



G.Verdi Aida

Aida - Birgit Nilsson

Radames - Richard Tucker

Amneris - Elena Cernei

Amonasro - Robert Merrill

Ramfis - Giorgio Tozzi

King - Louis Sgarro

Messenger Robert Nagy

Priestess - Mary Ellen Pracht

William Steinberg

Orchestra and Chorus of Metropolitan Opera

Metropolitan Opera House, New Yourk


G.Verdi Don Carlos

Filipppo II - Nicolae Florei

Don Carlo - Cornel Stavru

Rodrigo - Nicolae Herlea

Il Grande Inquisitore - Valentin Loghin

Un Frate - Constantin Dumitru

Elisabetta de Valois - Elena Dima-Toroiman

Principessa Eboli - Elena Cernei

Tebaldo - Ileana Cotrubas

Conte Lerma - Vastile Moldeveanu

Araldo - Marcel Angelesu

Voce dal cielo - Maria Sindilaru

Alberto Erede

Orchestra e Coro dell+Opera Nazionale Romena di Bucharest ,Maestro del Coro Cor: Stelian Olariu

Bucharest National Opera,International Festival „George Enescu”


G.Verdi Aida

Amneris - Elena Cernei

Aida - Elena Suliotis

Radames - Pedro Lavirgen

Ramfis - Federico Davia

Amonasro - Giangacomo Guefi

Il Re - Rogelio Vargas

Un Messaggero - Alberto Hammin

Una Sacerdotessa - Lucilla Columba

Nicola Rescino

Sinfonica Nacional - Coro del Instituto Naticonal de Bellas Artes

Palacio de Bellas Artes, Mexico City


G.Verdi Aida

Amneris - Elena Cernei

Aida - Marcella De Osma

Radames - Ludovic Spiess(Debut)

Il Re - Viorel Ban

Ramfis - Valentin Loghin

Amonasro - David Ohanesian

Un Messaggero - Marcel Angelescu

Una Sacerdotessa - Maria Crisan

Paul Popscu

Orchestra and Chorus of the Bucharest National Opera, Chorus master Stelian Olariu

Bucharest National Opera,International Festival „George Enescu” broadcast recording

Recordings and Videos on Youtube

Photo Gallery

5 comments for this entry:
  1. gravatar

    A very nice blog dedicated to great Elena Carnei. All beauty of the world in one person!

  2. gravatar

    Do you know where I can find her book
    L'enigma della voce umana ?

  3. gravatar

    I love her and her voice. One of my faves. So enchanting, melodic, magnetic... Amazing.

  4. gravatar

    A mesmerizing voice!

  5. gravatar
    Thomas Tamvakos

    Warm greetings from Greece.
    Please inform me if you have any photo of composer Margareta Xenopol (Iasi, 1892 - Bucurest, 1979). If yes, please send it to me in digital format (pdf or tiff/jpeg), in my email ttamvakos@yahoo.gr
    If no, please inform where can I find it.
    Thank you in advance.

    Thomas Tamvakos
    Music writer-critic-researcher-archivist
    Emeritus member of Greek Composers Union

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