An epic Figaro has died

An epic Figaro has died


norman lebrecht

February 24, 2014

Nicolae Herlea, the Romanian baritone who sang Figaro in Rossini’s Barber of Seville more than 550 times, has died aged 86. He performed in all major opera houses with the leading conductors of his time.


Report received: On Feb. 24 Nicolae Herlea, famous Romanian baritone, died surrounded by his family, in Frankfurt, Germany.

Born in Bucharest, Romania, he studied at the local Conservatory, with professor Aurel Costescu-Duca, baritone at the Romanian Opera House. Herlea’s debut took place in 1951, as Silvio in I Pagliacci. From that moment on he became soloist of Romanian National Opera, for 35 years, until his retirement.

Besides his career in Romania he sang in the most important Opera Houses, like MET, Teatro alla Scala, Bolshoi, Royal Opera “Covent Garden”, Paris Opera, Staatsoper Berlin etc.

Famous opera artists who met him declared that Herlea has one of the most beautiful baritone voices: Placido Domingo, Roberto Alagna, Angela Gheorghiu, Herbert von Karajan, Nicolai Ghiaurov…

In the past 10 years he was President of the Jury at the International “Hariclea Darclee” Voice Competition in Braila (Romania). He was publicly celebrated at 85, when he received the “Darclee” Medal. He had also the most prestigious titles of Romania, like “People’s Artist” and “The Star of Romania”.


  • Sam McElroy says:

    One of the greatest Italianate baritones of all time. He belongs to that hallowed shortlist with Warren, Bruson, Bastianini, Batistinini, Cappuccilli – men who redefined the art of singing. Try to find a moment to listen to his “Prologo” on YouTube. His dark, exciting, open sound, his elegant phrasing, and his massive, even range caught me off guard when I first heard him. He immediately became my favorite singer of all time in that repertoire. I must confess, I was so bowled over, and so happy to know he was still alive, that I wrote to him like a star-struck fool! I’m glad I did. I will listen to him tonight, and breathe the kind of sigh you breathe when great men leave us…

  • Jeffrey Roberts says:

    I had a similar experience to Sam. He was little more than a name when I first heard his recordings in the 80s. I found an old Electrocord recording of Italian arias and was indeed caught off guard when I first sat down and listened to it. A beautiful and impressive voice that immediately became one of my favorite baritones. And like, Sam, I sent him a fan letter a few years ago and received a signed photo of him as Figaro. His recordings will be playing in my home tonight in tribute to a superb artist.

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    I grew up with Herlea as I spent most of my Sunday afternoons at the Opera House in Bucharest.

    SO grateful for the few CDs with him that are available.


  • Don Ciccio says:

    Those who are subscribers to Met on Demand (Met Player) can hear Herlea’s interpretation of Figaro from a May 1966 broadcast with Reri Grist as Rosina, George Shirley as Almaviva, Fernando Corena as Bartolo and Cesare Siepi as Basilio with Silvio Varviso conducting. This is on my to do list next time they offer the free promotion. There is of course the Electrecord recording as well, but it is destroyed by pedestrian conducting.