Even growing up in a musical family, Mary "Maria" Ferriero stood out.
Her voice impressed even in her years at Wilkinsburg High School in the late 1940s. And soon the soprano was appearing in lead roles. After soloing with the Mendelssohn Choir of Pittsburgh and singing the major role of Micaela in Bizet's "Carmen" with the Pittsburgh Opera (then the Pittsburgh Opera Society) in 1956, she went on to a successful career at the New York City Opera and with other orchestras and operas nationwide.
Ms. Ferriero died of leukemia Thursday at Forbes Regional Hospital. She was 81.
"We grew up in a family of seven with music in our family, but Maria was special," said her sister, Phyllis Szoko. "Her whole life was music. When other kids were outside playing, she was always practicing. My brother Joseph and I know that we were privileged [to know her]."
Ms. Ferriero debuted at the prestigious New York City Opera in 1961 in the title role of Verdi's "Aida." She sang there for four seasons and often received positive reviews from critics and spirited appreciation by audiences, including 10 curtain calls for her singing of Cio-Cio San in Puccini's "Madama Butterfly," according to Time magazine. She also appeared on the Voice of Firestone TV program in 1956 and sang with several orchestras, often in Verdi's "Requiem." After her career wound down in the 1970s, she remained in New York until recently moving to Monroeville to live at Beatty Pointe Village.
In addition to Mrs. Szoko of Churchill, she is survived by two other siblings, Joseph Ferriero of Regent Square and Geraldine Boulding of Albany, Ga.
Visitation will be from 2 to 6 p.m. today, and a blessing service will be at 10 a.m. Wednesday, both at Wolfe Memorial's Forest Hills Chapel, 3604 Greensburg Pike.
Post-Gazette classical music critic Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at email@example.com or 412-263-1750.