Angela Gheorghiu is one of the world's foremost sopranos, beautiful, a good actress and with a voice that critics say is close to perfect, she has been hailed as the next Maria Callas. She is the daughter of a Romanian train driver and says she knew she wanted to be a singer almost as soon as she could walk. Theatre, music and the arts were a form of escaping the drudgery of everyday life and, as a career, offered a rare means of escape from the most austere of the communist regimes.

She was trained through the communist regime's rigorous schooling system, graduating with a first-class honours degree from the Bucharest Music Academy in 1990. The fall of the Ceaucescu regime meant that as an artist she could travel and develop an international career. Her international debut was at Covent Garden in 1992 in Don Giovanni. Later the same year she was Mimi in La Boheme. It was her first performance with the celebrated tenor Roberto Alagna. They've now been together for nine years and their performances together have resulted in operas that had fallen from favour being staged once again.

[Taken from the original programme material for this archive edition of Desert Island Discs]

Favourite track: Ciocarlia - the Lark by Gheorghe Zamfir Book: A book to learn good English Luxury: A cup of jasmine tea