Maia Morgenstern

Maia Morgenstern

Maia Morgenstern in November 2012
Born Maia Emilia Ninel Morgenstern
(1962-05-01) 1 May 1962
Residence Bucharest
Nationality Romanian
Alma mater I. L. Caragiale Institute of Theatre and Film
Occupation Actress
Years active 1980–present
Known for Mary's role in The Passion of the Christ
Television Aniela (2009)
Iubire și onoare (2010–11)
Las Fierbinți (2012–14)
Spouse(s) Claudiu Istodor (m. 1983–99)
Dumitru Băltățeanu (m. 2001–15)
Partner(s) Andras Istvan Demeter
Children Tudor Aaron (b. 1984)
Eva Leea Cabiria (b. 1999)
Ana Isadora (b. 2003)
Parent(s) Usher Morgenstern (father)
Sara Rapaport (mother)
Maia Morgenstern in concert, singing Jewish songs. Timișoara, Romania, May 25, 2010.

Maia Emilia Ninel Morgenstern (Romanian pronunciation: [ˈmaja ˈmorɡənʃtern]; born 1 May 1962) is a Romanian film and stage actress,[1] described by Florin Mitu of AMOS News as "a symbol of Romanian theater and film".[2] In the English-speaking world, she is probably best known for the role of Mary, the Mother of Jesus, in Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ. In Romania, she has been nationally known since her 1992 role as Nela in Balanța, a film known in the United States as The Oak, set during the waning days of Communist Romania.[1]


Born in Bucharest, in a Jewish family,[1] she graduated from the Film and Theatre Academy of Bucharest in 1985. She then played at Teatrul Tineretului (Youth Theater) in Piatra Neamț until 1988, and at the Teatrul Evreiesc de Stat (State Jewish Theatre) in Bucharest 1988-1990. From 1990–1998 she was a member of the company of the National Theatre in Bucharest, and since 1998 of Teatrul Bulandra, also in Bucharest;[3] in addition, she continues to act at the Jewish State Theatre and other Bucharest theaters[1] and elsewhere in Romania.[3] Among her notable stage roles in recent years, in a Romanian-language production of The Blue Angel (Îngerul Albastru in Romanian) at Bucharest's Odeon Theater, in 2001-2 she played (to great critical acclaim) Lola Lola, the character made famous by Marlene Dietrich. At the same time, she was also playing the role of Kathleen Hogan in a Romanian-language production of Israel Horovitz's Park Your Car in Harvard Yard at the State Jewish Theater.[1]

Morgenstern has appeared in numerous films, primarily in Romanian language roles. In The Passion of the Christ, she performs a role in Aramaic, but like the other actors in the cast of that film, she simply memorized her lines phonetically.[4]

Her surname, Morgenstern, means "Morning Star" in German, a title of the Virgin Mary, the character she played in The Passion of the Christ. Mel Gibson, a devout Traditionalist Catholic, thought this of great significance when casting her.[5] In interviews, she has defended The Passion against allegations of antisemitism,[6] saying that the high priest Caiaphas is portrayed not as a representative of the Jewish people, but as a leader of the establishment, adding that "Authorities throughout history have persecuted individuals with revolutionary ideas."[7]

She has been married twice, and has 3 children: Tudor Aaron, Eva Leea Cabiria and Ana Isadora.[8]

She has won several major awards as an actress:


Where translations of titles are italicized, it indicates use of the translated title for the film in English-language release.

Film Year Role Language
Miss Christina2013Mrs. MoscuRomanian
The Secret of Polichinelle2013MayaRomanian
Fata din Transilvania2011Romanian
La fin du silence2011the motherFrench
Sange Tanar, Munti Si Brazi2011MamaRomanian drama
Luna verde2010SimonaRomanian
Iubire si onoare (TV series)2010–2011MarietaRomanian
Aniela (tv series)2009–2010Maica StareţaRomanian
The House of Terror2008 (pre-production)Eszter SomosEnglish
Eva2009 MariaEnglish
The Fence2007 (in production)Herman's motherEnglish
Mansfeld2006Mrs. MansfeldHungarian / English / Russian / German
Margo2006Margo's stepmotherRomanian
Visuri otrăvite ("Poisoned Dreams")2006Ada's motherRomanian
152005IreneRomanian / French
L'Homme pressé2005, TVBonne de Bois de RoseFrench
Orient Express2004Amalia FrunzettiRomanian
Damen tango2004 Romanian
The Passion of the Christ2004MaryAramaic
Căsătorie imposibilă ("Impossible marriage")2004, TV series Romanian
Bolondok éneke (Fool's Song)2003GinaHungarian / French / Romanian
A Rózsa énekei (Rose's Songs)2003OlgaHungarian
Patul lui Procust (Procust's Bed)
Based on Camil Petrescu's novel Patul lui Procust
2001Doamna T.Romanian
Dark Prince: The True Story of Dracula2000, TVwoman at the fountainEnglish
Marie, Nonna, la vierge et moi2000NonnaFrench
Kínai védelem (Chinese Defense)1999 Hungarian
Față în față (Face to Face)1999 Romanian
Triunghiul morții ("Triangle of Death")1999Regina MariaRomanian
Az Álombánya1998, TV, short Hungarian
Witman fiúk (Witman Boys)1997Mrs. WitmanHungarian
Omul zilei (The Man of the Day)1997 Romanian
Ulysses' Gaze (original Greek title: Το Βλέμμα του Οδυσσέα, To Vlemma tou Odyssea)1995playing opposite Harvey Keitel as Ulysses' wifeEnglish / Greek
A hetedik szoba (The Seventh Room)1995Edith Stein (the starring role)Hungarian
Trahir (Betrayal, Romanian title: A trada)1993woman in prisonFrench / Romanian
Casa din vis ("The House from the Dream")1993 Romanian
Cel mai iubit dintre pămînteni (The Earth's Most Beloved Son)
based on Marin Preda's novel Cel mai iubit dintre pământeni
1993 Romanian
Balanța (The Oak)1992Nela (the starring role)Romanian
Rămînerea (Forgotten by God)1992 Romanian
Băiatul cu o singură bretea, also known as Flăcăul cu o singura bretea
("The Boy with a Single Brace")
1991 Romanian
Cei care plătesc cu viața
(Those Who Pay with Their Lives)
1991 Romanian
Pasaj1990 Romanian
Marea sfidare ("The great defiance")1989 Romanian
Maria și marea ("Maria and the Sea")1988MariaRomanian
Anotimpul iubirii (The Season of Love)1986 Romanian
Secretul lui Bachus
(The Secret of Bacchus)
1984the girl in the restaurant
(as Maia Morgenstern Istodor)
Dreptate în lanțuri (Chained Justice)1983 Romanian
Prea cald pentru luna mai
("Too hot for the month of May")
1983 Romanian


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 (Romanian) Gabriela Dumba, Pur și SIMPLU, Maia Morgenstern, ("Pure and simple, Maia Morgenstern", but with a pun, because Simplu is a Romanian musical group with whom she had done a video), Gardianul, December 23, 2006. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  2. (Romanian) Florin Mitu, 2007 Interviu: Maia Morgenstern, AMOS News, November 17, 2007. He addresses her, "Sunteți un simbol al teatrului și filmului românesc…". Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  3. 1 2 (Romanian) Florin Mitu, 2007 Interviu: Maia Morgenstern, AMOS News, November 17, 2007. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  4. The Passion of the Christ: About the Language, Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  5. Marco R. della Cava, J.C., 'morning star' and Mel Gibson, USA Today, posted 2/22/2004 9:39 PM, updated 2/23/2004 11:21 AM; retrieved March 1, 2005.
  6. 'Passion' actress: Film not anti-Semitic, CNN, February 4, 2004. Accessed 20 December 2007.
  7. Naomi Pfefferman, Jewish Actress Proud to be Mel Gibson’s Virgin Mary, The Jewish Journal, November 1, 2003. Reproduced on the New American Media site, a site focusing on ethnic journalism. Accessed online December 20, 2007.
  8. 1 2 3 4 (Romanian) Evelyn Badea, Maia Morgenstern, femeia care ştie să aibă succes în toate, Adevărul, 20 October 2007 Accessed online 20 December 2007.
  9. 1 2 3 Awards for Balanta (1992), IMDB. Accessed 20 December 2007.
  10. Ethnic Multicultural Media Awards, UK: 2004, IMDB. Accessed 20 December 2007.
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