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BUCHAREST NATIONAL OPERA HOUSE
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Bucharest National Opera House The first news about opera music in Romania dates from 1772 when Livio Cinti's "operists" are reported to have passed through Bucharest on their way to Sibiu where they settled down.
The powerful movement in favour of a national movement brought about the creation of the Philarmonic Society in Bucharest (1833) and that of the Dramatic Philarmonic School of Arts in Jassy (1836). Beside the sections for theatre, literature and instrumental music, these schools had also singing and ballet classes. In 1836, the pupils of the Bucharest Philharmonic Society performed Rossini's "Semiramis" and, a few years later, Bellini's "Norma" was played in Jassy. However, the principal aim of both schools was the creation of a national literature and dramaturgy. Although these two societies had but a short life.
The number of Romanian musicians increased considerably after the Academies of Music were created in Bucharest and Jassy. Very soon, part of the singing classes graduates were no more satisfied with the job of chorus singers or small solo parts in the Italian, French or German companies succeeding each other in Romania. The most gifted and courageous ones went abroad to try their luck and the name of some of them became famous not very long after: Euphrosyne Vlasto-Marcolini, Elena Teodorini, Hariclea Darclee, Grigore Gabrielescu, Dimitrie Popovici-Bayreuth, Giovanni Dimitrescu, Margareta Iamandi-Nuovina, Zina de Nori etc. Others preferred to assort themselves in their country striving to create a Romanian Opera Theatre in Bucharest.
The one to be the soul of this activity and who was to become the creator of the national opera, was the composer, conductor and singing teacher George Stephanescu. Graduate of the Bucharest Academy of Music, then of the Paris one, in 1877 Stephanescu is appointed conductor of the National Theatre Orchestra and singing teacher at the Academy of Music. While training the singers in the Academy of Music he aims at developing gradually the musical repertoire of the National Theatre from vaudevilles to musical comedies and finally to opera.
In very short time, Bucharest became the center of a buoyant opera life. Nevertheless, in 1902, the opera section of the Bucharest National Theatre was compelled to cease all activity as, for reasons of economy; its subvention was cut off.

In spite of this considerable difficulty, the opera activity went on in the same rhythm in the Romanian capital. Grouped in various societies and associations, the Romanian artists staged regular opera seasons - even during the refuge in Jassy in the first World War. Forcing itself as a cultural requirement which could no more be overlooked, in 1921 the first ROMANIAN OPERA was created as an independent institution, when, the war being ended, the State took over the "Lyrical Opera Society" grounded by the artists. The 8-th of December 1921 the new institution inaugurated the performances with Lohengrin conducted by George Enescu and staged by Adalbert Markowski.

Started under such auspices, the institution's progress has been in constant ascent up to the present day. Great conductors as George Georgescu, Egizio Massini, Alfred Alessandrescu, Ionel Perlea, Jean Bobescu, stage managers who created the Romanian opera stage management school, as Constantin Pavel and Panait Victor Cottescu, the ballet master Anton Romanowsky, next to first class solo singers as Jean Athanasiu, George Folescu, George Niculescu-Basu, Aurel Costescu Duca, Romulus Vrabiescu, Mircea Lazar, Edgar Istratty, Elena Dragulinescu-Stinghe, Maria Cojocareanu, Margareta Metaxa have raised the artistic quality of performances to the level of international requirements. This generation of artists was followed by another one as valuable, where names of great renown asserted themselves, as: Petre Stefanescu-Goanga, Maria Snejina, Evantia Costinescu, Nicu Apostolescu, Dora Massini, Valentina Cretoiu, Serban Tassian, Dinu Badescu, Nicolae Secareanu, Arta Florescu, Lucia Bercescu and the ballet dancers Vera Corali, Floria Capsali, Iosefina Crainic, Mitita Dumitrescu, Oleg Danovschi, Marie Jeanne Livezeanu, Elena Penescu Liciu, Trixi Checais.

Between the two world wars, artists of world renown brought their contribution to the Romanian Opera performances. The Romanian singing school produced a series of singers of international fame, among which we wi1l only mention the names of Traian Grozavescu, Florica Cristoforeanu, Maria Cebotari, Viorica Ursuleac, Dimitrie Onofrei, Stela Roman etc.
After the second World War, the Romanian Opera developed still more eight opera and ballet theatres were created in Romania; the Bucharest opera house moved into a newly built theatre where beside the audience hall provided with one thousand seats, all the required annexes were available, from the rehearsal cabins to the workshops.
With good reason called the first Romanian lyrical stage, the Romanian Opera House in Bucharest acquired a high inner and international renown both through the individual value of its artists and by the qualities of ensamble conferring to the group a distinct personality. Since 1953 when it moved into the new building, the theatre presented more than I50 first performances (some of them being composed of several short works) and every year the repertory becomes richer of other works.

The last 75 years have also meant the final consecration of the theatre at international level. This process asserted itself concomitent in three directions: the young Romanian solo singers and dancers win numerous prizes in international singing and ballet competitions; Romanian soloists appear more and more often on the great stages of the world; the Romanian Opera House with its whole ensamble undertakes increasingly numerous tours in other countries. In fact, a large part of the Romanian singer and ballet dancers have been given a start through competitions such as those in Geneva, Toulouse, Montreal, Vercelli, Sofia, Rio de Janeiro, Moscow, Leipzig, Munchen, Salsburg, Varna, Barcelona, Busseto.

Singers as Zenaida Pally, Nicolae Herlea, Elena Cernei, Octav Enigarescu, David Ohanesian, Ludovic Spiess, Magda Ianculescu, Marina Krilovici, Valentin Teodorian, Cornel Stavru, Teodora Lucaciu, Dan Iordachescu, Maria Sindrilaru, Viorica Cortez, Vasile Martinoiu, ballet dancers as Ileana Iliescu, Alexa Mezincescu, Valentina Massini, Elena Dacian, Magdalena Popa, Gheorghe Cotovelea, Amato Checiulescu, Ioan Tugearu, Gelu Barbu, Sergiu Stefanski have all been schooled at the Romanian Opera House in Bucharest.

Very many famous artists of great gift carry on their activity in this space, which for a couple of year, has become a national institution. They are numerous and we cannot mention all of them here. They ensure the continuity of a sparkling tradition every night.


Marina PREUTU
Bucharest National Opera House, 1998


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