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Anniversary without Glamour

Tuesday, 29 November 2011 , ora 10.55
The series of events meant to mark the anniversary of nine decades since the institutionalization of the Romanian Opera in Bucharest (and not of ... the National Opera, as it is written in the playbill) began with concert 'Masters of the Lyric Scene' which was meant as a tribute to all those whohave, so far, contributed to the blossoming or even the continuity of the opera house's activity which has had its moments of glory and downfall. Some of the artists of the past were in the audience, watching (after waiting for almost half an hour) today's ensemble, conducted by Iurie Florea, dully performed piece from the 'Triumphal scene' from the opera 'Aida' by Giuseppe Verdi. The soloists were the ballet dancers Laura Blica-Toader and Gigel Ungureanu, the latter also performing in the famous 'Adagio' from act two of the 'Swan Lake' ballet by Pyotr Tchaikovsky, elegantly dancing with Bianca Fota, seconded by the ballet group; and Cristina Dijmaru and Bogdan Canila chose 'Pas de deux' from 'DonQuixote' by Ludwig Minkus (also including variations), which was well performed, but much too ample considering the other pieces that were performed later in the evening.

The direction was ill inspired

I did not quite understand why three sopranos were chosen to perform one after the other,but Irina Iordachescu 'attacked' an aria from 'Traviata', Mariana Colpos performed an aria from another opera by Verdi - 'I due Foscari', and the excellent Sorina Munteanu opted for an aria from 'Adriana Lecouvreur' by Francesco Cilea. Next was the Cluj-born tenor Cristian Mogosan in 'Pagliacci' by Ruggero Leoncavallo, who was tempted by a much too dramatic repertoire for his lyrical voice, but whom, nevertheless, accurately sang the difficult score. The same cannot be said about mezzo-soprano Andrada Rosu. Also a collaborator of the Bucharest National Opera (BNO), she was invited from the same Transylvanian city. She performed Princess Eboli's Aria from 'Don Carlo' by Verdi, but the generous material was sung with serious technical deficiencies in the grave and acute register. Baritone Iordache Basalic, in cavatina from 'Il barbiere di Siviglia' by Gioachino Rossini, stressed the funny side (closer to the grotesque), bass Horia Sandu returned to Verdi's repertoire with the aria from 'Macbeth', and, after the 'Intermezzo' from 'Cavalleria Rusticana' by Mascagni, the orchestra accompanied tenor Robert Nagy in the aria of Calaf and together with soprano Sorina Munteanu and the choir (conducted, as usual, by maestro Stelian Olariu), performed the finale from 'Turandot' by Puccini, wishing it to be an apotheosis of an evening that lacked the glamour of the event, even if the applauses were enthusiastic.

What exactly are we talking about?

In a scenery where plush drapes (obviously red...) alternated with projections, employing costumes from the opera house's props, in the scenography thought of by the manager Catalin Ionescu-Arbore who, surprisingly enough, was listed as the...director, together with Cristina Cottescu, artists from the opera house and guests (although it was expected that such a program would be performed entirely by their own artists) tried to persuade us that the current state of affairs are ... just as they are. Equally strange was the presentation read by Marius Constantinescu, Romanian Television editor, who referred to the Opera house's history through his eyes ... stating that, as a child he had taken ballet lessons but ... he did not like it, that he had wished he could have sung, but was quite happy that his wish never came true, that he had grown up either back stage or on the television sets, although it would have been more appropriate for him to strictly talk about the noteworthy events and of the maestros of that stage, and definitely not about his memories and personal experiences, especially since he was never involved in the history of the opera house.

With no conviction and no emotional charge

On the other hand, by specifying the artists that were applauded in the course of the opera house ninety years of existence proved to be an incomplete and 'confusing' list (I wonder who made it up...?), so did the film projection that contained posters and pictures from the past decades, but also incorrect data. The fact that they skipped over the 80s was also unbelievable, as if they had simply vanished from the Opera house's history. Moreover, the oddities continued because, before the Puccini fragment, the presenter specified, most likely in the name of the management, that, in the foyer, only former employees who have confirmed their presence would be awarded diplomas (in alphabetical order). The truth is that, about a month ago, an e-mail was sent and an announcement was placed on the website which informed those who have collaborated with the opera house and wished to attend the event that they were to contact the BNO either by e-mail or phone, even though only a small fraction of the ones who have reached old age actually use the computer and the internet. The proper solution would have been for them to be given a phone call and to be invited, and not ...for them to request to be invited to an event set up for they own celebration! ...

Maybe at the centennial

Incidentally, the title of the evening was not very inspired, because, by referring to the 'lyrical scene' it also excluded the ballet dancers and choreographers who ... do not belong to the lyrical genre ... and the 'show' can continue even through the conception of the festive days, the official announcement mentioning that on December 9th, marks the ninety years anniversary since the curtain rose for the first show of the institutionalised Romanian Opera - 'Lohengrin' by Richard Wagner was performed, symbolically conducted by George Enescu - so it was only natural that this same piece should be scheduled now, precisely on December 8th, but the Wagnerian opera will be performed on ... December 3rd and on the anniversary evening ... a Ballet Gala is to take place! (Since it keeps mentioning the 'lyrical scene' and anyway, the choreographic ensemble of the opera house was created a few years afterwards). It is hard to 'decipher' all of this... and nothing regarding an ample exhibition of all the performances and artists from all those effervescent years...

I have seen in the hall some of those who are long ago retired, too few of the ones today, but unfortunately neither in the foyer or on stage did I feel the necessary conviction specific to the event, the emotional charge and the magnitude that the ninety year-old Opera house and those who supported it would have so richly deserved. Maybe at the centennial...

Anca Florea
Translated by Florina Sămulescu and Mihaela Melneciuc
MTTLC, Bucharest University