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Anniversary in the 'Foyer'

Monday, 13 January 2014 , ora 10.28
Six decades ago, on 9th January, 1954, the building that presently hosts the Bucharest National Opera was officially inaugurated with a magnificent representation of Tchaikovsky’s Queen of Spades, with an exceptional cast which is praised even today. Well, wishing to celebrate this special anniversary moment (the inauguration of the building), exactly on 9th January... 2014, the Bucharest National Opera invited the audience... in its foyer (known as being yellow, although for almost ten years now it has been... green), to take part in a concert consisting of various opera pieces with piano accompaniment (ensured by experimented pianists: Ioana Maxim, Mădălina Florescu, Liana Mareș and Mihaela Vâlcea). Taking into consideration that in the concert were involved the choir, the orchestra and the ballet, it should have been performed on stage. Instead, the organisers went for the foyer option, the more surprising through the fact that most of the singers were guest singers among which only a few were Bucharest National Opera artists. The evening’s only baritone was Russian. There was just one mezzo-soprano who sang a short piece. All these seemed to suggest that the Bucharest National Opera did not have the proper baritones and artists, even if the reality was completely different. Moreover, instead of the distinguished sopranos, the organisers gave preference to the guest sopranos who had graduated some years ago from the National University of Music, but who rarely performed in concert, but here is the current management of the Bucharest National Opera which considers them to be distinguished sopranos.

Naturally, the opening consisted of pieces from the Queen of Spades, but, once again, lyric tenors were preferred to dramatic ones so that, Liviu Indricău performed with great courage Herman’s final aria, while Lucian Corchiș did his best trying to bring to an end his duet with Liza, whose voice was almost completely drowned by the voice of the soprano Alina Bottez who, with the same intensity and slightly aggressive, had performed the aria in the first act, as well. Then, the soprano Iulia Isaev interpreted the aria in the third act with delicacy and expressivity which made the contrast more eloquent. These were followed by a pretty amalgamated combination of Italian and Russian musical pieces: the soprano Irina Baianț from the National Operetta Theatre chose Musetta’s aria from Puccini’s La Bohème, another guest soprano, Cristina-Marta Sandu, presented an aria from Dargomyzhsky’s Rusalka - both with good intentions and Liviu Indricău made his return in front of the audience (I cannot call it return... onto the stage) with an aria from Gianni Schicchi. From Puccini’s work we also heard Lauretta’s aria in Debora Marguglio’s interpretation, a very young Italian soprano, making her first appearance at the Bucharest National Opera (though in the foyer...). Coming from Cluj, Ștefan Pop, tenor, was applauded for his performance of the final aria from Verdi’s Rigoletto. Music lovers rediscovered something of the beautiful voice that some years ago forecast a successful career which, two years later, was affected by serious technical problems, a voice that shows the ease and audacity of the one who has performed on important stages even though for a short while. He also performed the quartet from the same musical piece together with the soprano Veronica Anușca, the mezzo-soprano Sorana Negrea and the Russian baritone Konstantin Brzhinsky who, later, presented Onegin’s aria from Tchaikovsky’s Eugene Onegin. His robust timbre, typically Russian, was permanently emphasised in forte without the expressive and phrasing elements the score called for. He also surprised the audience with his awkward breathing and the "adjustment" of the last sound. The very young tenor George-Ionuț Vârban, first year student, performed Lensky’s aria from the same musical piece. His lyric voice and his innate special qualities arouse the audience attention and admiration. His potential recommends him as a promising young artist. But Ștefan Pop (also) interpreted Verdi’s La Traviata resorting to the falsetto and the "glissando" on difficult notes, still remaining in the acute register even though with some formalism and alarm signs (signals). From Verdi’s works we also listened to Violetta’s aria in the final act, through which the soprano Irina Iordăchescu showed her ability to mark and emphasis the accents in order to introduce the audience to the world and the dramatic character of the opera while a group of talented instrumentalists, members ofthe Bucharest National Opera orchestra ‒ Cristian Balaș (violin), Alexandra Rogalski (second violin), Sorin Spasinovici (viola), Mladen Spasinovici (cello), Iustin Carp (double bass) ‒ performed as a string quintet, the Prelude to the above-mentioned act after an arrangement by Mladen Spasinovici. The concert was concluded with a potpourri from the ballet Coppélia by Delibes. This time the ensemble collaborated with the harpist Roxana Moișanu for musical pieces that reminded the audience, at least in this way, that the repertoire of the Bucharest National Opera included even choreographic moments...

Mihai Cosma’s intervention filled the empty spaces and prolonged the programme by more than three hours. After the preamble regarding the building that was celebrating sixty years since its official inauguration (because, in fact, the first performance to be held on the new stage was Rusalka in the summer of 1953, as part of the World Festival of Youth), he made the introduction to each and every performance and artist, giving the translation of the titles of the Russian arias, speaking equally about Pushkin and Stalinism, about the National Theatre that once hosted the Opera and which was bombarded and then demolished by the communist forces ("with the aim of destroying the symbol of aristocratic elegance"...) and about Leon Popescu’s theatre and the Queen Mary Theatre. At the same time he took the occasion to announce the new production of Rigoletto in February whose casting session was attended by 140 candidates from all over the world (in that case, why were Vasile Chișiu and Robert Nagy chosen?!) and that there were plans for major reparations of the building, stressing out with regret that, seeing that the building belonged to the cultural heritage, its façade would not be restored to its initial state (but inside the building the walls would be knocked down, a lot of changes - is only the exterior considered as belonging to the "cultural heritage"? - that besides vocalists, stage managers and conductors, the Opera had an orchestra (nothing was mentioned about the choir or the ballet...). Then, he mentioned that, on the occasion of the reopening of the Mariinsky Theatre in Saint Petersburg, Angela Gheorghiu performed the same aria that her friend Iulia Isaev chose for that evening (except that the Russian concert was spectacular, while the anniversary of the Bucharest National Opera was held in the foyer...), etc. The first part of the concert alone spanned nearly ninety minutes, so that many spectators left during the interval, while others left one by one during the opening speech or during the artists’ performance because it was too late, the trolley-buses running at that hour were less and less, because the wooden folding chairs were becoming unbearable... Only half of the audience remained after 22:00 and they applauded their favourite arias and the distinguished singers. It seemed that afterwards some wished to congratulate the performers but the vigilant bodyguards would not let them. It was such a pity....

At the end of his speech , Mihai Cosma read the prime minister’s message through which he congratulated the Bucharest National Opera for its sixtieth anniversary and mentioned that he hoped that the Opera would continue to offer wonderful concerts, but, unfortunately, from 23th December, 2013 till 17th January, 2014, no performances were scheduled , the only event offered to the audience being the unfortunate concert in the foyer (with piano accompaniment), with barely almost 150 seats, amalgamated artists, too few internal artists, others completely "forgotten" because of hardly understandable subjective reasons and the preference for the promotion of "young talents" who reached maturity long time ago, without ever performing on an opera stage. Perhaps there is an explanation for that... isn’t there?

Anca Florea
Translated by Andreea-Ionela Vreja and Elena Daniela Radu
MTTLC, The University of Bucharest