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A new volume of The Romanian Opera series, by Anca Florea

Wednesday, 3 February 2010 , ora 12.24
The sixth volume of The Romanian Opera series, by Anca Florea, will be launched on Saturday, February 21st, at Ion Dacian Operetta Theatre in Bucharest. Anca Florea, musicologist and musical critic, thus continues the history of the Bucharest National Opera, since its foundation up to now. Each volume focuses on one decade of the existence of the Bucharest Opera, on the artists who made it famous, on the shows which delighted the audience. The sixth of these deals with the period 1971-1981.

Your work requires a lot of documentation sources. How difficult was it for you to organize and record them into the sixth volume of The Romanian Opera?

First of all, I' ve had a very ample material for many years, which has been collected over time. On the other hand, there have been a few music lovers who have sacredly stored concert programmes, some of them cut out reviews from the newspapers of those times and have given them to me, and, of course, a few artists have given me access to their archives. And, of course, I spent a few months on every volume, at the Academy Library, where I picked up reviews and lots of other news, information, social, political, economic elements of the time which I included in this project. Why? Because my intention was to present the daily activity of the Bucharest Opera in the sociopolitical context of that period.

How were the artists and the opera affected by the violent communism between 1971 and 1981?

The artists were influenced by what happened then, in a good or a bad way. Many of them got involved in those choices of the times, if you want to call them that. It was a difficult political period, as freedom of speech in culture became very difficult after the summer of '71. The ideological aspect of a leftism which was probably tougher than the Stalinist one became stronger. The Opera repertoire had to obey these politicized requirements which insisted on the emphasizing of the communists' heroism or the "achievements" of that era, which was difficult to apply in ballet or opera. On the other hand, towards the 80's, those terrible parsimonies were imposed to the entire population, which meant cold in the Opera Hall and in the Athenaeum. People had to wear gloves, overcoats and often hats, and the artists had to perform: ballet dancers in tutus, vocal soloists and the chorus in light outfits, and they had to bear temperatures of 2-3°C. I remember that, many times, when the curtain was lifted, a wave of terrible cold came from the stage towards the hall. Electricity would often cut out, and many other things. At one point, they had to save costs, so two artists were registered on a job description, which meant they were hired part-time. These and other similar details practically affected the activity and the lives of the artists and the Opera. On the other hand, the "exodus" of the good ones continued even more strongly. Visas were more difficult to obtain in order to participate in the concerts abroad, and the Opera thus lost a lot of valuable names, not to say all of them.

What opera and ballet shows were performed between 1971 and 1981?

There were mainly thirty-forty opera titles from the ones most known and loved by the audience, and, of course, some Romanian titles connected to that period. They also presented the premiere of the opera Hamlet by Pascal Bentoiu, which was an important event. In ballet, there were about fifteen-sixteen titles, if not even more from those very popular and, also, some of the circumstantial ones. Actually, only some of these were performed and, from time to time, a new title appeared after very long intervals of time.

Could you mention some representative names of the period which you talk about in the sixth volume of The Romanian Opera?

It was the top period for some sopranos like Eugenia Moldoveanu, Maria Slatinaru, Silvia Voinea. On the other hand, there were very good mezzo-sopranos: Mihaela Agache appeared as a collaborator from the younger generation, then Viorica Mitrica, Veronica Gârbu. And, of course, Ludovic Spiess, who was still appreciated worldwide, Nicolae Herlea, David Ohanesian, Constantin Gabor (who continued his career until the mid '80s), so we are taking about great names. Some of them had retired, at the ballet there were Magdalena Popa, Ileana Iliescu, Marinel Stefanescu, Gheorghe Iancu, Gigi Caciuleanu; as I've already said, great names.

Could you give us some "technical" details about the volume you are going to launch on Saturday?

It has almost 1100 pages and about 500 photos. One can also find portraits of most of the artists, and a photo for almost every show performed during that decade.
Petra Gherasim
Translated by Martin Potter and Alina Roxana Chirila
MA Students, MTTLC, Bucharest University