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Lohengrin in the 100th Season of the Bucharest Opera

Monday, 13 December 2021 , ora 14.08

8th of December 1921 - this is the date when the Romanian Opera opened its doors as a cultural institution with the performance of Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin". The production was directed by Adalbert Markowski, and the conductor was George Enescu, who by his presence wanted to underline his support and involvement in this historic moment. A moment that would not have taken place without the decision of the Minister of Arts - at that time - the poet Octavian Goga. 8th of December 2021, the poster of the Bucharest National Opera will feature Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin", in a new directorial vision that extends back 100 years.

The President of Romania, Klaus Johannis, marked this moment by awarding the "Centenary of the Great Union" Anniversary Medal - a distinction presented to the acting director of the National Opera - Daniel Jinga by presidential advisor Sergiu Nistor:

One of these institutions that we are proud of and that carries forward the dream, ideals and projects of our forefathers who found themselves together in the year of grace 1918 is the National Opera of Bucharest. I read before you the patent that honours with the centenary medal the institution that we celebrate today: "The President of Romania, wishing to reward the merits of the Bucharest National Opera, as a token of appreciation for the effort made to preserve and promote the memory of the events and participants in the achievement of national unity and the modern Romanian state, contributing to the defence and perpetuation of the values in the name of which the Great Union was achieved, confers the Centenary of the Great Union Anniversary Medal to the Bucharest National Opera".

The Minister of Culture, Lucian Romașcanu, was invited to mark the event:

We are at a very important time. We are in a period of centenaries. We had the centenary of the Great Union, we had the centenary of Trianon. This year we are celebrating the 100th anniversary of the inauguration of many places of culture, because at that time they understood the importance and Octavian Goga was the Minister of Arts at the time, when he signed the decree for the opera, but also because, a month ago we celebrated the centenary of the National Theatre in Chisinau, for example, next year will be the centenary of the Coronation. We are in a period of great celebrations of the Romanian soul and I am glad that beyond the pandemic, beyond all the financial restrictions and constraints we have managed to be together and celebrate this extraordinarily important moment.

He recalled the glorious moments of the Romanian Opera with artists who were among the stars of opera, Ioan Hollender:

For me it is a great honour, but also a great joy. A personal joy and a fulfillment to be able to speak in this place, which for me, 60 years ago when I was in Timișoara, far from the capital, I used to listen to, enjoy the soloists, the creators of this scene and I cannot remember, today, Radiovici Ștefănescu, the creator of opera in Romania, but also others who, in particular, in this building from 1953 and beyond, have forged the glory of opera, as they used to say at the time, of the Romanian Opera and Ballet Theatre, from ConstantinSilvestri to the conductors Egizio Massini, Mihai Brediceanu and even Cornel Trăilescu, a Timișoara native of mine. But also the great soloists, from Petru Ștefănescu Goangă, Dinu Bădescu, Arta Florescu, what an extraordinary ensemble this institute had.Of course, most of them could have made an international career in the West, if the Iron Curtain had not been closed, but it was to the advantage of those who were here that we could hear four baritones, six sopranos in the same role. We were going from show to show. In those days, singers dominated the opera house. Let's also remember the directors of that time, Jean Rânzescu, Hero Lupescu and I cannot end these words without mentioning the extraordinary ballet that this theatre had, with IrinelLiciu, with Gabriel Popescu, with Elena Dacian and even nowadays, AlinaCojocaru, who now dances at the Royal Opera in London.

The main event of the "Opera 100" season followed: the premiere of Richard Wagner's "Lohengrin", directed by Silviu Purcărete and with a scenography by Dragoș Buhagiar. I could say that the sets and costumes were combined in a minimalist direction, full of symbols, dominated by black and white, in which the main roles are doubled by the actors.

A new thing for the National Opera, also noted by director Alice Barb:

The show is extraordinarily interesting. It's 'Purcarian', if you like, in every way. It is as I had hoped. I'm a Silviu Purcărete fan. I consider him a huge director and I think only he could have staged this Wagner. There were some extremely emotional moments right from the beginning, I think it was one of the most beautiful overtures to an opera performance I have ever seen. The combination of actors and musicians is very interesting. I don't think anything like this has ever been done on the National Opera stage before. The set is terrific. DragoșBuhagiar doesn't deny it. The orchestra sounds wonderful, the chorus is exceptional, and the soloists are very good and there are many stories that are interwoven and run concurrently. It's very interesting that at every moment, in one corner of the stage, something is happening and this multitude of stories folds very nicely into the musical fabric created by Wagner and creates moments of great, great emotion.

I also found the soprano Elena Moșuc in the hall, who was delighted with the directorial vision and the performers:

I was very, very impressed by what Maestro TiberiuSoare was able to achieve with the orchestra, with the choir, with everyone. As a soloist I wish the soloists had not been placed so often in the background, especially as the stage is quite big. Musically, I would have preferred it to be an acoustic aid.

Directed by SilviuPurcărete, a director with a spectacular career in theatre but also with forays into the world of film, Lohengrin is a performance that lies on the border between theatre and cinema, a fact also noted by critic Irina Margareta Nistor:

Extraordinarily spectacular. Anyway, now, we know very well how Purcărete and Buhagiar create, but especially the acting is formidable and Valentin Vasiliu is extraordinary. And the costumes, and the idea itself, to have an double for each character, to have such a persona, I think Bergman would have liked this show too. And Istvan Teglas is, as usual totally and completely special, so I think it's more than an event, so , for this hundred years, when it's also 100 years since our king was born, so I think it's a royal evening. It's a typical Purcărete vision and on the other hand always surprising. It's on the borderline between theatre and cinema. We know very well that he came close to cinema and so I think it was still a step ahead of what we are used to.

I noticed the baritone Valentin Vasiliu, the soprano Marta Sandu Ofrim, but especially the interpreter of Ortrud - the soprano Petra Lang, a Wagnerian singer in the true sense of the word.

The musical conducting on the 8th of December and in the next two premiere performances - on the 10th and 12th of December - belongs to conductor Tiberiu Soare.

Cast - 8th of December 2021

Lohengrin - Daniel Magdal

Elsa von Brabant - Marta Sandu Ofrim

Ortrud - Petra Lang

Friedrich von Telramund - Valentin Vasiliu

Heinrich der Vloger - Marius Boloș

Heerufer - Dan Indricău

Four shepherds: Tania Ruskova, Oana Ștefania Ionescu, Andreea Grigore, Florentina Picuș

Four noblemen: Mihai Geamașu, Narcis Brebeanu, Adrian Strezea, Octavian Crețu

Actors: Lohengrin - Istvan Teglas

Elsa - Anda Saltelechi

Ortrud - Alina Petrică

Telramund - Rareș Stoica

With the participation of the Bucharest National Opera Orchestra and Chorus.

Jeanine Costache
Translated by Denisa Dărăban,
University of Bucharest, Faculty of Foreign Languages and Literatures, MTTLC, year II
Corrected by Silvia Petrescu