Founded in 1956, the Romanian National Opera in Iasi is a public cultural institution that operates under the Ministry of Culture and National Identity. The financing of the institution is made from own revenues and subsidies granted from the state budget.
The artistic activity of the Romanian National Opera in Iași takes place in seasons, which generally have a period of ten months. The opera carries out its activity together with the Iaşi National Theatre in one of the most beautiful theatres in the country, a historical monument, dating from the end of the 19th century.
1833 – was the first opera performance in Iasi
As in the other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, the genre of opera entered Romania and implicitly in Iasi with itinerant foreign troops, especially Italian, French and German. The written documents attest to the visit of these troops in Bucharest starting with 1821.
In Iasi, the first opera performance was “La Dame blanche” by François Adrien Boieldieu, staged in 1833 at the Variety Theater in Copou by the French troupe of the Foureaux brothers, with the head of Iasi military music at the desk, Joseph Herfner.
In 1836, the Dramatic Philharmonic Conservatory was established in Iaşi, where vocal music and declamation in Romanian were taught. The coordinator was Gheorghe Asachi, and among the members were the vornic Ştefan Catargiu, Vasile Alecsandri – the father, the tenor Paul Cervatti and the actor Matei Millo.
In 1838, on February 20, the students of the singing class of the Conservatory performed, for the first time in Romanian, the opera “Norma” by Vicenzo Bellini. But, because the speechwriter Catargiu suspends the promised subsidy, of 200 galbeni, the activity of the Conservatory stops in the same year. The opera seasons are supported by traveling bands: the band Fourreaux (which in 1840 realizes the first season of opera in Iasi) and the band Frisch from Chernivtsi. In 1846, on December 1, the Great Theater of Copou was inaugurated, which also hosted opera performances, represented by the “Moldavian” band and the orchestra conducted by Alexandru Flechtenmacher. The premiere of the first Romanian operetta takes place on this stage – Baba Hârca by Matei Millo and the music by Alexandru Flechtenmacher – in 1848.
An intensely artistic period follows: in 1866 the first ballet troupe appears in L Ademolo’s opera company; in 1873 the premiere of the opera “Faust” by Charles Gounod takes place in Iasi; in 1874, Theodor Aslan created the first operetta troupe from Iași; the Iasi premieres of Verdi’s works take place: Lombarzii, Rigoletto, Nabucco, Ernani. Starting with the last third of the 19th century, vaudeville, a genre cultivated mainly by Romanian artists – a combination of comedy (satire) and music (songs and dances), began to attract an ever-growing audience, putting in difficulty the shows of strangers. 1877 – Operetta in Iasi In the year of the outbreak of the War of Independence (1877), two Romanian operettas were performed in Iaşi, signed by Ioan Andrei Wachmann and Eduard Caudella.
In 1880, the Musical Society was founded by the Iași composer Eduard Caudella, Gheorghe Bengescu-Dabija and Teodor Aslan, under the presidency of Nicolae Şuţu, in order to promote dramatic music, but also the establishment of a permanent lyrical theater in Iaşi. The first Romanian comic opera is played in the same year – “Olteanca” or “Man’s ears as a wedding gift”, composed by Eduard Caudella and Gustav Otremba, on a libretto by Gheorghe Bengescu-Dabija. At the end of the century, the same Moldovan creator, Eduard Caudella, will be sung the creation “Petru Rareş” – the first work in the true sense of the word in the history of Romanian music. A year later, in 1881, the National Theater founded its own Lyric Company, next to the Dramatic Society, which, however, operated for only one season. The company consisted of: the director of the Conservatory, Constantin Gros, concert-master Eduard Caudella, choir master Gavriil Musicescu, and among the soloists were Teodor Aslan and Giovanni Dimitrescu.
Towards the end of the ninth century, Romanian bands came to Iasi, presenting opera performances. Also, foreign bands bring new titles: the band Perlov presents Russian creations – The Demon by Anton Rubinstein, Evgheni Oneghin by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, Life for the Tsar by Mikhail Ivanovich Glinka; Leo Bauer’s German troupe brings to Iasi, in 1894, the first Wagnerian works – Tannhäuser, Lohengrin, The Singing Masters of Nuremberg; an Italian company presents for the first time the works Otello by Giuseppe Verdi, Cavalleria rusticana by Pietro Mascagni, Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo; a French band presents Mignon by Thomas Ambroise and Mireille by Charles Gounod. During the same period, the most important Romanian lyrical artists sang in the capital of Moldova, among which: Hariclea Darclée, Elena Teodorini, Carlota Leria, Margareta Iamandi, Giovanni Dimitrescu.
Romanian Opera Society On December 1, 1896, the current building of the National Theater was inaugurated, which will host from that moment all the most important performances in the city, including the opera ones. During the First World War, Iaşi experienced an intense artistic and theatrical activity, with charitable purposes for those who came from the front, for the wounded and for the locals. Many of the great Romanian artists were in the capital of Moldova at that time: the great composer George Enescu – who gave concerts to the wounded in hospitals in Iasi and Moldova, Marioara Ventura, Constantin I. Nottara, Iancu Brezeanu, Tony Bulandra, Romald Bulfinski, Ion Manolescu, Zaharia Bârsan, Ion Livescu, Ştefan Braborescu, Elvira Popescu, Maria Filotti, Maria Ciucurescu, Olimpia Bârsan, Tanti Cutava Barozzi and others. Alexandru Mavrodi, the general director of the theaters, intensely supported the festivals and manifestations of the artists from Iaşi, sometimes even twice a day.
Thus, came the idea of setting up a work in Iasi. The theater was, the orchestra was – being led even by George Enescu, costumes were at the National Theater, the choir could be formed from Iași and refugees, so Umberto Passione, tenor Vasile Rabega and George Niculescu-Băsu took the work seriously. At night the notes for the orchestra were written, and during the day it was repeated. Seeing the determination of the artists, Alexandru Mavrodi brought them all together and founded the Romanian Opera Society. For two years, opera and operetta performances such as “Faust” by Charles Gounod, “Stories of Hoffmann” by Jacques Offenbach, “La Traviata” and “Ernani” by Giuseppe Verdi, “Madama Butterfly” by Giacomo were performed in Iaşi. Puccini, “Cavalleria rusticana” by Pietro Mascagni, “Pagliacci” by Ruggero Leoncavallo, “Mam’zelle Nitouche” by Hervé.
1941 – The first attempt to establish the Iasi Opera
In the years of the Second World War, an attempt took place very close to materializing in the first Iași Opera. In the winter of 1941-1942, it was decided to establish the Romanian Opera of Moldova, which was to operate through the collaboration of the Conservatory with the National Theater. Among the initiators were the composer Alexandru Zirra, Vasile Rabega and the conductor Antonin Ciolan. “Boema” by Giacomo Puccini, “Barber of Seville” by Gioachino Rossini (conductor Antonin Ciolan) and “Vagabonds” by Karl Michael Ziehrer (conductor Mircea Bârsan) were performed.
In 1944 there is a new attempt to establish the Opera of Moldova, when the opera “La Traviata” by Giuseppe Verdi (under the direction of Egizzio Massini) will be presented.
In 1948, a third attempt to establish a permanent lyrical ensemble took place – then the opera Lakmé by Léo Delibes was sung, under the artistic direction of N. Broşteanu.
January 1, 1956 – Establishment of the Iasi Opera
On January 1, 1956, after all these efforts, the State Opera in Iaşi will be established, by the Decision of the Council of Ministers no. 2998 of 30.12.1955.
After a long period of affirmation and consolidation of the lyrical theater in the capital of Moldova and after several attempts to officially recognize these efforts, in 1956 was inaugurated the first public opera institution in the region of Moldova – the State Opera in Iasi, which in 2003 will become the Romanian National Opera in Iaşi (by Government Decision no. 742, published in the Official Gazette of Romania no. 493 of July 8, 2003).
The first season began on the evening of November 3, 1956 with the show “Tosca” by Giacomo Puccini, under the baton of conductor Radu Botez, the artistic direction being signed by Hero Lupescu, and the scenography by Zoltan Gerzanich.
The first director of the Opera was the musician and professor Ioan Goia, who conducted between 1956-1965. Over the years, he was followed by important personalities of the Romanian musical life: the opera director George Zaharescu (1965-1969), the conductor Ion Păvălache (1965-1974), the director Dimitrie Tăbăcaru (1974-1982), the musicologist and the composer Constantin Dediu (1982-1991) and the conductor Corneliu Calistru (1991-2008). In the period 2008-2011, the management of the Opera was provided by interim directors. Following a project competition organized by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage in 2011, the director Beatrice Rancea obtained the position of manager of the Romanian National Opera Iasi.
The evolution of the Romanian National Opera in Iaşi is related to the names of some artistic personalities: Radu Botez (1909-1980) – first conductor of the institution between 1956-1977, considered one of the great Romanian conductors of opera and symphonic concerts, in the country and abroad and teacher at the Conservatory of Iasi. Ion Iorgulescu – lyrical-inspired tenor, he worked between 1956-1974. She excelled in roles in: “Aida” – Giuseppe Verdi, “Masked Ball” – Giuseppe Verdi, “Carmen” – Georges Bizet, “Bohemian” – Giacomo Puccini, “Tosca” – Giacomo Puccini, “Madama Butterfly” – Giacomo Puccini, „Otello” – Giuseppe Verdi. Florica Mărieş – soprano-spinto, she worked between 1956-1975. In the repertoire: “Aida” -Giuseppe Verdi, “Tosca” – Giacomo Puccini, “Masked Ball” – Giuseppe Verdi, “The Troubadour” – Giuseppe Verdi. Natalia Vronski-Gastel – first ballerina between 1956-1975. In the repertoire: “Giselle” – Adolphe Charles Adam, “The Nutcracker” – Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, “Fountain in Bahcisarai” – Boris Asafiev etc.
Ion Baitanciuc – first dancer between 1956-1977. He went through the entire ballet repertoire.
Dimitrie Tăbăcaru (1929-1985) – artistic director 1956-1985, director of the Opera during 1974-1982. Reference works: “Manon Lescaut” – Giacomo Puccini, “The Wedding of Figaro” – Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, “Alexandru Lăpuşneanu” – after a libretto by Gheorghe Dimitriu, “Don Carlos” – Giuseppe Verdi, “Samson and Delilah” – Giuseppe Verdi . He mounted operas in the country and abroad; teacher at the Conservatory of Iasi.
Bella Balogh – choreographer, worked between 1958-1977 and 1980-1986. He performed most of his ballet works: “Bahcisarai Fountain” – Boris Asafiev, “The Copper Rider” – Reinhold Glier, The Nutcracker – Piotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, etc.
Mioara Cortez – soprano-spinto. He has been active in the Opera since 1980. He played the most important specific roles: “Tosca” – Giacomo Puccini, “Boema” – Giacomo Puccini, “Aida” – Giuseppe Verdi, “Norma” – Giuseppe Verdi, “Masked Ball” – Giuseppe Verdi , “The Troubadour” – Giuseppe Verdi etc. He has given numerous shows and concerts, in the country and abroad. Teacher of the Conservatory of Iasi.
Corneliu Calistru – conductor. He has been active in the Opera since 1965. During 1991-2008 he was director of the Opera. It addresses the entire repertoire of opera, operetta and ballet (Giacomo Puccini, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Giuseppe Verdi, Charles Bizet, Pietro Mascagni, Rugierro Leoncavallo), has symphonic performances in the country and abroad. Teacher at the Conservatory of Iasi.
Well-known artists from Romania and abroad performed on the lyrical stage from Iași: Artă Florescu, Nicolae Herlea, Eugenia Moldoveanu, Maria Slătinaru-Nistor, Viorica Cortez, Virginia Zeani, Nicola Rossi-Lemeni, Walter Monacchesi, Irina Arhipova, Todor Kostov, Viktor Tretiak and so on
The performances were staged by masters of opera directing: Hero Lupescu, Anghel Ionescu Arbore, Dimitrie Tăbăcaru, George Zaharescu, Marina Emandi Tiron, Anda Tăbăcaru-Hogea, Mihai Zaborila.
In the preparation of the performances, the artistic directors collaborated with talented scenographers and scenographic painters. Regarding the scenography, at the Opera from Iaşi signed: Zoltan Gerzanich, Hristofenia Cazacu, George Dorosenco, Nicolae Vericeanu, Gheorghe Codrea, Rodica Arghir, Cătălin I. Arbore, Adriana Urmuzescu, Marfa Axenti.
The establishment of the Opera, in 1956, also led to the establishment of the orchestra. At the beginning, it benefited from the contribution of the best instrumentalists existing in Iași, especially employees of the “Moldova” Philharmonic, after which it was completed with students and graduates of the “George Enescu” Conservatory. The orchestra has been trained and conducted over time by conductors such as: Radu Botez, Trăian Mihăilescu, Corneliu Calistru, Cornelia Voinea, Gheorghe Victor Dumănescu, Răsvan Cernat.
Also in 1956, the choir of the Iași Opera was founded, which addresses a vast repertoire of opera and operetta, but also vocal-symphonic. Over the years, the choir has been led by: Emil Chivu, Ion Pavalache, Anton Bișoc.
The Iași Opera Ballet was founded a year later, in 1957. The one who consolidated the group, signing the direction and choreography of many prestigious performances was the choreographer Bella Ballogh. Along the way, the ballet was led by Mihaela Atanasiu and Marius Zirra, and after 1990 by Gheorghe and Carmen Stanciu.
Among the choreographers who worked with the ballet dancers of the Iași Opera are: Oleg Danovsky, Vasile Marcu, Ion Tugearu (Bucharest National Opera), Alexa Mezincescu, Mihai Babușka (Bucharest National Opera).
Among the great values that collaborated with the Opera Ballet were: Iaroslav Seh, Irina Kolpakova, Vladimir Tihonov, Alexa Mezincescu, Ileana Iliescu, Magdalena Popa, Gheorghe Cotovelea.
The first ballet dancers of the ballet company were: Pania M Ranja, Natalia Vronski, Virginia Ferescu, Ion Băitanciuc, Paul Robert, Ion Rusu, Laura Apetroaie, Carmen Stanciu, Gheorghe Stanciu, Ion Barbu.
Dancers such as Florica Stănescu, Corina Dumitrescu, Mihai Babușca, Delia and Călin Hanțiu, Ion Dumitrescu, Monica Cherecheș, Alina Herpacova, Aris Kolpocov collaborated in the performances in Iași.