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The Romanian Opera House in Cluj

Cluj-Napoca is the only city in Romania with two national theaters and opera houses (a Romanian and a Hungarian Theater and Opera) and a lively cultural life. The Romanian Opera House in Cluj is the oldest in Greater Romania.

The 'Lucian Blaga' National Theater and the Opera House are hosted by the centennial building raised in the beginning of the 20th century wooden market. Its respectable age and remarkable conservation is a good enough reason to just visit the baroque-secession imposing building, not to mention the beauty of the performances that it stages, together with the dedication and talent of the staff who bring the characters to life.

Just as one should savor a delicate cake, an act of culture should be enjoyed to its fullest flavor, with the mind, soul and the body. The Italian operas mingle with the German, French and of course Romanian lyrical works. Since the grand opening of the Opera House in 1921, with Verdi's 'Aida', the works of the Italian composer have been constantly produced on the Cluj stage, in a repertory which reaches nowadays more than 50 titles and spans on 250 years of world culture. The Opera House in Cluj is preparing two premieres, with 'Don Carlo' by Verdi and 'Tannhauser', by Wagner, in December 2013, to mark 'The Year of Verdi and Wagner'. Even if the Russian composers have been less present on the stage in Cluj, the production with 'Evgheni Oneghin' is due to be staged in 2014.

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The imposing building is brought to life by an Opera House staff of 263 people, be they artists and technical specialists. The soloists perform here either as employees or guests and are some of the best in Romania, being requested for collaborations in the country, as well as all over the world. Some of the worth-mentioning artists who began their career in Cluj are Alexandru Agache, George Petean, Stefan Pop, Tatiana Lisnic, Carmen Oprisan and Adrian Sampetrean.

The institution hosts 8-9 premieres per stage and produces 3 performances every week, the same as the Bucharest Opera House, which has, however, a staff three times more numerous as compared to the one in Cluj. As for the choice of the repertory, the manager of the Opera in Cluj, Marius Budoiu, says that 'All over Europe there is this dilemma: to offer the audience what it wishes for or to try to set forth challenges. This dilemma should be solved with efforts of bringing to an equilibrium or armistice'. Even if the local audience has proven to be rather conservative, at the side of the consecrated titles there are new challenges as well. Two of them are Wagner's 'Tannhauser' and Igor Stravinski's 'Rake's Progress'. The latter proved to be less appealing to the public in Cluj, in spite of being a masterpiece of the lyrical stage. Despite a certain conservationism, the montages also deal with some contemporary themes, to mention the Holocaust (in the performance with Nabucco 13), and mingle the traditionalist and modern approaches so far as staging is concerned.

The aforementioned staging of German composer Richard Wagner, Tannhauser, is supposed to offer the public an inciting subject from the point of view of the spiritual individual evolution. One cannot expect from this famous work a setting with knights with swords or castles, but one which is addresses the 21st century attendant. The production will be honored by Kerilynn Wilsow (conductor), from Canada, and tenor Efe Kislali from Turkey, as the manager of the Opera House detailed in an interview.

The Cluj Opera House is partner to several local, national and international festivals, as the oldest Romanian Opera House. The Festival of the National Opera Houses, last year's first edition in spring, offered the audience some of the best Romanian opera productions and thematic debates. The elegant and colorful Opera Ball in January is the long-waited for occasion of the local and international VIPs to show off as well as to honor some of the prominent figures of Cluj.

The manager of the Opera House, tenor Marius Budoiu, fulfills this position together with an outstanding didactic career at the 'Gheorghe Dima' Music Academy in Cluj. He continues the traditional collaboration with the students of the canto section, who are offered the chance to make it to the stage. 'I insist on preparing our future artists, in order to help the most talented ones develop themselves', says Marius Budoiu. The promising artists are accepted on the stage, in the choir and, of course, in the orchestra of the Opera House, as well as on the occasion of their graduation examination. For them and even people in the public, the Opera House set up a studio in order to value the local latent talents, because 'Everyone deserves a chance', as the Opera PR manager Sabin Rus points it. The activity of this studio results in an average of 2-3 productions which parallel the yearly stage.

Gabriela Popa

The Romanian Opera in Cluj
The Romanian Opera in Cluj
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