For many, Ciprian Porumbescu means only the famous Ballad, Crai nou and … only for those who know history, the fact that the former anthem of Romania “Three colors” was composed by him or that he is the author of the melody of the national anthem of Albania, titled in the version Romanian “On our flag”.
Ciprian Porumbescu was born on October 14, 1853, in Şipotele Sucevei, in Bucovina. His exegetes say that the Romanian artist cannot be limited only to the aura of a symbol, thus fueling the suspicion that he was a dilettante artist and not a musician with serious professional training. Less than 30 years later, at a time when the Romanian musical creation was starting to rise, to take shape, the composer wrote the first consistent, viable Romanian operetta, which will be a landmark of genre music for a long time. This perspective presents Ciprian Porumbescu, as an artist with notable achievements for his time, regretted by the following generations for what he could still have offered to Romanian music from that historical stage.
The patriotic songs, “Balada” for violin and orchestra and the operetta “Crai Nou” thus brought Ciprian Porumbescu extraordinary popularity in the 19th century. Who knows, if he had not died extremely young, what would have been the fate and role of this talented Bucovina musician in the course of Romanian music.
The well-known operetta “Crai Nou”, using the lyrical creation of Vasile Alecsandri, is a memorable musical opus, which belongs to the classical genre soaked in popular substance. It represents “one of the most popular creations of professional music, contributing to the affirmation of the composer and raising the prestige of national music” – as the musicologist Octavian Lazăr Cosma stated.
The two-act operetta “Crai Nou” by Ciprian Porumbescu was composed in 1882, in Braşov, based on the text of the poet Vasile Alecsandri (published in Iași in 1852). Its premiere took place on February 27, 1882 (March 11, in the new style), on an improvised stage of the Romanian Gymnasium in Braşov, where Ciprian Porumbescu worked as a music and singing teacher at the time. The sources of the time show that the performers were amateur artists from Braşov. However, the testimonies of those present convey that the performance was one of the most important cultural events of Romanian music in Transylvania. Musical direction belonged to the composer. For Ciprian Porumbescu, the show was a dream come true.
For specialists and the public, the operetta “Crai Nou” even marked a turning point in the entire Romanian operetta creation. Octavian Lazăr Cosma specifies in his volume, “Chronicle of Romanian Music: 1858-1898”, that “only in 1882, with the appearance of the work Crai Nou, we can record a qualitative leap in operetta, only then the features of the genre, founded in Offenbach’s creation and J. Strauss, identifies himself completely in a Romanian operetta. From this moment, we can talk about the national operetta in the classical sense of the notion, meeting the dramaturgical-musical requirements of the genre.”
It can be said with conviction that, in the whole musical creation of Ciprian Porumbescu, the operetta “Crai Nou” represents his most important work, his great achievement, a true crowning of his compositional activity. Perhaps not by chance, his romantic nature, he then chose the old Romanian legend “Crai Nou”, dramaturgically processed by Vasile Alecsandri and published 30 years ago, which was written with a special purpose by the author, that of serving as libretto for a musical. The text of the piece was taken over later and respected with great care by Ciprian Porumbescu, who found inspired solutions to transpose the stage action into music.