” Crai Nou” Operetta, extraordinary performance in Alba Iulia


Invited by Alba Iulia Municipality to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Romanian King and Queen’s Coronation, Bucharest National Opera will perform a spectacular show. On the 169th anniversary since the birth of the great Romanian composer Ciprian Porumbescu, Bucharest Opera will be presenting a semi-staged version of the operetta “Crai Nou” on the stage of the House of Culture of the Trade Unions in Alba Iulia on Saturday, October 15th, at 7 pm.

Born on October 14th 1853, in Șipotele Sucevei, he was the son of the priest Iraclie Golembiovski and the Polish-born Emilia Clodnițchi, Ciprian Porumbescu succeeded in creating the first viable Romanian operetta that would become a landmark of the genre. In this respect, Ciprian Porumbescu was an artist of remarkable achievement for his times, and much regretted by later generations for what he could have given to Romanian music had he not died at the age of 29.

Because his family did not have the financial means, Ciprian Porumbescu did not receive an elite musical education. His first violin lessons were taken at the school in Ilișești. He later attended secondary school in Suceava, where he studied piano and organ. He was then admitted to the Higher Gymnasium in Suceava, where he studied Orthodox Theology in Chernivtsi between 1873 and 1877. It was in this Bukovina town that the “Arboroasa” Student Society was founded, after the old name of Bukovina. Ciprian Porumbescu composed its anthem, and his involvement in this cultural and patriotic movement was a special one: he led the choir, becoming its president in his last year of seminary. He promoted the “reawakening of national solidarity” through a series of fiery speeches with messages against Austrian rule as their central theme. As a result, in 1878 he was arrested along with a group of young people who were promoting the same values. He was imprisoned for three months in Chernivtsi, and the harsh conditions of detention seriously illened him with tuberculosis. But Ciprian Porumbrscu’s journey into the world of music didn’t stop there. Between 1879 and 1881 he received a scholarship to study at the Konservatorium fur Musik in Vienna. This is where he had the opportunity to study with Anton Bruckner and Franz Krenn and the Bukovinian composer Eusebius Mandyczewski. With an exceptional talent, he conducted the choir of the Student Society ” Young Romania”/ “România Jună”, then, in 1880, he produced a “Collection of Social Songs for Romanian Students” which included twenty choral pieces and songs such as “Three Colours”, “The Song of the Latin Nation” or “The Anthem of Union – On our Flag”. From 1881 to 1883, Ciprian Porumbescu worked as a music teacher at the Romanian Gymnasium in Brasov, being at the same time the conductor of the choir of St. Nicholas Church in Brasov.

Ciprian’s heart was vibrating to the music. Taking a rest was not a priority for him, only the summer holidays in Stupca gave him pause. That’s how he met Berta Gordon, the daughter of the evangelical pastor from Ilișești, with whom he fell in love. As their families were of different religious backgrounds, they were not allowed to marry. Music became for him a joy, a remedy, an exaltation of soul. That’s how the operetta “Crai Nou” was born. The premiere took place on March 11th 1882 in the celebration hall of the Romanian Gymnasium in Brasov (today the “Andrei Șaguna” National College).

The two-act operetta “Crai Nou” – the first Romanian operetta – was composed on music by Ciprian Porumbescu and lyrics by Vasile Alecsandri. With unprecedented public success, the performance was staged in two other venues the same year, in Brasov and Oravița. It was a dream come true for Ciprian, who confessed to his father: “And today, today I got to see my wish come true, I saw my dream with my own eyes, I had the frenzied applause for my opera, I heard hundreds of voices calling my name, full of enthusiasm, I saw myself lifted up, praised, flattered, laureate. What more can I say, what more can I expect from my life, from my future?”

The operetta “Crai Nou” used Vasile Alecsandri’s lyrical creation, being a memorable musical opus, belonging to the classical genre enriched with popular substance. It represents “one of the most popular creations of professional music, contributing to the composer’s affirmation and to the prestige of national music” – as musicologist Octavian Lazăr Cosma noted. It must be said that the operetta “Crai Nou” was composed in 1882 in Brasov, and its premiere took place on February 27th 1882 (March 11th, in the new style), on an improvised stage of the Romanian Gymnasium in Brasov, where Ciprian Porumbescu worked as a music and choral teacher at that time. The musical direction belonged to the composer, and the performers were amateur artists from Brasov with impeccable performance skills.

Suffering from his time in prison, his illness worsened. On November 8th 1882, a fundraising campaign was organised in Brasov to raise the necessary funds for his treatment in Italy, at the Nervi resort. Returning to Stupca in 1883, at the age of nearly 30, he died in the arms of his sister, Mărioara, and his father, whispering: “Don’t let my music die!”

Bucharest National Opera is honouring his memory with an exceptional performance on the 169th anniversary of his birth. The manager of Bucharest National Opera, Daniel Jinga, explains: “For me, the meeting with Ciprian Porumbescu is a truly special one, an encounter that has happened this year. I already knew his music, but in a demonetised form, affected by the communist propaganda. All those marches seemed like they were somehow leading to the atmosphere of the stadiums on August 23rd. Step by step, I got closer to this music. It’s a project that was ” baked ” in my mind over a long period of time, and now, together with the director Răzvan Dincă, we can talk about a staging of this work. I still believe that the message is still one of exorcism, exorcism of propaganda, exorcism of totalitarianism and I think that after this process, we can certainly reach the purity that this music conveys and the true state that Ciprian Porumbescu wanted to spread. I also hope that our whole endeavour will have a public impact, I hope that from this moment on, as many people as possible will rediscover Ciprian Porumbescu and his true music, not a prejudiced idea that we already might have about his creation. I also hope that this title will find its place in the Bucharest National Opera’s repertoire and, why not, will find its place in other similar performing institutions’ programmes.”            

The show had its premiere in Bucharest, but is set to delight audiences in other parts of Romania, with Alba Iulia as a first stop.