Romania, an overview

Culture

Culture, art and spirituality

 

Fine Arts. The scope and brilliancy of the interior and especially exterior frescoes decorating the monasteries of Northern Moldavia (15th-16th c.) – Voronet, Moldovita, Sucevita, Arbore, Humor, or Patrauti made the great Byzantinologist André Grabar consider this phenomenon “an illustrated book open on all its pages”.

Preserving the ties with the Byzantine stock and with folklore, the culture of the Romanian Modern Age was increasingly connected to the European artistic world which, in turn, sent back echoes of the Renaissance, Romanticist, Academist, or Expressionist trends. Nicolae Grigorescu and Ion Andreescu, together with Stefan Luchian, are the founders of modern Romanian painting.

Modern Romanian  and world sculpture was marked by Constantin Brancusi, the artist who initiated the restructuring of the world’s 20th-century sculptural idiom.


Culture 

Old Books

The museums of the monasteries, university libraries and the Library of the Romanian Academy, the archives of big cities preserve precious illuminated manuscripts. Printing shops were set up in the 16th century, in Bucharest, Targoviste, Brasov, Iasi, Alba Iulia, Ramnic, Buzau and Blaj. Current printing of texts in the Romanian language began in 1559 when Deacon Coresi printed Catehismul in Brasov.

Literature. The beginnings of original cultured literature in Romanian date back to the 17th-18th centuries, when chroniclers Grigore Ureche, Miron Costin, Ion Neculce, the humanist Constantin Cantacuzino and especially Prince Dimitrie Cantemir, a famous scholar, member of the Berlin Academy, wrote their works. 

The second half of the 19th century was the epoch of the great classics of Romanian literature: national poet Mihai Eminescu, prose-writer Ion Creanga, prose-writer and playwright I.L. Caragiale, and others.

In the 20th century, a brilliant generation of writers rose to fame between the wars: prose-writers Mihail Sadoveanu, Liviu Rebreanu, Camil Petrescu, and Mircea Eliade (renowned as a historian of religions), poets Lucian Blaga, Tudor Arghezi, Ion Barbu, George Bacovia, literary historians and aestheticians Eugen Lovinescu, Tudor Vianu, and George Calinescu, who was also a novelist.

Romania was one of the European centres where literary avant-gardism flourished, thanks to such figures as Tristan Tzara (founder of Dadaism).

Some of the interwar writers continued to write in the post-war period, avoiding as much as possible the compromises imposed by the totalitarian ideology. Others emigrated and rose to world fame in their adoptive countries, as is the case of playwright Eugene Ionesco, who became a member of the French Academy.

 

Theater

Drama. The beginnings of the drama shows are traced back to the primitive forms of autochthonous folk theater, and to the shows staged at the courts of the ruling princes or of the big landowners. In 1817 the Theatre of Oravita opened, the first in the Romanian language, in 1818 the Theatre of Arad  and in 1819 Euripides’s Hecuba was performed at the Cismeaua Rosie Theater in Bucharest.

Playwright Ion Luca Caragiale’s work is the cornerstone of original Romanian drama.

 

Music

Archeological sources document a clear musical culture in pre-Roman and Roman Dacia. In the Middle Ages, Romanian art was an original spiritual reality, Wallachian dance being mentioned in European musical codices.

Romanian classical music became internationally known through the work of a genius –  George Enescu, a reputed composer and violin virtuoso. The George Enescu International Festival  (19 editions  so far), celebrates this brilliant musician, by the presence of prominent contemporary musicians.

Music stages all over the world were graced by worthy Romanian musicians such as – to name but a few – conductor Sergiu Celibidache, pianist Dinu Lipatti, violinist Ion Voicu and other famous instrumentalists or singers, from Haricleea Darclee (the first to perform the leading part in Puccini’s Tosca)  to soprano Angela Gheorghiu.

 

Filmmaking

The first film screenings took place in Bucharest as early as 1896. After a long evolution, marked by many notable achievements, several recent Romanian films have won kudos at international festivals:. Cristi Puiu’s “The Death of Mr. Lazarescu” (Un Certain Regard prize, Cannes, 2005) and Catalin Mitulescu’s short film “Traffic” (Palme d’Or at Cannes), to name only a few.

Again at the  Cannes Film Festival, Corneliu Porumboiu’s film “12:08, East of Bucharest” won the Camera d’Or. Cristian Mungiu’s “4 Months, 3 Weeks, and 2 Days” won the Palme d’Or and Cristian Nemescu’s “California Dreamin’ (Unfinished)” was awarded the Un Certain Regard prize. The fourth Palme d’Or for short film went to Marian Crisan for his “Megatron.” In 2009 Cannes honoured again two Romanian “New Wave” representatives: Corneliu Porumboiu (“Police, Adjective”) and Cristian Mungiu (“Tales from the Golden Age”).

All that made the New York Times write that the Cannes Film Festival was no longer itself unless a prize went to Romania.

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