Theatres of Iași
Photo by Iulian Aruxandei
Culture

Theatres of Iași

Theatre has a special place in the country's Capital of Culture. With the first play in Romanian, Mirtil and Hloe, held in 1816, Iași was the scene for the first national theatre, established in 1840.

The current National Theatre was inaugurated in 1896 and from 1956 the Opera institution was established and the name changed to Vasile Alecsandri National Theatre, after the renowned Romanian playwright and poet.

The edifice represents a Neoclassic architectural jewel. It was built after the plans of the Viennese architects Fellner and Helmer, who erected theatres in Vienna, Prague, Chernivtsi, Odessa, Cluj etc. The architects also introduced innovative elements, present in the Modernist geometric adornments of the exterior balconies and the composite columns capitals at the entrance, which contain a metal lyre subtly inserted. The Grand Hall has 750 seats placed on three levels, the first floor being exclusively dedicated for the boxes. On the left side of the stage there is the royal box with Romania’s symbols and on the opposite side there is the box of local personalities from administration, with the Iași emblem.

The hall is adorned with sculpting and painting elements, of Baroque and Rococo inspiration, all pointed out by the Venetian chandelier with 109 light bulbs and by the 1418 electric lamps. The ceiling, painted in pastel colours by Alexander Goltz, has as theme the Story, represented through paradise allegories, nymphs and angels framed by a Rococo stucco.

Performances also take place at the “Teofil Vâlcu” Studio Hall in the attic, and near the building there are “The Theatre Factory” Hall, which sheltered the first electric factory in Iași and “Theatre at the Cube” Hall – inaugurated in 2008 and which received the National Architecture Prize in the same year. The “Vasile Alecsandri” National Theatre was designated the second theatre in the world which is “breath taking”, according to a BBC top, thus, in the last years, becoming a true tourist attraction.

If you’re visiting Iași with your kids, Teatrul Luceafărul would be a good option for them to enjoy a play.

This appeared as a puppet theatre in 1949. The residence was situated in a room of 200 seats, in the yard of the Catholic Church. Meanwhile, it diversified the shows, so that music, poetry, pantomime and dance gradually joined the puppets, in 1973 becoming Theatre for Children and Youth. If initially the main sources of inspiration for the shows were inspired from Romanian folk stories, later on universal literature would be present on the Iași scene through many famous titles. “Tartarin of Tarascon” of the writer Alphonse Daudet or “Forced marriage”, creation of the theatre writer Moliére, are examples of the first foreign works played in Iași, for children. The opening play of the Theatre was “The Gold Fish” by the Grimm brothers, which remains a landmark of the institution, being replayed on anniversary occasions. But the oldest play in the theatre’s repertoire is “Punguța cu doi bani” after Ion Creangă.

Nowadays, no matter your age, you can enjoy here great performances. The International Festival for Young Public (FITPT) is one of the events which gathers famous international artists each October, with over 200 actors from 15 countries. The quality of the plays performed here is reflected in the difficulty of finding tickets for some of the shows.

Next up, the Tătărași Athenaeum. The institution was founded in 1920 but the current building was inaugurated in 2003. The members of the founding association included intellectuals, clergymen and even simple people from the neighbourhood. The institution’s main mission was promoting and supporting national culture in Tătărași neighbourhood. The athenaeum’s members maintained permanent cultural links to similar institutions in other Romanian provinces through numerous theatre, poetry, dance and festival tours. The building, in Neo Romanian style, shaped as a cula from Oltenia, was damaged by the 1977 earthquake and then, demolished. The institution was founded again in 2003, in a new modern building.

Under the slogan “Union Through Culture”, the present day institution hosts a widely diverse array of cultural events: theater, opera, humor and satirical graphics festivals, some of which were premieres, while others are already well-known both locally and nationally, Romanian plays, especially comedies, concerts of famous artists, book launch events, inaugurations of new and unique exhibition venues.

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Teatrul National Iasi

Photo by Andrei Cucu

Architecture, Landmarks
The history of dramaturgy was marked by many premieres in Iași. Worthy of mentioning are: the first theatre play in Romanian, in 1816, the founding of the first National Theatre in the country or the founding of the first Jewish Theatre in the World (1876).

As an institution, the first steps in the founding of the Iași theatre were taken in the boyar houses, with a small public. After that, through the presence of foreign bands in the city, the “Théâtre des Variétés” appeared. The first National Theatre in Romania came to life at the initiatives of the politicians and people of culture like Vasile Alecsandri, Costache Negruzzi and Mihail Kogălniceanu in 1840.

In the same period of intense cultural activity, the first opera show was also performed – “La dame blanche”, played at the “Théâtre des Variétés”, in 1883. Three years later, under the coordination of Gheorghe Asachi, the Drama Philharmonic Conservatory is founded, having as members the headman Ștefan Catargiu, Vasile Alecsandri (the father), the tenor Paul Cervatti and the actor Matei Millo.

Since 1846, the Iași theatre shows, but also the opera shows were played in the hall of the Big Theatre in Copou, constructed on the place of the current building of the University, but destroyed in a fire in 1888. Here, various premieres took place, such as the first Romanian operette – “Baba Hârca” of Matei Millo (1848), the first performance of the theatre plays having as leading character the famous “Coana Chirița” (1850), plays written by Vasile Alecsandri, the first ballet band (1866) and after that, the operettas (1874). The Vaudeville also begins to be developed – a combination between satire and music, also played by the first Jewish professional theatre band in the world, led by the playwright Avram Goldfaden.

The new building of the National Theatre was inaugurated in 1896, on the place of the old city hall, demolished at the proposal of mayor Vasile Pogor. This shelters the institutions of the “Vasile Alecsandri” National Theatre of Iași and of the National Romanian Opera House of Iași. The latter was founded only in 1956, although composers, conductors and singers from Iași have tried this thing since the ‘20s. The opening show of the first season was “Tosca” by Giacomo Puccini, under the baton of the conductor Radu Botez. In 2003, the State Opera House of Iași, as previously named, becomes the National Romanian Opera House of Iași.

The theatre and opera shows will offer you here unique experiences, from performances of classical plays, to nonconformist or interactive plays, where spectators find themselves on stage. At the same time, you can see premiere theatrical performances, played by theatre artists also known for their parts in famous Romanian films.

MUST SEE at the Theatre and Opera House of Iași

The National Romanian Opera House of Iași and the “Vasile Alecsandri” National Theatre of Iași offer, each season, special performances made by Romanian and foreign directors. Some titles not to be missed from the current season would have to comprise, at the Opera House of Iași, the three shows of the world renowned director, Andrei Șerban – The Snowdrifts after Euripides, Les Indes galantes by Jean-Philippe Rameau, Lucia di Lamermoor by Gaetano Donizetti or Aida by Verdi. At the National Theatre, the shows The Café by Carlo Goldoni, directed by the master Silviu Purcărete, The Old Lady’s Visit by Friedrich Dürrenmatt, directed by Claudiu Goga, The Butchery of Job by Fausto Paravidino, directed by Radu Afrim or The Birdcage by Georges Feydeau, directed by Gabriel Avram are monumental!

Strada Agatha Bârsescu nr. 18, Iași 700074
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Ateneul-National--1024x843

Photo by Tătărași Athenaeum

Cultural Venues, Theatres
The Tătărași Athenaeum is a cultural institution with tradition, from the neighbourhood with the same name, inaugurated in 1920 under the name “Tătărași” Popular Athenaeum.

The members of the founding association included intellectuals, clergymen and even simple people from the neighbourhood. The institution’s main mission was promoting and supporting national culture in Tătărași neighbourhood. The athenaeum’s members maintained permanent cultural links to similar institutions in other Romanian provinces through numerous theatre, poetry, dance and festival tours. The building, in Neo Romanian style, shaped as a cula from Oltenia, was damaged by the 1977 earthquake and then, demolished. The institution was founded again in 2003, in a new modern building.

Strada Ion Creangă 14, Iași 700320
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Photo by Luceafărul Theatre

Theatres
The theatre for children couldn’t have not existed in Iași. This appeared as a puppet theatre in 1949. The residence was situated in a room of 200 seats, in the yard of the Catholic Church.

Meanwhile, it diversified the shows, so that music, poetry, pantomime and dance gradually joined the puppets, in 1973 becoming Theatre for Children and Youth. If initially the main sources of inspiration for the shows were inspired from Romanian folk stories, later on universal literature would be present on the Iași scene through many famous titles. “Tartarin of Tarascon” of the writer Alphonse Daudet or “Forced marriage”, creation of the theatre writer Moliére, are examples of the first foreign works played in Iași, for children. The opening play of the Theatre was “The Gold Fish” by the Grimm brothers, which remains a landmark of the institution, being replayed on anniversary occasions. But the oldest play in the theatre’s repertoire is “Punguța cu doi bani” after Ion Creangă.

After the earthquake of 1977, the institution moves into the Youth Culture House (now, the students’) where it remains for 10 years. In 1987, the name of Theatre for Children and Youth received sonority through the reference to a symbol of Romanian literature, “Luceafărul”, the masterpiece of the national poet, Mihai Eminescu. In the same year, the theatre plays begin to the performed in a new building, constructed in the modern architecture style of communism, of great grandeur for those times, which is even nowadays residence of the Theatre. When the “Moldavia” Philharmonic Orchestra of Iași went into reparations, some of its shows began to be played on the scene of the “Luceafărul” Theatre.

The construction of the theatre lasted for 10 years and encountered difficulties due to lack of funds, which were especially sent to the building of blocs of flats, hospitals and schools after the great earthquake of 1977. The building’s plan is hexagonal and the structure is entirely made of concrete. The inside and outside decorations were made of travertine and Rușchița marble, materials initially put aside for the People’s House in Bucharest (the current Palace of Parliament). Above the entrance, we can see a metal coat of arms which combines the theatre mask with a lyre.

Nowadays, no matter your age, you can enjoy here great performances. The International Festival for Young Public (FITPT) is one of the events which gathers famous international artists each October, with over 200 actors from 15 countries. The quality of the plays performed here is reflected in the difficulty of finding tickets for some of the shows.

Strada Grigore Ureche nr. 5, Iași 700044
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