From “Mioriţa” to “Oedipus”: Romanian National Opera in the Nineteenth and Early Twentieth Centuries


  • Beat Föllmi Université Marc-Bloc de Strasbourg


identity, nation building, Romanian music, Eduard Caudella, George Enescu


Operas in Romanian language, on Romanian topics and written by Romanian composers emerge slowly in the second half of 19th century; the first works appear in the year of the 1848 revolution, other works follow later after the reunification of the two Danubian Principalities into a Romanian national state in 1859. But their number remains limited. The most important Romanian composer, George Enescu, did not choose any topic from Romanian history or folklore for his opera works. Nevertheless, the Romanian opera of the 19th and early 20th centuries reflects the struggle for the construction of national identity. This identity under construction had to assert itself both in Romania, among the urban elites and the king (born in Germany), and in the European cultural centres, such as paris, Berlin or Vienna. This contribution presents the opera Petru Rareş by Eduard Caudella (composed in 1889) in comparison with Enescu’s Œdipe (composed in 1919-1931). Petru Rareş, based on a historical episode from the beginning of the 16th century, describes the nation building mainly in terms of a “pre-modern narration” (dreams, premonitory signs, religion and faith), but the decisive element of legitimation of power is a letter, a written document which belongs to the modern administration of governance.