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Cititi articolul in Romana = Article in Romanian

Romanian Voices are Present on the Los Angeles Opera Scene
by Ileana Costea, Professor California State University Northridge

November 19, 2012

In the past ten years, Romanian opera singers have graced the stage of Los Angeles Opera. The performances take place at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in “downtown” Los Angeles. Plácido Domingo is the artistic director of the company. Maestro Domingo sang in the first production of the opera company, Othello, in 1986. James Conlon is the music director and principal conductor of the opera orchestra. Many times the Opera invites well-known conductors and singers to perform here. The performances are of high quality, the repertoire is varied, and has included several world premiers such as Daniel Catán’s Il Postino.  The pleasant surprise is that there is often a Romanian presence on the stage.

A few weeks ago when I attended a performance of Don Giovanni. In this performance, I discovered the mezzo-soprano Roxana Constantinescu, who sang the role of “earthy, seductive Zerlina” (Los Angeles Times, September 23, 2012). Young, beautiful, with a superb voice, she made quite an impression on me.  I regret that I did not meet her in person when a group of Romanians from Viitorul Roman Society invited her to the Orange Hill Restaurant, in Orange County, on September 29, 2012.  Unfortunately, I was not available to participate in this event.

VRS Group cu Roxana Constantinescu
Mezzo-soprana Roxana Constantinescu with a group of Romaninas from
Viitorul Roman Society ( at the Orange Hill Restaurant, Orange County,
California, Septembrie 29, 2012.                                                    Photo by Anca Adumitroaie


I am fascinated by the fact that many times Americans are attracted by the Romanian culture. This is the case of William (Bill) Toutant, professor of music and composition at California State University, Northridge (CSUN), the university where I teach too.  Bill has his own show on the university radio station, which is broadcast every Sunday at 10 pm and on the internet at  I know that many times his program has had a Romanian influence, but this is not by accident; it is because his wife is Romanian. I exchanged a few words with Bill. Here is what he told me:

“My first experiences with Romanian music were when I was an invited composer at the Romanian-American Music Festival in Constanţa (the Black Sea harbor) for four years in the mid 90s.  Soon after I began my radio program “The KCSN Opera House,” I discovered the short opera Luceafarul by Nicolae Bretan.  I was on the lookout for nonstandard repertoire because I wanted my program to feature both well-known and little-known opera.  I have broadcast it several times along with Bretan’s other works Golem and Arald.  I find Luceafarul particularly beautiful and melodic.  Since Bretan uses several of Eminescu’s poems, the text is also striking.

Bill Toutant portrait   William (Bill) Toutant

Because Los Angeles Opera underwrites my program, I present interviews with singers performing in productions.  I have interviewed Angela Gheorghiu, Roxandra Donose and Leontina Vaduva.  Ms. Gheorghiu sang Nedda in I Pagliacci and was very effective.  After my interview with Ms. Donose, the tape recorder destroyed the digital audio tape and she graciously gave me a second interview.  When I saw Ms. Vaduva sing Mimi in La Bohème, it was her birthday.  My wife Ligia and I were invited to the cast party after the opening night performance.  Everyone sang “Happy Birthday” to her.  Then she sang “Mulţi ani treasca.” in Romanian. Since I knew the melody, I joined in with her.  This was my only public duet with an opera star!    

After having discovered the poetry of Eminescu, I decided to set my favorite of his poems, Glossa.  It was premiered in Los Angeles by American baritone David Sannerud and has also been performed in The Czech Republic.”

What Bill did not mention is that the baritone sang Glossa without an accent. Ligia Toutant was his language coach. The evening when Glossa was performed at CSUN group of Romanians attended the performance. David’s forceful voice, the beauty of the musical setting of Eminescu’s poetry made us shudder with emotions.

The Los Angeles opera performances are very good. Opera brings back for me memories from childhood times when I used to attend performances with my mother at the opera house in Cotroceni, the Bucharest neighborhood where I was born.

Living faraway from my country, I am nostalgic for those times, and the presence of Romanian voices on the Los Angeles stage along with Bill Toutant’s opera show that often has Romanian influences, make me proud to be Romanian.