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Ancient Greek Myths in Romanian Opera. Pascal Bentoiu’s Jertfirea Ifigeniei [The Sacrifice of Iphigenia]

Abstract

Romanian composers’ interest in Greek mythology begins with Enescu’s peerless masterpiece – lyrical tragedy Oedipe (1921-1931). The realist-postromantic artistic concept is materialised in the insoluble link between text and music, in the original synthesis of the most expressive compositional means recorded in the tradition of the genre and the openness towards acutely modern elements of musical language. The Romanian opera composed in the knowledge of George Enescu’s score, which premiered in Bucharest in 1958, reflect an additional interest in mythological subject-matter in the poetic form of the ancient tragedies signed by Euripides, Aeschylus and Sophocles. Significant Romanian musical works written in the avant-garde period of 1960 to 1980 – Doru Popovici’s opera Prometeu, Aurel Stroe’s Oedipus at Colonus, Oresteia I – Agamemnon, Oresteia IIThe Choephori, Oresteia III – The Eumenides, Pascal Bentoiu’s The Sacrifice of Iphigenia – to which titles of the contemporary art of the stage are added – Cornel Ţăranu’s Oreste & Oedip – propose new philosophical and artistic interpretations of the original myths. At the same time, the mentioned works represent reference points of the multiple and radical transformation of the opera genre in Romanian culture. Emphasising the epic character, a heightened chamber dimension and the alternative extrapolation of the elements in the syncretic complex, developing new modes of performance, of sonic and video transmission – are features of the new style of opera associated to the powerful and simple subject-matter of ancient tragedy. In this sense, radio opera The Sacrifice of Iphigenia (1968) is a significant step in the metamorphosis of the genre, its novel artistic value being confirmed by an important international distinction offered to composer Pascal Bentoiu – Prix Italia of the Italian Radio and Television Broadcasting Company in Rome. The poetic quality of the text quoted from the masterpiece of ancient theatre, Euripides’ Iphigenia in Aulis, the hymnic-oratory character of the music, the economy and expressive capacity of the compositional means configured in the relationship between voice, organ, percussion, electro-acoustic means – can be associated in interpreting the universal major theme: the necessity of virgin sacrifice in the process of durable construction.

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