Thousands of spectators at the Salbek Opera Festival Gala

Salbek Opera Festival Gala – 27-08-2023

Photos: Virgil Oprina

Thousands of spectators applaud mezzosoprano Ruxandra Donose, tenor Ramón Vargas and soprano Leontina Văduva at the concert to mark the close of the International Salbek Opera Masterclass and Arad Days.

The Salbek Opera Festival Gala, which took place on Sunday, 27 August in the plaza of Arad City Hall, marked the close of the Arad Days event and the first edition of the International Salbek Opera Masterclass.

The special open-air opera concert was given by the Arad Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by David Crescenzi, and featured opera singers Ruxandra Donose, Ramón Vargas, and Leontina Văduva. Also taking part were a number of students from the Salbek Opera Masterclass, many of whom made a strong impression on tenor Ramón VargasI knew that Romanian singers are highly talented and I was eager to discover such talents. I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the young people I worked with over the course of these few days in Romania. Likewise, I’m delighted to have had the opportunity to be on this stage with two of today’s major vocal talents, Ruxandra Donose and Leontina Văduva. It was a true honour to appear next to them in a gala concert in front of thousands of spectators at the close of an intensive course in which we helped each other to develop.

I am glad to have had the opportunity to study with maestro Ramón Vargas, said Ivan Dikusar, one of the masterclass students. It was an extraordinary thing for me to have the chance to learn from the maestro many of the secrets he revealed to us over the course of the masterclass. This masterclass has been of great help to me in my future career.

Raluca Iolanda Malaeru recounted her impressions of the masterclass: This masterclass was so well-structured that each of us was able to benefit from working with the maestros individually. Maestra Leontina Văduva is a very warm and calm person, but highly exigent. She didn’t let a single mistake creep into the pieces we worked on and each time explained to us why we mustn’t let mistakes become a reflex. She set for us an example of how to assimilate what we sing and above all how to be the character. It’s amazing how modest she is and how close to my soul I felt her to be. I’m enormously glad to have had this opportunity.

Soprano Leontina Văduva said that a masterclass is a showcase for the younger generation: In Romania there have always been beautiful voices, and the large number of young people who enrolled in this masterclass and their exceptional level proved yet again the great worth of the Romanian school of music and singing. Opera isn’t dying, as the pessimists say, but evolving. It is our duty as teachers to set the bar as high as possible, to help young people understand the musical and theatrical discourse in detail, and to guide them on their way to successful careers. Working with the Arad Philharmonic was a huge advantage for this masterclass. To have the opportunity to be on stage with an orchestra and conductor—even if all of us were together only for the Verdi finale—was a unique experience.

Before appearing on stage for the concert in Arad on Sunday, masterclass student Mihai Damian stated with feeling: These few days of intensive work have provided me with a very great impetus, they have given me ambition, they have made me believe that I’m capable of more. Ruxandra Donose is absolutely magnificent. After every hour of study with each student you could see an enormous improvement in each of them. I’m glad to have taken part in this masterclass and I’m extremely moved to be on the same stage with them.

At the end of the concert, mezzosoprano Ruxandra Donose described what it was like for the teachers, after days of intensive study in the midst of nature, to see a part of her disciples actually on stage: It was so beautiful to be surrounded by pristine nature and to be together in a place, making music! All the young people I worked with were extraordinarily enthusiastic, positive, eager, and everything took its course in a very, very beautiful atmosphere. I’m glad to have been part of this story and I’m glad to have had them alongside us and in front of the audience. I’m convinced that it was an experience from which they learned a great many things.

This was the first edition of the International Salbek Opera Masterclass, but not the last, as Ana Maria Mihăescu, president of the Salbek Castle Association and initiator of the Petriș masterclasses, said at the end of the concert that brought together thousands of people in front of Arad City Hall: I’m very happy at the way in which events have unfolded over the course of the whole week. On the Salbek Castle Estate in the village of Petriș, last week three internationally renowned teachers, Ruxandra Donose, tenor Ramón Vargas and soprano Leontina Văduva, worked intensively with twenty-two students eager to follow in their footsteps. Every day they worked for hours at a time on canto, posture, attitude, diction. It was a delight to see the eagerness with which the young people absorbed the advice and knowledge passed on by the maestros. With a mini-concert at the castle, attended by local community and business representatives, we marked the beginning of work to conserve the castle and inaugurated cultural activities on the Salbek Estate. I think the first edition was a great success and I can now say for certain that we are determined that it be the first of many that will take place on the estate.

The International Salbek Opera Masterclass aims to provide young musicians with the opportunity to meet outstanding teachers, who will foster their artistic and personal development and create future opportunities for them.

From 2024, the Salbek Opera Festival will bring to Romania an opera picnic-type festival for the first time. It will be the country’s first festival to feature operas with national status from Romania and neighbouring countries, which will be invited to present productions before an élite audience in this unique open-air setting.