It’s been a busy few days in Bucharest.
On Monday the DNA charged Ludovic Orban with corruption, forcing the erstwhile candidate of the PNL in June’s mayoral elections to withdraw his candidacy. The PNL responded by swerving to the far-right and nominating a notorious fascist sympathiser, Marian Munteanu, as his replacement. Then, on Thursday, the DNA charged Robert Negoita, mayor of Bucharest’s Sector 3, with tax evasion. Negoita is the sixth of the seven Bucharest mayors elected in 2012 to be charged with corruption.
And yet if it’s real drama you want, then the place to be these past couple of weeks has been the Romanian National Opera, home of the Romanian National Ballet.
Two weeks ago Romania’s Minister of Culture Vlad Alexandrescu made the conductor Tiberiu Soare the new Managing Director of the National Ballet. Soare’s first act as director was to sack Johan Kobborg as artistic director. Kobborg is a Danish dancer brought in last year (along with his fiancee and lead-dancer at the Royal Ballet in London, Romanian Alina Cojocaru) to drag the ballet into the 21st century and make it a genuinely international institution. A task the pair more than succeeded in achieving.
A day or two later, around two dozen dancers – led by Cojocaru, who refused to perform in a new production of Manon, the highlight of the season – protested outside the opera house. Alexandrescu responded by demoting Soare, and named Vlad Conta as the new managing director. Conta attempted a rapprochement with Kobborg, but failed. Word is Conta asked Cojocaru to lie for him. Kobborg resigned on Monday.
Cojocaru led a small protest on Tuesday in support of her fiancee, but was heckled and booed by a group of opera employees who shouted ‘get the foreigners out of the country’ at the finest ballet dancer Romania has ever produced. Lovely people.
Meantime, Ileana Iliescu, who performed at the ballet when it first opened in 1954, declares that ‘foreigners are now doing whatever they want at the Romanian Opera.’ Other dancers and performers complained that foreign dancers are being paid more than Romanians.
Question: If Cristiano Ronaldo were to play for Steaua Bucharest (bear with me, it’s only an analogy), would the Romanian members of the team expect to be paid the same?
By Wednesday the whole sorry spectacle was in danger of becoming a diplomatic incident. Ballet-fanatic Paul Brummell, UK Ambassador to Romania who has helped facilitate the arrival of British dancers, declared: ‘The dancers I’ve spoken to say they came to work with a top artistic director at a great company. Delighted talented young British ballet dancers have chosen to develop careers at Bucharest National Opera. Hope uncertainties there will be resolved soon.’
The negative impact on the ballet has already been huge. Not only as Manon been cancelled, the ballet’s Easter International Gala of Dance, scheduled for April 28th, has also been called off.
Top work everybody.