The Arts: Opera
“Romania: Revolution 1989”
An Opera by Virginia Composer Aaron Garber
To view this AGAR-commissioned opera, in its premiere
performance at the Romanian Opera House Timișoara, Romania
on December 15, 2019, click on link below to go to composer
Aaron Garber’s YouTube channel:
The audience in the opera house was primarily composed of men and women who had been students active in the 1989 uprising in Timișoara, while most of the onstage “students” were their offspring, portraying and celebrating their parents’ struggle for liberty in 1989. No wonder there were several standing ovations!
Please read the story of the project's development in Virginia below.
For information on presenting the opera, you may email Composer Aaron Garber at firstname.lastname@example.org
The story of the opera, “Romania: Revolution 1989,” composed by Aaron Garber,
a composer and conductor from Roanoke, Virginia
How it all began…
In August 2007, Aaron Garber invited Lynn and Ned Kable, officers of Amherst Glebe Arts Response, Inc., (AGAR) to join a group he was leading from Salem Choral Society and College Lutheran Church in Salem, VA, to visit Romania. In the beautiful city of Timișoara, the group heard from people who had lived there in 1989 about how the uprising that began on December 15, 1989, had resulted ten days later in the overthrow and execution of Romanian Communist Dictator and President Nicolae Ceaușescu. They heard stories of students running from police and security forces in the streets, saw bullet holes from shots fired at the students still visible in building walls, visited the cemetery where those killed in the revolution are buried, and saw the Memorialul Revolutiei, the memorial museum.
After this visit, AGAR president Lynn Kable urged Aaron to compose a work that would tell about the 1989 Romanian Revolution. “It’s such an amazing story!” she said. “If you don’t do it, someone else certainly will!” Aaron agreed, and in 2014 AGAR applied successfully for grants from the Virginia Commission for the Arts, the National Endowment for the Arts/Art Works, and the Greater Lynchburg Community Trust to commission Aaron Garber to compose a chamber opera about the Timișoara uprising and the overthrow of Ceaușescu.
The Romanian Revolution of 1989 was brief and violent. Followers of dissident Hungarian Reformed Church Pastor László Tőkés had gathered outside his church in the evening after Advent services on December 15, 1989. They had heard Tőkés was to be exiled from the city to a remote location because of his criticism of Nicolae Ceaușescu and his government. A peaceful crowd gathered in his support, but police and security forces soon came to disperse the group. The next day, a larger crowd of Timișoara citizens gathered, many of them students. Thus, began a ten-day uprising. Communist Dictator and President Ceaușescu ordered that no more than two people could gather and speak. Yet, crowds in Romania’s cities crew larger. In Timișoara, people gathered in the main town square, between the Romanian Orthodox Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Romanian Opera Timișoara (Opera Naţională Română din Timişoara). The Securitate (secret police). The police and the military were on the side of the Government. Civilians, including students, were shot as they stood or sat on the steps of the Timișoara Romanian Orthodox Cathedral. Revolutionaries went to the National Opera House balcony to hang banners and form a new government. President Ceaușescu made speeches, civilians knelt in front of the cathedral and prayed. A crackdown by the military ensued.
The Minister of Defense, who tried to soften Ceaușescu’s approach, died under mysterious circumstances. Reported at the time as a “suicide,” he was reputedly murdered by the government. On December 21st, Ceaușescu made a speech in Bucharest, at Palace Square, now called Revolution Square. A large crowd was bussed to hear the speech and cheer; instead they began to “boo” Ceaușescu and chanted, “Timișoara!” Most military switched sides, stopping shooting and joining the protesters. Nicolae Ceaușescu and his wife, the Deputy Prime Minister Elena, tried to escape but were captured, put on trial, condemned and finally shot in front of a firing squad on December 25, 1989.