Catalin Alexander Ionescu-arbore

Catalin Alexander Ionescu-arbore

Set designer

Opera is my life
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Born into a family of people working in opera I had the chance of an operatic environment even before I have been born – as my mother was performing in the fourth month of her pregnancy. Furthermore, the first six months of my life were spent in an opera dressing room. My whole childhood was spent behind the curtain, amongst technicians setting up the sets and lights, artists transforming their own identity through their costume and makeup, various teams of musicians becoming the creators of the magical path of each evening. Along with my father – who, as an artistic director - I discovered the way productions were created, having the huge chance to watch them from the very first meetings of the designer, conductor and director until the night of the premiere. I spent almost all my evenings in the stage wings, near the ramp, or in a side box, watching the great stories, more real than any book written by famous authors. The designer’s models - colleagues of my father - were a perfect toys. I tried to practice quite all stage professions. I tried to sing, to dance, I acted all the children and young boy’s parts I’ve been proposed, I studied piano . . . When finally I faced the moment of choosing the path of my life, I could not imagine it without the opera performance. Obedient by nature, I followed my parents’ advice to become an architect, but the restlessness caused by opera sound memory created fluid still haunted me. My father agreed to give me a chance to prove that what I had been learned by than could be shown to the audience. So, we worked together as a team and at only 18 years old I started my career designing the sets for "The Flying Dutchman" ("Der Fliegende Holländer") by Richard Wagner. It was a challenge for the couple, both “director – designer” and “father – son”. It was a great success that gave me confidence to follow my promise to become an architect, and at the same time to satisfy my longing to remain in opera through this compromise as being a set and costume designer. The whole period of architectural studies was doubled with scenographyc activities. Immediately after graduation, I managed to be hired into an opera theatre, and after a couple of years, I had the great chance to win the hiring contest in Bucharest Romanian Opera. Ever since, I worked everywhere, to all music theatres in the country. I was even able to collaborate outside the country, where, once, I wanted to work forever and get in touch with high-level professional way of doing this job. But projects that flowed one after another, working with directors that chose me for my ability to adapt myself to the working conditions, kept me around the Romanian theater stages. At a certain point, avoiding routine I got on the dramatic theater territory, a more populated area by the audience. Thus I created sets, costumes and lighting designs for opera, drama, operetta, ballet, musical comedies, music-hall, theatre-dance. To a turning point, the proposal of taking the lead hands of Bucharest National Opera House surprised me, trying to do the same thing I’ve been thought, but at another scale. That means to be a creator who invents cultural programs and projects, but who remains a real artist in essence. Using the rigor and the skill of organizing and systematizing, abilities that have been acquired from the architect profession, I enthusiastically held the reins of a gigantic and extremely difficult institution during seven and a half years, imagining and realizing programs and projects that were seasoning all those seasons meant to delight audiences. This experience allows me to think I'm able to continue my career in the artistic scenic design, creating the opera performance also as an artistic (stage) director.
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