Exclusive: Opera critic is hit with 10,000 Euro libel fine

June 25, 2017 by norman lebrecht


The Romanian critic Alexandru Patrascu, a contributor to the London-based Opera magazine, has lost a libel case brought against him by the conductor Tiberiu-Ionuț Soare, former head of Bucharest National Opera, and the soprano Irina Iordăchescu. The pair claimed 100,000 in damages for Patrascu’s reporting. They were awarded one-tenth of that sum, but it is nonetheless a heavy penalty and an affront to free speech.

The dispute centres on a period when Soare was appointed interim manager of BNO in April 2016 after the turbulent dismissal of the renowned Danish dancer Johan Kobborg and his wife, Romania’s most celebrated dancer, Alina Cojocaru. Patrascu reported these events for international outlets and on his own blog. No other Romanian critic dared to report the story, such is the state of free speech in the EU-member country. (Soare gave his own account on Slipped Disc in May 2016.)


Together with the soprano Iordăchescu, Soare sued the critic both for his own blog posts and for comments that appeared on it.

On Friday, the conductor won. The critic has been given the right to appeal, and will do so.

Meantime, he states his response (in English) on a new blog site here:

I love opera passionately. This is the reason for this blog, which is now in danger to disappear.

In the spring of 2016, I chose to sound an alarm regarding the situation at Bucharest National Opera, during the huge scandal that triggered the ousting of Johan Kobborg, artistic manager of the ballet company, and of Alina Cojocaru, the most important Romanian ballerina. Some tens of important other dancers left the company together with them, and proved afterwards the value they had acquired while working under Johan Kobborg’s management, as they went to international ballet companies.

A unique situation in the musical world: not a single Romanian music critic wrote about those events…



Comments (13)

  1. John Borstlap says:

    There is still an iron curtain hanging across Europe, in spite of the EU, and its location is in the minds of many people.

    1. Analeck Kram-Hammerbauer says:

      We should still wait to see the long-term effect of such iron curtain, whether it is only suppressive or somehow also protective, before we can have an overall objective conclusion about it.

      But charing a critic with 10,000 Euro is by all means not OK!

  2. Paul says:

    Free speech is one thing, but libel and fake news are quite different. Although I do not know the details of this story, it seems that the question here is not whether the critic’s freedom of speech is being impeded, but whether or not his reporting was spreading rumors, lies, or intentionally misleading the readers. More details about the content, please …

    1. Andrei U. says:

      It wasn’t a trial about any fake news or calumnies, the main accusations were “denigration”. The musical critic Alexandru Patrascu only reported real facts from the BNO revolution. In April, 2016, the conductor Tiberiu Soare, the soprano Irina Iordachescu and some other employees suspended many performances at BNO, causing a loss of 400k Euro from the institution’s budget. On 23rd of April, the public was already at their seats when Tiberiu Soare announced that the performance was cancelled. The impact was even greater because there were teachers with school students, most of which were attending their first performance ever. Nobody’s investigated this, yet. They should have been fired at the time, but unfortunately, the Romanian cultural management has proven to be a failure, so far. The results of the BNO “revolution” are: the greatest Romanian ballerina, Alina Cojocaru and her partner, Johan Kobborg left the country for good, the ballet company is totally destroyed and now, the critic is sued for some fake reasons.. Here is the full story : Also here, in English at 12:53 They were booed after the performance boycott:×9-64473100_64473100.mp4

  3. Horia Ganescu says:

    Keep up your spirits, dear Alexandru! We are alongside you and support you! All the best!

  4. Andrei U. says:

    The main problem with musical criticism in Romania is that most critics serve certain artists and regardless of the quality of their performances, they have to praise them. Sometimes they are paid, sometimes they do it because they get invitations to attend performances for free. Alexandru Patrascu is the only one who buys his own tickets and writes very informative critics, I would say as objective as possible, without to establish any personal connections with performers or opera directors. This was of course, a huge inconvenience for all these mediocre artists that only expect to be praised, so this legal action against him was a necessity for them.

    1. SVM says:

      Much of the above comment is also applicable to the UK. I have said before, and I will say again, that it is high time that UK performers and promoters desisted from giving preferential treatment to critics (such as free tickets and hospitality) over the rest of the audience. The organs of the mainstream media have deep pockets, and should pay for tickets just like the rest of us. There is nothing to lose (the mainstream media already pays such scant attention to classical music, and the standard of the critics is incredibly unreliable at best, so the argument that the media are rendering a service to musicians by providing “free” publicity is untenable), if only the music profession could unite in implementing this paradigm shift.

    2. Wai Kit Leung says:

      The only way for mediocre artists to prosper is to shut down honest critics. Nothing new really. I was on the receiving end of such treatment last year, as reported on this blog.

  5. Monica Balasoiu says:

    Indeed, such a shame to Blame Mr Patrascu’s post about music… oh, wait! He wrote about Mr Tiberiu Soare’s wife, how he Thanks Mrs Iordachescu is fat and about her familly….
    This is just can-can posts about musician, nothing about music!

    And by the way, I Really want to know Why this picture….Should it Be ok for me?!?!

    1. Monica Balasoiu says:

      He Thinks*
      These are only can-can posts*

  6. Sandra Ecobescu says:

    Please delete the photo used in this post, as it is a capture from a youtube post of “Calea Victoriei” Foundation from a musical event of “Odeon Theater” in Bucharest – “The Soldier’s Tale” by Igor Stravinsky, featuring also the director of the theater, famous actress Dorina Lazar, that can be seen in the background:

    As the photo is used in this post without asking permission neither from the Theater nor the foundation it is unauthorized.

  7. V. Sena says:

    Alexandru Pătraşcu is not a music critic. His job is in IT system. He and some of his friends, all a bunch of people who think they understand Opera, wrote too many can can stuff and lies on social media, blogs, fake accounts, etc. They continued for months to denigrate, to insult, to attack these 2 artists and the Bucharest Opera House. All is here with print screens:
    Alexandru Patrascu is…not even an amateur! What makes him a “critic”?? Mabye only the fact that he booed an artist in Opera House. But he booed because he was against all ONB artists who did not accept anymore the JKstyle. He did not boo because the artistic act was bad, or because the musicians didn t sound well, or because the ballet dancers did not danced well.This article..offers the image of Patrascu as a victim! Like last year when here on slippedisc, JK was the victim! What about the BNO artists??? They were the real victims.

    1. Ioana H. says:

      What BNO artists? They don’t exist, outside BNO.. not even for Bucharest’s residents.. they are virtually unknown outside Romania.. None of my foreign friends even heard of BNO. Such a glorious oportunity for an internationally unknown ballet company to be led by Kobborg, and such a shamefull end.
      BNO had a moment of glory under KJ, and that’s all. Back to mediocrity..

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