Just in: Cojocaru and Kobborg are banned from Bucharest Opera

Just in: Cojocaru and Kobborg are banned from Bucharest Opera


norman lebrecht

April 26, 2016

The conflict has now reached the point of absurdity.

Alina Cojocaru, the country’s most famous dancer and her Danish husband Johan Kobborg have been banned from entering the Bucharest National Opera, along with seven others.

They include the former opera manager George Calin and technical director Emil Popescu.

The forces of xenopobia, led by conductor Tiberiu Soare, appear to be winning this battle.

Romania is returning to dark times. Any foreign artist who is thinking of working there should be aware that those in control have declared them unwanted.



  • almaviva says:

    It’s such a terribly sad and embarrassing situation over there! After all Alina Cojocaru and Koborg did in the past few years for the prestige of that company – Ms. Cojocaru even donated pointe shoes to the company with her own resources -, for them to be treated like ordinary criminals is an outrage. Alina Cojocaru is the best ballerina to come out of Romania in many decades, her international career and reputation speak for themselves. It should be an honour for any country to have its best ballerina on its national stage – and in normal countries that is indeed the case.

    And who is the instigator? A miserable mediocrity like ‘maestro’ Soare, who has nowhere near the talent or the international recognition of Ms. Cojocaru and Johan Kobold. He is a complete unknown outside of his own country (though judging by the international condemnation of his actions in the artistic world, he has now achieved some notoriety – not what he planned, I guess). But what he has are highly placed connections in the political world (like mayor Negoita, deputy prime minister Dancu and Rares Zaharia, none other than the advisor to culture minister Alexandrescu). In a balkanic country like Romania, one’s relations invariably supersede any gifts or talents one may possess.

  • Absurdistan says:

    As a simple Romanian music lover, I was accused of being “unpatriotic and mean”. Mean to the likes of Angela Gheorghiu? The greedy hypocrite, all ranting about the required frugality of Johan Kobborg, who did more FOR ROMANIA than she, an alleged Romanian, ever did? All the while she doesn’t open her withered voice without a ton of money herself? (The brainless prima donna tantrums and unprofessionalism come as an extra, for free.)

    She is one of the main supporters, alongside ex-Communist bosses and Putin-like government mafia elements, of this sordid Tiberiu Soare character, whose mediocre ballerina wife apparently envies her betters enough as to get rid of them, through Stalinist methods.

    I would like, as a Romanian, to personally apologize to Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg, people who simply live on a different plane of existence, for the nefarious forces coalesced against them, out of sheer envy and pettiness.

    You brought beauty and imagination to [y]our country. You brought the Romanian ballet on peaks unknown since the times of the legendary Vera Karalli. It is time for you to move on, to places which will show you more gratitude or, at least, behave with minimal decency.

    Remember please, not all Romanians are like the ones who sabotaged your efforts, unfortunately the ones like this are louder, heavier (figuratively and, in the case of Ms. Soare, not to mention that bleating, oversized alleged mezzosoprano who lives off the fat of her father’s reputation, literally), more strident, lacking any kind of moral scruple.

    There are two Romanias – the Romania of Securitate, of Ceaucescu, of Stalinist repression, of Angela Gheorghiu, of Tiberiu Soare, of the communist politicians now in power. Then there is the Romania of Enescu, of Silvestri, of Valentin Gheorghiu, of Alina Cojocaru, a Romania of which Johan Kobborg is an honorary citizen already, and nobody will take that away from him. Remember the good things and pray for the best for the good people left behind, because they exist.

    A Romanian poet wrote: “Stallions don’t die when curs are barking”. (He meant “cur” in the English sense, but the Romanian one may suffice.)

    Please remember that and find solace in the beautiful memories of those who choose to appreciate your indelibly elegant contributions to the Romanian artistic life, rather than choke and drown with and in their own venom of envy and stupidity.

  • Ashamed Romanian says:

    Ioan Holender finally speaks and, as usual, he’s not mincing his words:
    (sorry, only in Romanian)

    What took him so long?

  • Monica says:

    Mr Lebrecht, I think your last sentence is a bit tough, and untrue. Please don’t shed such a light on my country. There was only a small minority who stated foreigners should not work at a national opera – indeed, there may have only been one angry voice (which was enough to make everyone indignant). We are not all like that. There are no xenophobes “led” by Mr Soare, as you put it. Please don’t let yourself be influenced by everything you read. Also please note that there are many bloggers who read you and cite you, so it would be nice if you heard the other party as well, not only the statements of Mr Kobborg and Ms Cojocaru. In this way you could present both sides, you could be cited by the defenders of both parties and I, as a Romanian and classical music lover, would not feel that you select and offer for information only what’s bad about us.

    • Mihail Ghiga says:

      I’ll second aswell Monica’s plea for a equidistant representation of both sides opinions. It will do good to Alina Cojocaru and K. as well, just for them to see that people in the other camp really appreciate them, professionally. I’d bet that the ones covering them in praises and manipulating them care for them much less than we do, they are interested just in themselves.

  • Mihail Ghiga says:

    Again, nobody ever contested the professional quality of Alina Cojocaru or Kobborg. The interdiction is a terrible mistake, I hope, I hope very much Tibi Soare is not behind it, (there is no way to tell that’s linked with Tiberiu Soare, or someone else or even a manipulation.
    That sayd, there is plenty evidence that the orchestrator of the pro…, wait, I’d not say pro- Kobborg movement, because K. is just a pretext for the former direction to fight the change – let’s say pro-previous direction, is in conflict of interest, pretending to have an independent opinion but being payed by the former director and not disclosing it as the rules of the conflict of interest demands.
    Here is the proof:
    Aswell, even if I think there could be some negotiations, the main comunicators of the pro- Ko…, sorry, pro-previous regime, have offensive attitudes, K. sends messages through Alina Cojocaru and Mariana Minoiu about his merits in a quite narcisistic way, and the blogger I mentioned is openly insulting, his ideas are more or like Almaviva or Absurdistan (probably they read him) but of a much poorer quality.

    • Neil Thomson says:

      Mihail,your posts have been a model of balance and clarity.I have been a visitor to Romania since 1992 and watch the scene carefully. I know how complicated it is there and have watched (from my experience at the Radio) musicians ground down by a corrupt and incompetent management. A handful of people have made a lot of money at the musicians’ expense. This is without talking about the ethics of the Enescu Festival and this ridiculous vanity project of Festival of Radio Orchestras……
      Romania deserves better than this. There seems to be money for everything other than than the musicians. Of course the musical standards are extremely variable but working under these conditions is extremely difficult. I don’t know Tibi Soare personally but understand that he is a perfectly decent conductor. I have watched the old Mafia replaced by the new Mafia.I really hope that he is not part of it.My heart sank when I saw Vlad Conta’s name…………….

      • Mihail Ghiga says:

        Thank you for your kind words, Neil. I think we’ve met, during your visits, I remember you did here some outstanding projects. Tiberiu Soare is a more than decent conductor, and Vlad Conta, a true gentlemen, is involved in all this dirt by the tantrums of some (really good) dancers, manipulated by the relics of an old regime. Imagine Sauron gone, (former full director, maybe guilty, justice system will tell) and a bunch of wraiths left in place, hateful and bitter. I hope this Opera revolution will mark a change in the system, even if imperfect. And I feel aswellna lot of sympaty for the dancers involved (even if it’s just a very little one for Kobborg and a bigger one for the rest). I’m appaled aswell that some voices in our camp respond in kind to the vitriol of the other camp, as it does not does justice to art, and some of the ballets they are attacking are “per se” beautiful.

      • Don Ciccio says:

        I *generally* tend to sympathize with musicians who are indeed poorly paid. But is simply throwing money a solution? Living management (of all colors) corruption apart, I can’t help but recall the exasperated plea of conductor Cristian Mandeal who asked his musicians if they will give him more in exchange for doubling the salary.

        So yes, let’s have more money for the musicians. But let’s make sure we get better results with them.

    • almaviva says:

      Mr. Kobborg is not sending any representatives to speak for him, such as Alina C. Rather, he is not allowed to speak. Didn’t ‘maestro’ Soare forbade the use of English language in that theatre, saying this is a national theatre and everyone must speak Romanian? And then everyone gets defensive when ‘maestro’ Soare is (rightly) called a nationalist…

  • daniele says:

    “the forces of xenophobia…….. Mr Lebrecht, you make me laugh. This article sounds like war propaganda. Even a close friend of Mr Kobborg couldn’t cover himself with such ridiculous, populist way of making journalism…I feel now that any attempt to say something about the conflict is as useless as the paper you invoke in the article since you take ridicule to a new level.
    I am sure you are doing your best to discredit anything coming from that country but practicing such journalism discredits your own living-room blog. Unfortunately some readers will actually rely on the information you provide, but keep doing it like this… you are on the right way to parody. So many people could sue you for your words here, I am sure nobody will. All the best, oh voice of the musical world…….
    p.s. Mrs Cojocaru entered the opera today and got out in one piece 😉

    • almaviva says:

      Daniele, please do tell how many sentences was Alina C. allowed to publicly utter at the meeting with the deputy PM? 1? 0?
      PS: I guess she should consider herself lucky that she got out in one piece?

      • Mihail Ghiga says:

        Thank you for raising the point. I’ll try to find the video. I saw just the ending of it. From what I’ve seen, she stared adressing the public and some voices commented over her (pfff… it’s hard to defend them, you’re right). The minister interupted here because she was adressing the public directly and the rules of the meeting were to made statements. Her plea was very emotional, and heart-breaking, and beautiful. But the type of speach, in itself, continuing the same despite the minister warning (twice, I was told), and ending with: I hope my country will wake up were the sign of her being a sacrifice swan. The minister is a sociologist, a top of the top one, and his speciality IS this kind of social conflict. The impression of some artists colleagues directly involved is that the minister himself tried to protect her from saying things who could turn against her.

      • Mihail Ghiga says:

        Had not yet had the time to seach for the full video, hope I’ll find it in the afternoon. Real life calls, and as my wife says: this is not your war, why do you care? I care because I felt the same injustice, for years, as the opera artists. For now, a few ideas:
        – I think she was interupted a few times (really, people!) mostly because she adressed them like a dialogue instead of a statement. They had a separate meeting with the minister, who was very diplomatic in his statement: will see, will consider, both parts showed intolerance, despite the differences, both pointed management issues.
        – you can see both parts and make an opinion on yourself. Absurdistan reproducts the despreopera blog, wich you can find here
        and this is the opera fb https://www.facebook.com/JeSuisOpera/?fref=ts
        in which you can see they have a lot of suport from foreigne guests, and that they were very civil in the statements. That she was interrupted, most likely, that she barely escaped with her life, lol. Absolutly no ,way I’d bet that aniway there were secret service guys all over the place, just in case (which was not the case and would have never been)
        – a few points made by the dancers who are not with Kobborg, they describe them as a little tyrant, censuring them for the smaller like on fb, or comment. He seems to me a hugely narcisistic person aswell, but this is just my personal opinion.
        Tiberiu Soare declared that he invited him to speak a few times, but that he declined. Again, no comment, possibly, not sure.

      • Mihail Ghiga says:

        Hi. I found the video.
        She spoked for 10 minutes. Read my other comment, it explain a lot. They threw her to the lions. I cannot express in words my disgust for what the former management did to her. She spoked well, but no one trained her properly (her “friends” had millions payed to advertising companies) and I believe they knowingly advised her to engage in dialogue instead of making a statement. Collateral subjects came in first, instead of the important ones (although the minister surely noticed, he really saved her from being too exposed). She was interrupted a few times, well, not as much as press sayed. At the end she sayed “I hope that my country will wake up”.

  • Mihail Ghiga says:

    Lol, Almaviva, I almost made the same mistake as you, writing Kobold instead of Kobborg, corrected it in the last second. Guess too much mmorpgs playing, for me.

  • V. Sena says:

    All romanian people respect Alina Cojocaru and Johan Kobborg professional life.Is nothing about xenofobia or rudness here.The international press and critics, should verify the real issues of this situation. They should collect information from the both sides. International press wrote only Alina C. and J. Kobborg version, and is not correct and neither professional.The truth is, that Mr Kobborg did some great things and brought 2 or 3 ballet performances/ titles, but the romanian ballet history didn’t start with him, like he declared.For you who don’t know the “other opinion” , you can find some information on the next link https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lEMM-51SCbI

    • Don Ciccio says:

      Don’t know about the history of Romaniam ballet, but that of the Bucharest Opera House started with Anton Romanovski – a Pole:

      • Mihail Ghiga says:

        Foreign artists were essential to the development of western type of culture in Romania, and almost all became citizens. It is not the point, the point is that the opera artists (romanian AND foreigners) protested for the right to have a correct and impartial management. Alina and Kobborg were caught in the middle and used as a pretext, exagerating thousandfold the idiotic xenophopic shout of 1 person in 500, and I’d bet Alina and Kobborg their loyalty to the former interimaty director, Calin, is just naivity.
        The media mogul who mostly spreaded and amplified the xenophobic story was arrested this morning by the anti-organised crime departement (not the anti-corruption one as I stated bellow, my bad, but it’s even worse).
        I’d point that even if we are a poorer and less, well, less political correct country, we are in the EU and we have same laws and system, there are tons of foreigners working here, and Romania per se is a very divers country.

    • Eugene George says:

      Here are some samples of “respect” for the value of AC & JK and manners:
      “Johan Kobborg was thrown out from all the theaters in London and Moskow”;
      “Alina Cojocaru has nothing to do here since she does not know who Irinel Liciu was and does not speak Romanian well” (Ion Tugearu, former ballet dancer and choreographer with RNOH);
      “How is it possible that a foreigner (i. e. Johan kobborg) makes the law at the Romanian National Opera?” (Ileana Ilescu, former ballet dancer and choreographer with RNOH);
      “Why does the Romanian National Opera House need Johan Kobborg when there are great Romanian choreographers such as Gigi Caciuleanu (…) and Simona Noja?”; about JK: “an impostor” (Tiberiu Soare, former RNOH general manager, allegedly, the leader of the anti-Kobborg protestants and husband of Mihaela Soare, ballerina with RNOH).

      Ms. Irina Iordachescu, a soprano with RNOH who seems to act as a second level leader of the protestants, stated publicly a few days ago that a British ballet dancer said to her “Before us you were nothing!”. Hence, not Johan Kobborg.
      So much respect for the truth!

      By the way, I am Romanian myself and I feel that the way Mr. Soare and most of his followers behaved recently has nothing in common with the education me and most Romanians that I know of got from our parents.
      I apologise for the lack of basic manners and common sense that a few Romanians, unfortunately quite visible and noisy, showed recently.

      • Mihail Ghiga says:

        Eugene, I aswell apologize, as a romanian, for all the words and the manners they utilised above. And what you showed is even not the worst. Let me develop on this, and please read it throurough, as it is most interesting, this can go on in opera history. Really.
        – The protersters/reformers/revolutionaries are a hundreds. They coordonate well on big events but when hotheads are on their own, it goes, well, not south, but souther than normal.
        – The former direction does it’s best to provoke them, and they do that in a most appaling and unethical manner. I’ll give an example: Mrs. Iordachescu.
        Absurdistan sayed, and I quote: “that bleating, oversized alleged mezzosoprano who lives off the fat of her father’s reputation”. This is so mean that I have to explain.
        – A musicologist brought by the former direction to act as artistic director, although from the shadows, called her fat and gave her a bad note in her evaluation (which is on paper). In the same time, a soprano thrice her size sung the same role. This in itself it’s mean and stupid. This because the musicologist, not being very bright, saw the trend of having thin 20sh year singers in some operas and just felt compelled to exprim his “informed” opinion.
        That sayed, she’s a nice, normal person, a little voluptuous but cute, here is a picture
        What Absurdistan sayed it’s a direct reference to that. I cannot emphasise enough how cruel and mean and unfair is this. This is just one of the mean things she was subjected to, and the rest of them aswell, it was intended to make them over-react. This is exactly why I feel compelled to defend my friends and colleagues.
        She, aswell, is not an “alleged mezzosoprano”, she’s a soprano, point. You can search her on youtube, I’d put here a good piece but I’m sure Absurdistan will put a bad one, just because.
        – The former directors do this on Cojocaru and Kobborg, but on the reverse, they utilise them to push the wrong buttons of some people here, and, they over-react, making the former management look, by comparison, like the good guys (I’d like to point that in all this disaster I personally don’t know if the manager our camp blames the most is the most blamable, I have the confidence the team he left behind had the ability to make a disaster by itself)
        – Now, they also do a blame, shame campaign, attacking origins. This is a former communist country. Everyone, more or less, has a parent or a relative who was either an aparatchik, a political prisoner, a disident, in the resistance, in the political police, etc. In some cases, both or more. There are a lot of artists now who have aparatchiks parents, as they had the means to gave them a better education. It’s very in trend here to say: Oh, it’s understable they are on the evil side, he/she is a son/daugher of a communist scum/KGB spy and so on. This attack is much more violent from their side (which, I say again, it’s smaller and easier to manage) than from the Opera side (although, I say’d, there are in it some, few, not very wise or polite persons as well, and I don’t condone that). Another trendy insult is: he’s a freemason. Almost anyone who obsets someone is called a freemason, which makes an army of them.
        I try my best to be honest and open, in my opinion it is the only way to make things clear for you, and aswell to get out of this, preventing the old management to came back to power (they did it for a few hours at Alina’s request, poor she) and aswell to be sure that the one who’ll take charge do manage the opera well, or go away if not, in some reasonable time.
        Through pushing the buttons of Alina and Kobborg, the situation became a mess, the minister looked weak, and today he resigned.
        BUT. BUT.
        The main thing that happened today, in my opinion, was not that the minister resigned, but that the media mogul of the trust who mainly attaked the Opera artists was arrested.
        On every TV, now, you can see him in a video, in his earlier years, intermediating the selling of babies for adoption (3500-7000 USD)
        This is how fortunes were made (referring to corruption in general), and this is probably what the control audit the minister will find.
        I have no idea if the mogul is a friend of the former management or if the virulent despreopera blogger just used the trust to promote his agenda, the fact is, from now on, the babyselling video and despreopera conflict of interest is clear (his contract he choosed not to disclosed came out), are dark, dark things who shadow their imagine. The sad thing is I can not even say if despreopera blogger is knowingly doing all this, or if he’s just a fanatic of art, made drunk by the splendid things Alina and Kobborg brought here, inspite if being a wheel in the whole distructive engrenage of the former management.
        This is what we fight for and against, and this is what makes me one Je suis Opera.

  • Sanda Schuldmann says:

    IDIOTIC decision. Pathetic move. To have such great artists dance for the Romanian Ballet and opt not to is beyond moronic. These are WORLD CLASS phenoms, and the Romanian opera doesn’t want them? Pathetic. It would have elevated the artistic life of the entire country. Truthfully, Romania is too dumb to appreciate their luck!
    As a Romanian by birth, I am embarrassed.

  • ClassicalMusician says:

    As someone who regularly works with Romanian orchestras it should be noted that, to my knowledge, this appears to be a localised issue within the Bucharest Opera and not the classical music scene at large.