Dr Tudor-Radu Tiron
THE COAT OF ARMS FOR
THE NATIONAL OPERA OF BUCHAREST
The National Opera of Bucharest has been and still is an emblematic institution for the Romanian cultural life. Founded in 1892, by the professor, composer and conductor George Stephănescu, ‘Opera Română’ was initially a non-governmental lyrical company, created with the aim of being a musical theater and “the people’s school and entertainment”.
Following the initiative of the Ministry of Arts and Cultural Affairs, the Opera eventually became, in 1921, during the reign of King Ferdinand, a state institution. The inaugural show was marked by the performance of by Richard Wagner’s ‘Lohengrin’, while the orchestra was being conducted by the Maestro George Enescu.
In 1954, the Opera finally started to function in its own building, especially erected for this purpose (until then, the Opera had shared the same space with the National Theater, which was unfortunately bombed and pulled down in the Second World War). The ‘Queen of Spades’, by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, and ballet première ‘Coppélia’, by Léo Delibes, were performed upon the occasion of the inaugural show of the Opera Palace, which is still in use by the institution.
After more than a century of lyrical tradition, the ‘visit card’ of the present National Opera of Bucharest is outstanding. Memorable orchestral and ballet shows have been staged during all these years, featuring hundreds of glories of the musical genre, whose fame has spread worldwide .
Founding a suitable ‘visual identity’ for the Opera is a part of the large promotion strategy for 2013-2017, initiated by the current management of the institution. It has been agreed that the logo of the institution would actually depict a coat of arms, which should represent “a manner of artistic expression, with its broad and assertive, narrative, allegorical and decorative character”  – as referred to in the Managerial and Artistic Strategy of the Opera.
In the early part of this year, I was contacted by Mr. Răzvan Ioan Dincă, General Manager of the institution, with the purpose of conceiving a heraldic achievement for the Opera. The Romanian legislation on heraldic issues hasn’t stipulated anything about the procedure for establishing a coat of arms of a cultural institution of national importance (only the state, civic and ecclesiastic arms are currently regulated by the Law) . Secondly, the Opera hasn’t possessed in its historical collections any heraldic seal or other type of symbol, which could have been used as a starting point while designing a coat of arms. Thirdly, the time left until the estimated moment of the formal presentation of this coat of arms was insufficient for thorough search worldwide for other similar instances, or for having a debate between specialists upon this issue.
The first project depicted had a shield Azure, a sun in splendour Or, surrounded by nine stars of the same. As a Crest, upon a wreath of the Romanian national colours, a lyre Or. Tenants, at Dexter, the muse Terpsichore Argent, holding an antique lyre or in his hands, and crowned by a laurel wreath of the same, and at Sinister, the muse Melpomene Argent, holding a tragic mask, having a sword at her waist and a scepter under his leg, crowned by a vine wreath, all Or (both muses are draped in antique togas). Motto, upon a marble pedestal, in capital letters: ARS GRATIA ARTIS. (Fig. 1 a, b)
The composition was subject to different objections. Firstly, it was natural to have a lyre in the crest of a musical institution, but the same instrument was carried by the first tenant, as identification attribute. Secondly, the shape of the shield and the pedestal, although correctly represented, were not too elegant in the ensemble of the whole achievement. Thirdly, the lyre of the crest was personalized through the addition of a Roman eagle which, considering the addition of a Latin cross in its beak, became a Romanian eagle. Although not recorded by the blazon of the arms, this eagle was conceived as a supplementary reference to the national symbols (besides the Azure-Or-Gules wreath).
As a consequence, this first project had to be reconsidered, both from the theoretical and the graphical points of view. Moreover, the final coat of arms should contain a better highlighted visual reference to the moment 1921, when the Opera became an institution of the Romanian State. In this context, King Ferdinand the Unifier could be considered as the founder of the new ‘Romanian Opera’; besides that, this body was functioning, until then, under the High Patronage of Queen Marie. Taking into account the fact that the Opera has been, since its foundation, an institution of national importance, some elements of the 1921 coat of arms of the State could be reused in this particular instance. It must be said that the coat of arms of the Great Romania was instituted by law in the same year , and was used until 1947, when the Popular Republic was declared. The Royal arms were implicitly abrogated, while the Constitution of 1948 entered into force, and a new national achievement was officially described .
A second project was then conceived. It features a shield Azure, a sun in splendour Or, surrounded by nine stars of the same. As a Crest, upon a wreath of the Romanian national colours, a crowned eagle with wings displayed Or, with members Gules and the beak of the same, holding a Latin cross Or, having upon the breast the little shield of the 1921 Romanian coat of arms, and standing upon a royal crown Or, coated Purple. Tenants, at Dexter, the muse Terpsichore Argent, holding an antique lyre or in his hands, and crowned by a laurel wreath of the same, and at Sinister, the muse Melpomene Argent, holding a tragic mask Or, and crowned by a vine wreath, of the same (both muses are draped in antique togas). The shield is placed over the breast star of a Grand Officer of the ‘Cultural Merit’ Order, whose neck badge is suspended below. Motto, upon an Azure ribbon, in capital gold letters: ARS GRATIA ARTIS. The entire coat of arms is placed over a stage curtain Purple, fringed Or, with the interior White. (Fig. 2 a, b)
The graphic version of the project is based upon the shape of a circle or derived (as the ellipse). The sun has a circular shape, and so are disposed the surrounding stars. The shield is oval, that is, at his turn, inscribed in the oval shape of the ‘Cultural Merit’ breast star. The outline of the entire coat of arms is also circular. While working for this last project, I tried to ensure a better proportion between all the symbols. The style is typical for the Continental heraldry of the 19th – the early 20th centuries (particularly the taste of Hugo Gerhard Ströhl); there are also some influences from the Italian armorial drawing, as example as concerns the perspective of the crest.
I carefully tried to avoid any confusion that the symbols taken from the former Royal arms could cause. Thus, the royal crown is not a rank one, but only a part of the crest. Same for the stage curtain, that maybe looks like a royal mantle, but has no ermine lining or other monarchic features.
The signification of the elements is as follows:
The Sun depicts god Apollo (under the appearance of Helios), as patron of arts.
The nine stars depict the muses.
The tenants are Terpsichore (Muse of Dance) and Melpomene (initially Muse of Singing, then Muse of Tragedy).
Upon a wreath of the Romanian national colors, the crest depicts the Royal crown and eagle with the symbol of the historic provinces, inspired by the 1921 coat of arms of the Great Romania.
The shield is accompanied by the star and the neck badge of a Grand Officer of the 'Cultural Merit' Order (highest state award presently awarded to cultural institutions). The Order was presented to the Opera in 2004, by the President of Romania, “for the accomplishment of unforgettable shows, having a great artistic and lyrical appearance, that imposed upon the most prestigious stages of the World soloists and dancers of true international value, as well as for the contribution to the promotion of a valuable music” ( “pentru realizarea unor spectacole memorabile, de mare ţinută artistică şi lirică, care au impus pe cele mai prestigioase scene ale lumii solişti şi balerini de certă valoare internaţională, pentru aportul avut la promovarea unei muzici de bună calitate ) .
The motto reflects the Latin version of a 19th c. philosophical idea of an art for the art’s sake, here taken as a struggle for perfection.
The mantle surrounding the entire achievement depicts a stage curtain.
Assumed by the Opera, the coat of arms was formally presented on 2013, March 31st, upon the occasion of the stunning 'Giuseppe Verdi – Richard Wagner' Gala, celebrating the bicentenaries of both the composers. The event was featuring the Bucharest National Orchestra and Chorus, with the extraordinary presence of artists such as Valentina Naforniţă, Alexandru Badea, Dan Paul Dumitrescu and Marius Vlad Budoiu. Conductor of the evening was the renowned Maestro Cristian Mandeal, who studied with Herbert von Karajan and Sergiu Celibidache. The event was attended by Messrs Daniel Constantin Barbu (minister of Culture), Varujan Vosganian (minister of the Economy), Eugen Orlando Teodorovici (minister of the European Funds), Victor Opaschi (secretary of state for Cults), Radu Boroianu (secretary of state for Patrimony Issues), as well as a number of members of the diplomatic corp accredited to Bucharest, and representatives of the cultural medias.
The performance started with the ‘Flying Dutch’ Overture by Wagner. After this brilliant introduction, Mr. Răzvan Ioan Dincă, the General Manager, entered the scene and referred to the new four-annual strategy of the Opera, mentioning in the end of his speech the new heraldic identity of the institution. Upon his invitation, H. E. the minister of Culture also entered the scene, referring to the importance of the Opera in the national and international cultural life, and also expressing the wishes of the Ministry of Culture about the new start of Romania’ first lyrical stage. After this second intervention, the signal was given for the apparition (‘disclosure’) of the coat of arms. A large scale reproduction of this was slowly raised above the chorus, in the sounds of the orchestra. After this particularly touching moment, I was on my turn invited the stage, where I explained in a few words the signification of the symbols of the coat of arms.
In conclusion, the new coat of arms of the National Opera of Bucharest is the first armorial achievement of a Romanian cultural institution to be met with. Conceived as a new visual identity of the Opera, this coat of arms alludes to the main features of a lyrical institution, so the connection with the Muses, but also with the principal moments of its chronology, so the presence referring to the 1921 arms of the Great Romania, when the Opera became a National institution and started to ‘shine’ – like the Sun of Helios.
 More about the history of the Romanian Opera to be found at: http://onb.operanb.ro/en/opera/istoric .
 *** Strategie managerială şi artistică – Managerial and Artistic Strategy (Dec. 2012-2017), Opera Naţională Bucureşti/Bucharest National Opera House, pp. 8-9.
 Approved by the Parliament, the National Coat of Arms is regulated by the Law nr. 102/1992 (“Monitorul Oficial”, nr. 236/1992). Approved by the Prime Minister, the arms of the counties, municipiums, cities, towns and communes are regulated by the Act of the Government nr. 25/2003 (“Monitorul Oficial”, nr. 64/2003). Finally, the ecclesiastic arms of the authorities of the Romanian Orthodox Church fall within the competence of the Holy Synod, as stipulated by the Act of the Government nr. 53/2008 (“Monitorul Oficial”, nr. 248/2008).
 The ‘High Royal Decree’ nr. 3573/1921 (“Monitorul Oficial” of 29 July 1921).
 “Monitorul Oficial” nr. 87 bis/13 April 1948.
 Presidential Decree nr. 28/2004 (“Monitorul Oficial”, nr. 65/2004).