Nicolae Bretan

On the wire of the memory: An agitated life, a destiny out of the commun run 

Nicolae BretanThe composer Nicolae Bretan (born in Nasaud on March 25, 1887 – died on December 1, 1968 with Cluj)

Interview of Cleopatra Lorintiu with Mrs. Edith Bretan it Bovit, thedaughter of the composer Nicolae Bretan. She lives in  WashingtonD.C.

Dear Madam, a good part of your life  is dedicated indeed to clarify the destiny of your father, born with Nasaud, composer, opéra singer , musician.

My father, the composer Nicolae Bretan, had a very agitated life,  entirely dedicated  to the music. He lived  known the glory and also the cruelty of a political régime.
It is true. He was a man of Transylvania, he spoke Romanian, Hungarian, German, hisfather had a restaurant and they changed place considering the „business”.Nasaud-College George Cosbuc-

I understand that Nicolae Bretan was also a baritone opera singer?

Yes,he studied the  art of song in Cluj after it he’s gone to Vienna and he returned to the Academy of Bucharest. His name was Nicolae Bretan but they called him Miklos, the young opera singer ,for whom a world wide career as a baritone was predicted in 1913 in Posony Bratislava. Occasionally he signed his name as Nikolaus .

Normally it was to be to engage  him in  the Opera of Budapest but he did not have this chance. It was one painful moment of the history.  

The poet Octavian Goga, a friend close to him, which sent a letter to my father while saying to him: „You does not understand that you are not engaged  because you are a Romanian? Return at home, to Transylvania,  is your place is here”.

And he returned in 1917.He was Romanian and proud.But the reason for his pride was not tied to his nationality.He was proud to be part of the human race. As child he got to know the Romanians, the Hungarians, the Germans and the Jews.He learned to speak hheir languages and learned to sing their songs.

Moreover he lived the specificity of the life in Transylvania, he  had spoke all the languages.

It is true:  he wrote poems very easily  in the three languages but the  language remained,was the Music!Bretan’s Destiny was Transylvania.He was so strongly bound up with his land that he triumphend and was destroyed along with it; 

I know that the lack of tolerance of the time marked deeply.

You are right: can be the fact that him, a  greque catholic married a Jewish Hungarian woman were not forgiven by the intolerance of the time. The family of my mother was killed in Auschwitz, therefore I felt all the pains of this Transylvania. And when Transylvania of North was under the “Diktat”, my father fought with the Romanians, but this sacrifice brought back anything to him.

On the other hand he systematically refused to leave the country! You, his daughter, you lived  in Washington, and  you asked him all the time  to join you!

Yes, well on. I tried to do everything. That occurred in the years ‚48…

This was during the great political freezing. And all this difficulties marked his  work deeply, until the end it succeeded has to sublimate, like other artists Kafka, Trakl, Fondane, Mandelstam the suffering in art.His  work remains the echo of the sufferings of blood-stainedTransylvania.

Absolutely, it is like that. Bretan composed of the Romanian, Hungarian, German  songs but his music is  universal. In the United States it is the moment of a certain revaluation of its work. There is also a contest in  the Academy of music of Cluj – Napoca, a contest for the singers of thesongs , contest which carries, moreover, today,his  name.

In  my opinion it is important the fact that you succeeded by your tenacity has to make to public its work. If the first of his operas  “Golem” was representated  on December 23, 1924 on the stage  of the Theatre of Cluj and…

… I cut you the word. Golem was represented in Switzerland with a great success and in the United States also. The House of discsGolem CD of Nicolae Bretan“Nimbus” made a contract with me for the whole work of Bretan: Golem, Arald, Luceafarul, Horea, Lieds and sacred music.
The  first CD was launched to the Come United States in 1994 with a great publicity in the magazine” Art” it, is finally recognized general public!

You come before 1989,in  Romania, to fight for the work of your father… 

Yes, after his death I came seven times during 4 years… You see me, I am of steel when it is about my father.

Did You have success?

It is difficult to say, I had successes but rather failures.

However, his work was represented in a manner, it is true, partial. Nicolae Bretan music

Yes, the Horea Opera which had the premiere  in 1937 .In 1918 Transylvania becomes  Romanian and he accepts an engagement at the Romanian Opera. But he has no luck: how can somebody who has worked with the Hungarians have any luck, the fact that he gave the premiere of the first Romanian opera and that it was the first Romanian opera to be written by a Transylvanian composer ,is quiqly and conveniently forgtten. The fact that in 1937 Bretan gave Romania its own national Opera Horia is not forgotten, but the War seets to it that other issues come to the foreground and Horia fades into memory.  At the time of the “Diktat of Vienna” the representation was cancelled.
understand that he  was the direct victim of the consequences of the “Diktat of Vienna” and the loss of the part of north of Transylvania.

That’s exact he was treated of nationalist because of this opera dedicated to the peasant “Horea” appears emblematic of the Rumanian history.

But it is a work in the line of the ideology of the French revolution
After, the Communists could not understand the dimension of the Christian spirit that Bretan put in its issues.

They  are are a lot of opera singers who sing and appreciate his music today, a late recognition, it is true, but  a real recognition . 

Diffused on  Romanian Brodcast Television 1997 in the emission “Point of meeting”.