Sibiu has been a cultural city ever since 2007, when it was awarded the title of European Capital of Culture. Every year it manages to attract hundreds of thousands of tourists, who can get to know the history and the traditions of this place, drawn by the numerous cultural and gastronomical events organised or financed by the Sibiu City Hall.
2018 was no exception. On the contrary, the magnitude of the events organised in the city was obvious, especially thanks to the fact that last year was marked by the Centenary of the Great Union – one hundred years since the Romanian people were reunited for the first time ever in one country. Sibiu was one of the cities in which history was written one century ago. Organising an event dedicated to the Centenary was a central point of interest for the Sibiu City Hall, but the other cultural events – older ones, which started decades ago, or newer ones – were not overshadowed. In total, over 120 projects and events were financed with almost 8 million lei (1.7 million euro) in 2018.
THE CENTENARY OF THE GREAT UNION
January 1, 1919. A month after Transylvania and the Romanian kingdom united, French General Henri Mathias Berthelot was enthusiastically welcomed in Sibiu by the president of the Ruling Council, Iuliu Maniu, by soldiers and by the peasants of Mărginimea Sibiului, a region in the south-west of the Sibiu County. General Berthelot had an important role in organising and modernising the Romanian army. He remained known in Romania’s history as the Frenchman who pushed the Great Union forward. “May the blood of the heroes fallen in the battles of the Great World War be for you, oh, beautiful Romania, a seed for new virtues, in such a way that your children be forever worthy of their parents and ready to defend your sacred land, so often invaded but, in the end, unified through the effort of the recent generations”, said Berthelot.
October 6, 2018. The echoes of the military song “Drum Bun” (Farewell), with lyrics written by the poet Vasile Alecsandri, resonate in the centre of Sibiu. Thousands of locals make their way to the Main Square, where they will attend the biggest public manifestation dedicated to celebrating one hundred years since the Great Union of 1918. In the centre of the town, over 300 soldiers of the “Nicolae Bălcescu” Land Forces Academy in Sibiu reconstitute the atmosphere that would have been one century before.
The Sibiu City Hall chose re-enactment as the way to mark the Centenary of the Great Union alongside the townspeople. The event reconstituted the regale welcome of French General Henri Mathias Berthelot by Iuliu Maniu, the president of the Ruling Council, by local authorities, by the Romanian Army and also by the people living in the settlements near Sibiu. The Sibiu City Hall partnered with representatives of the “Nicolae Bălcescu” Sibiu Land Forces Academy, as well as with Continental Automotive Systems and the Sibiu Community Centre – the producer of the event.
“The communities took part in this parade of joy and happiness one hundred years ago. Then, as well as now, they showed that Sibiu is a united city in moments such as these. The fact that, one century later, these communities attended the celebration of the Centenary is remarkable. This shows that the region has remained tightly knit, courtesy of its people. I want to publicly thank everyone for attending an event through which we have celebrated together the history of our country and the history of Sibiu. I appreciate the efforts they have voluntarily made to come to Sibiu and to parade in the folk costumes we are so proud of and which are an integral part of our culture and of our community’s spirituality. In the name of Sibiu, I thank everyone!”, said Astrid Fodor, the Mayor of Sibiu, speaking in the city centre.
The preparations for the event in the Main Square started as early as August. Local authorities announced then that a wooden gazebo would be rebuilt in the city centre, identical to the one in which French General Henri Berthelot, Romanian General Traian Moșoiu, Iuliu Maniu, president of the Ruling Council, and other members from its ranks, the transition Government of Transylvania, based in Sibiu, were welcomed in 1919. In front of this construction, a parade was organised with the attendance of Romanian military troops symbolically represented by 300 soldiers dressed in historical uniforms approved by museum curators. The uniforms were made and paid for by the Sibiu City Hall. The armed forces were followed in the parade by delegates from the communities surrounding Sibiu, just as it happened a century before. The parade on October 6, 2018, was attended by mayors from the following towns: Alțâna, Arpașu de Jos, Avrig, Bazna, Brădeni, Chirpăr, Cugir, Gura Râului, Rășinari, Sadu, Săliște, Șelimbăr, Turnișor, Tălmaciu.
The parade was also attended by representatives of the ASTRA National Museum Complex, led by director Silvia Macrea. The Mayor of Sibiu underlined that these two cultural institutions have always supported the community in Sibiu in its most important moments.
Thousands of locals and tourists chose to attend the re-enactment of the event that happened one hundred years ago. They welcomed the soldiers of the „Nicolae Bălcescu” Land Forces Academy standing on the stairs of the Steps Passage, on the Bridge of Lies or waiting for them in the Main Square, alongside the officials in the gazebo. Fragments from the emotional and unsettling letters sent from the frontlines by soldiers writing about the trials and tribulations of war, about missing home, but also about the power to fight that was inspired by the pride of being Romanian, were projected on the huge screen in the Main Square.
A special moment was when a convertible vintage car carrying the look-alikes of French General Henri Berthelot and Iuliu Maniu, president of the Ruling Council of Transylvania, passed before the crowd. The soldiers were saluted with a “Good evening” by Berthelot. Să trăiți, they replied in unison. Afterwards, the two gave short speeches. “Visiting the Romanians living beyond the mountains has convinced me that their soul is the same as that of Romanians in Iași or Bucharest”, said the French General to the audience, before receiving a standing ovation.
The route of the parade started in the Lower Town of Sibiu, continued through the
Small Square, before finally arriving to the Main Square. From here, the parade continued on the Nicolae Bălcescu pedestrian Street, Tribunei Street and Mitropoliei Street.
The artistic director of the event was Radu Nica, who has vast experience in the theatrical world. He declared that he tried to offer the audience in Sibiu a fresh and true perspective on the history of the Romanians. “The arrival of General Berthelot in Sibiu was a gleeful and emotional moment for all Romanians living in Transylvania. The General passionately loved Romanians and Romania. Despite the fact that he was expelled from the country after the Buftea-Bucharest Treaty, he immensely contributed to the goal of a Great Romania. He was the one who reorganised and equipped the Romanian Army in 1917, who managed to keep at least part of the Romanian land in Moldavia. He is also the reason for Romania taking part in peace treaty negotiations as a winning country, because Berthelot convinced King Ferdinand to re-enter the war just a day before the Peace signing. In addition, the General popularised the idea of a Great Romania, through a tour in Transylvania and Banat, following the route Timișoara – Arad – Satu Mare – Baia Mare – Cluj – Sibiu – Brașov in a very troubling time, thus risking his own life. It is known that in Arad, for instance, after his arrival in the city, an incident happened, in which armed bands killed approximately 40 Romanians.
On January 1, 1919, troops of the 2nd Mountain Division and of the 7th Infantry Division, commanded by General Traian Moșoiu, were amassed in Sibiu. The better part of the troops marched in the honour of General Bethelot in The Main Square in Sibiu. The locals enthusiastically welcomed the General, hanging carpets in the windows of their houses – a sign of celebration. The Astra Museum director, Andrei Bârseanu, managed to gather an impressive number of communities from the surrounding area in Sibiu – over 70. No less than ten thousand people attended the parade, and the locals doubled the audience number. Among the officials there were members of the Ruling Council, led by Iuliu Maniu, as well as famous generals of the Romanian Army, as Mărdărescu, Broșteanu and Dabija, but also General Boieru, an ex-Field Marshall in the Austro-Hungarian Army etc.”, explained Radu Nica.
A Show for the Young
Following the military and folk costume parades, and the cultural and artistic moments offered on stage by the Junii Sibiului Ensemble, the Madrigal and the Peda Sonora choirs, a video mapping show and a DJ Party followed. The joy of the Great Union was therefore presented to the liking of 21st century youngsters. The show was presented by Les Ateliers Nomad, a studio specialised in video projections in public spaces and in 3D animation. The images projected on the façade of the Roman Catholic Church creatively presented the history and the cultural development of Sibiu, under the title of “Sibiu, City of Culture, City of Values”. The night ended with electronic music, played by the musicians of Nopame and by DJ Adrian Eftimie, a well-known radio DJ, also famous in the clubbing scene.
The event was attended by thousands of locals gathered in the Main Square, watched by many Romanians on TVR, the National Television, but also by officials who honoured this celebration with their presence. In the officials’ gazebo, Mayor Astrid Fodor welcomed the French Ambassador, Her Excellency Mrs. Michele Ramis; the British Ambassador, His Excellency Mr. Andrew Noble; state secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Mr. Raed Arafat; presidential councillor for Culture, Cults and the Centenary, Mr. Sergiu Nistor; the Commander of the “Nicolae Bălcescu” Land Forces Academy in Sibiu, Brigade General Ghiță Bârsan; general director of Continental Automotive Systems, Mr. Oswald Kolb; MEP Mrs. Raluca Turcan; senator Nicolae Neagu; vice-presidents of the Sibiu County Council Mrs. Christine Manta Klemens and Mr. Marcel Luca; local council members and other local officials.
One of the most important cultural events organized in Sibiu is the International Theatre Festival (FITS), which has celebrated its 25th edition in 2018. The quality of the event was once again validated by the fact that it obtained the High Patronage of the President of Romania – Centenary and the Patronage of His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales.
The 25th edition of FITS gathered 3,300 artists and guests from 73 countries who presented 525 events in 73 performance spaces, for approximately 70,000 spectators per day. FITS 2018 unfolded during ten days, between 8-17 June, under the theme of “Pasiune/Passion”.
“For 25 years we have tried to make an insignificant festival grow and turn into one of the most important events in the world. You have seen the number of troupes and public figures who arrived this year in Sibiu. As promised, the public was not only thrilled, but its expectations were surpassed. It is important now to concentrate on evaluating this festival, so that the soon-to-come Summit represents a point of pride not only for Sibiu, but for Romania as well. Let us put Romania in its rightful place, in an area of major intercultural dialogue”, said Constantin Chiriac, festival director and director of the “Radu Stanca” National Theatre in Sibiu, at the end of the edition.
According to organisers, the most complex part of holding this festival has remained the technical production which entails a sizable mobilisation, considering the dynamic of setting up the guest productions and the weather conditions. In total, 1,400 kg of coal, 200 cubic meters of Helium, 900 cubic meters of carpet, 250 fences, 57 tons of counterweights, over 600 light units – spotlights, light projectors and smart lighting –, ten lighting boards, 2,000 meters of cables, 500 meters of scaffolding set up with 40 engines and 60 stalls were used for the 25th edition of the festival. All of these, as well as tons of set pieces, were handled by 115 technicians.
In 2018, Sibiu Walk of Fame (Aleea Celebrităților) gained six more stars, given to Peter Sellars (director and choreographer), Hideki Noda (director, author and actor), Wajdi Mouawad (author, actor and director), Ioan Holender (academic, baritone), Mikhail Baryshnikov (actor, choreographer and dancer) and Isabelle Huppert (actress). FITS 2019 will take place between 14 – 15 June under the motto “The Art of Giving”.
Sibiu Young Festival
Sibiu Young Festival has reached its fourth edition and has offered over 40 plays by some of the most important troupes in Romania, the United Kingdom, Poland, Italy, Bolivia, Germany, France, Japan, Sweden or Canada. It is a unique cultural event that engulfs plays dedicated both to children and to young people alike. It is one of the few major events which promote social inclusion. Its programs are also dedicated to children on the autism spectrum. Parents are encouraged to stand by their children’s side and play sensory games, helped by the actors.
“Our projects are a catalyst for urban regeneration, also due to the fact that they offer an educational and social inclusion alternative”, explained Adrian Tibu, manager of Gong Theatre and of the festival.
Sibiu Young Festival is organized by the GONG Children and Youth Theatre in Sibiu. Founded in 1949, the Gong Theatre is a public institution with a rich repertoire of plays. One of the first professional institutions of its kind in Romania, the Gong Theatre takes on the education and the artistic training of children and young people, using the newest and more diverse forms of artistic expression of theatre art and animation, through a wide range of plays varying in complexity and with multiple themes – from education to entertainment.
Sibiu Ballet Theatre
Its shows are more often than not sold out, because the tickets are bought shortly after being released on the market. The Nutcracker, Romeo and Juliet, Paquita and Carmen, the Ionescu Trilogy, Raymonda or Giselle are just some of the performances of the Sibiu Ballet Theatre in the short time it has been running. This has made it a symbol of Sibiu, attracting thousands of fans of the art of choreography.
Founded in 2008, the Sibiu Ballet Theatre is officially composed of members from the ballet company of the Sibiu Community Centre, an institution working under the Sibiu Local Council, which makes it a unique company in Romania. It started out with just ten founding ballet dancers, but their number has constantly grown. Today, 40 dancers from all over the world are employed by the Sibiu Ballet Theatre. Their average age is 22 years and they come from different schools, countries and continents: Slovenia, New Zealand, Japan, the United States of America, Australia, Canada, the United Kingdom, Spain, France, Italy, Germany and, of course, Romania, some of them having been with the ensemble since 2008.
The Street Music Festival had its second edition last year, and introduced a large variety of music and entertainment genres in squares and public places in Sibiu. The theme of the first edition was Ragtime style, and, in 2018, it was Tango, the famous Argentinian dancing music which was included in the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2009. It is one of the best known, loved and danced music styles in the world. Tango means passion, rhythm, a way of transforming body language in pure emotion both for the artists and the audience. It is a two-day festival. Last year’s edition was enjoyed by the audience, both with ears and feet, on August 4 and 5, in the Small Square.
Sibiu Jazz Festival – one of the most anticipated musical events in Sibiu. In 2018, it was held between 17 and 20 May. It is seen as the most important event of its kind in Romania. Sibiu Jazz Festival is a member of the most important festival and jazz promoters’ network in Europe – Europe Jazz Network.
The 2018 edition was the 48th, so the festival is considered unique due to its longevity, consistency and impressive number of jazz celebrities who have played here. Sibiu has been known as the “jazz capital of Romania” since the ‘80s. There are at least four reasons one should not miss this festival. The first – Sibiu Jazz Festival welcomes everyone, young or old. The third edition of Jazz for Kids, a music education project dedicated to the young, took place in 2018.
A series of creative workshops are organised daily during the festival. Children have the opportunity to discover what it means to play the drums, the bongos, the djembe or a tambourine. The second reason – the festival is held in the most popular place in Sibiu, the Main Square, and access is free. It is practically impossible to miss it if you have just arrived in town. The third – artists from various countries get on stage, so visitors can listen to musical styles from different cultures which influence this musical genre. Last year alone, musicians from 14 countries played in the Main Square, among them: Vali Boghean Band (Republic of Moldova), Brönnimann Cissokho Hason (Switzerland, Senegal, and Israel), Sorin Zlat Quartet (Romania), Alex Mercado (Mexico), Pol Belardi’s Force (Luxemburg) or Street Jazz – Befunkbop (Spain) etc. The fourth reason – the concerts start at 7 PM, so tourists can go sightseeing during the day and relax in the company of world-class musicians at night.
EVENTS OF TRADITION
In 2018, the Sibiu City Hall financed 120 cultural events which impressed the audience through diversity, quality and creativity, proving that the town has cultural institutions and operators, both experienced and skilled. Here are just a few of these events that have stood out due to their scale: the Sibiu Romanian Orthodox Archdiocese organised the International Meeting of Orthodox Youth (ITO-Sibiu) on September 6-9, 2018, and the HARA Cultural and Artistic Association – “100 for Romania” project – had an impressive eight-hour concert on September 8, which brought a number of excellent musicians from Romania onto the same stage.
Astra Film Festival 2018 was another big event supported by the Sibiu City Hall. It was organised by the ASTRA Film Foundation, whose director and founding member is Dumitru Budrala, a filmmaker with a PhD in visual anthropology. The festival presents the newest international documentary cinematography productions, and it is also the perfect framework for Romanian premieres and the ideal place to take the pulse of east-European documentary productions.
Another event for which Sibiu City Hall offered over 200,000 lei (42,000 euro) – 240,000 lei to be more precise – was the Sibiu Opera Festival, with seven editions behind it. It is organised by the Sibiu State Philharmonic Orchestra. The festival took place between September 9-28. Started in 2001 under the title of “The Sibiu International Festival of Lyrical Art”, the “Sibiu Opera Festival” project represents a grand musical manifestation, with a consistent international attendance, meant to satisfy the interest in opera music of the audience in Romania and abroad. Moreover, the festival is a platform for artistic manifestation and self-affirmation for young opera talent, as the festival includes a canto section.
The International Street Art Festival, organised with the help of the Sibiu City Hall, aims to revitalise urban spaces through art. Its fourth edition was attended by over 30 artists invited from: Romania, Brazil, Russia and England. They made 19 mural paintings, enriching the street art gallery in Sibiu, which already has 67 paintings on over 5,700 square meters. The murals were done on a series of dead walls, six of them belonging to primary schools and high schools in Sibiu.
Other events worth mentioning: Transylvania International Film Festival, International Folklore Festival Cântecele Munților (“The Songs of the Mountains”), on its 43rd edition already, Feeric Fashion Week 2018, 100 for Romania, Sibiu Music Fest Classics for Pleasure, “Christmas in Sibiu – Gastronomy. Culture. Tourism 2018 (Târgul de Crăciun)”, CibinFEST Beer & Food 2018, Târgul Olarilor (“The Potters’ Fair”).
 Army salute in the Romanian Army.
Articol publicat în ediția de colecție a revistei Transilvania Business – Enjoy Transylvania! A jewel of Romania at the heart of Europe, ediție distribuită, cu sprijinul Primăriei Municipiului Sibiu, la Consiliul European informal de la Sibiu – 9 mai 2019