Before the ancient Greeks would organize their sumptuous performances in the amphitheatres of Athens, even before the ancient Romans would manifest their interpretative talents at the Saturnalias (the feast of their sun-worship), the Geto-Dacian tribes from the Carpathians had their mini-dramatic performances during which zoomorphic masks were worn. The characters embodied sheep, stags, bears, and in the first act of the performance, with a violent character, the representative of the animal kingdom being hunted/sacrificed/killed, in the second act, to the spectators’ satisfaction, it came back to life, the way the entire nature is reborn in spring. This kind of popular drama degenerated later on into burlesque forms of carnival, with the transfer to the festivities on the occasion of the New Year, during the winter season.
In Baia Mare, the first (semi-professional) theatre company was founded in 1796, under the directorship of Nagy Janos. A century later, more precisely on the 30th of December 1952, they set up a State Theatre (later called “Dramatic” and at present “Municipal”), first installed in the hall of the former “Popular” movie. The first night show was “The Acacia Grove” by Al. Korneiciuk, directed by Octavian Rappaport. Since then, over 350 premieres have been presented and thousands of other performances.
It is significant that the great actor and theatre director Liviu Ciulei (who in 1965 received the Cannes Festival award for his directing “The Forest of the Hanged”) had staged two plays at the Baia Mare theatre: “Today’s a Holiday” and “The Sleep of Reason” both by Antonio Buero Vallejo.
Starting with the 2005/2006 theatre season, The Baia Mare Municipal theatre has become the organizer of the prestigious “Atelier” International Theatre Festival (director Radu Macrinici). The previous 13 editions of the festival had been held in Sf. Gheorghe and Sighişoara. As an unconventional theatrical event, the performances take place on the stage, in the Studio hall, in the theatre foyer, in pubs, and in town squares. The festival intends to signal the latest tendencies in dramaturgy, directing, stage-design, choreography, stage music, and the art of acting.
The “Atelier” International Theatre Festival is a cultural brand in its very conception, as during the seven days of its developments, there are also discussion, workshops, meetings with the public, book launchings, concerts etc. In other words, it is a complex manifestation meant to involve the members of the community in the creative act of performance, to give them back their “quality” of “leading actors” on the dynamic stage of the 21st century. Thanks to the messages conveyed by the participating companies, there is an original intercultural dialogue;the new acquisitions, as a result of this dialogue, will be taken later on to different continents. The spectators also take over those elements which resonate with their inherited traditions, their education, and personal aspirations. This osmosis will generate later on attitudes and behaviours of tolerance and bring innovative ideas in domains related to the arts.
In 1994, on the initiative of professor Nicolae Weiss (the present artistic director of the Baia Mare Municipal Theatre) a francophone high-school theatre company, “Dramatis Personae”, was founded at the national college “Mihai Eminescu” from Baia Mare. Since then, the company of high-school students from Baia Mare has presented performances at forty international drama festivals in Europe, Africa and North America, in most of these as representative of Romania.
The company was awarded with the Great Prize at the Arad Festival (1996, 1997, 2000), in Brno, the Czech Republic (1999), in Cagliari, Italy (2005). I t was the only non-professional company invited to Paris on the occasion of the World Congress of Francophony, in June, 1998. It is annually invited by the French Embassy in Romania to give performances at the French Institute.
Under the patronage of the Drama Theatre, on the 1st of June 1956, the Baia Mare Puppet Theatre was founded, its initiator being Mircea Crişan. The inaugural show (“The House on the Plain”, director – Mihai Crişan, stage design Ella Conovici) was on the 30th of December 1956, on the stage of the Dramatic Theatre, where it continued its activity till 1961, when it moved to its new location, No.3, Dacia Street. A devastating fire severely damaged the building in 1982, but two years later, the performances would move back to the same building. In October 1995, the puppet section of the Dramatic theatre has become an independent institution under the directorship of Aurel Cucu (university lecturer). The repertoire includes adaptations of great authors’ work, both from world (Grimm Brothers, Pancio Manov, John Lawson etc.) and national literature (Ion Creangă, Petre Dulfu, Victor Eftimiu).
The prestige of the Baia Mare puppeteers is proved by the numerous distinctions got at national and international festivals: Prize for the best show (at the Festival of Puppet Theatres, Constanţa, 1993, with “The she-goat and her three kids”, director Aristotel Apostol); the same show gets the 1st Prize at The International Festival of Puppet and Marionette Theatres (Parma, Italy, 1978) and 1st Prize in Paris, France, in 1980. The play entitled “Little Soul” (director Kovacs Ildiko, stage design Ida Grumaz) received two prizes for interpretation and the prize for the best performance of the International Festival of Puppet Theatres in Esperanto (Norway, 1978), and the play “Five Wonderful Siblings” got the prize for Best performance and the prize for promoting the traditional Chinese technique of shadow theatre (Zagreb, Yugoslavia, 1980).
In Baia Mare there is also a company whose members (amateurs) give performances in Hungarian: the “Marton Lendvay” theatre company.
The Historical Centre of Baia Mare
Vestiges of pre-historical settlements (dating from the age of unpolished stone and the bronze ages) have been discovered around the town Baia Mare. During the pre-Roman period some occupations seem to have developed. In the beginning a mining camp or colony, the settlement had gradually become a village with a sedentary population whose main occupation was the exploitation of minerals.
A document dating from 1347 allowed the town, “according to the old customs, to extend starting from the Săsar Mine within a radius of three miles (about 5 kilometres) over all the lands and royal bridges”. The town was fortified with stone walls and bastions (around 1470), and lasting edifices and castles were built in the interior. The walls delimited an approximately circular, irregular zone, divided initially into five sectors, around the Central Circus (Circulus fori) – with 32 buildings in 1790.
Neither the configuration of the town, nor the number of the inhabitants had suffered great changes up to the middle of the 20th century. In 1948, the town became the county seat and the budgetary investments favoured its horizontal extension (23,000 hectares at present) and have given rise to a demographic explosion (148,000 inhabitants).
In 1993, the Baia Mare municipality launched an ample project for the rehabilitation of the Old Centre (Piaţa Libertăţii). The execution of the project started in 2003 and was finished in 2004.
The Old Centre has an architectural patrimonial complex declared historical monument constituted of 20 medieval buildings in gothic style. The division of the terrains around the square is similar to the configuration of the Central European towns from the same historical period (14th and 15th century).
One of the buildings included in the project was the former “Vulturul Negru” (Black Eagle) inn, built before 1790, which has become the “Millennium III Business Centre“. In 1920, the former inn became the seat of the town-hall; between 1950 and 1999 the building housed the Court and the Land Registry Office. One of the most “pretentious” and well-known buildings in the town is the “Casa Lendvay” (Lendvay House), the name being consecrated in 1881, when a commemorative plaque dedicated to the memory of actor Marton Lendvay was placed on it. Number 18 is “Casa Elisabeta” built by Prince Iancu de Hunedoara. The buildings housing the Popular Art School and the Medieval Restaurant date from the18th century. The house which had belonged to the Order of the Minori Monks (at No.6, Piaţa Libertăţii) was built in the same period.
But the most “spectacular” part of the rehabilitation project focused on the public space (M4 – Business Plaza), closing the access of vehicles to the eastern zone of the square and leaving it for the pedestrians. The square has thus become an open air space for exhibitions, dominated by restaurant terraces and an artesian well – an ideal place for promenade.
If we could go back in time only a century ago, the square would show an idyllic image: Sunday, after the mass, ladies with frilly umbrellas, gentlemen wearing hats, and couples of lovers would be strolling. In the centre of the square: the local brass band. In the afternoon, the rich men retired to the Casino. The owners of the local manufactures relaxed at the Club.