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Perhaps nothing apart from the wines and champagnes of Cricova has done more to spread Moldova's name abroad than its stage traditions of dance, folk-dance and opera. The opera company has toured from Italy to Japan with relatively traditional productions, in keeping with the arguably less adventurous stage tradition of many of Eastern Europe's opera houses, and a wealth of strong voices.

A scene from the Chisinau National Opera 2001 production of Verdi's 'Aida'
A scene from the Chisinau National Opera 2001 production of Verdi's 'Aida'

In the UK, where the Chisinau National Opera launches a new tour of Verdi's Aida and Bellini's Norma this week, it's thanks to Ellen Kent and Opera and Ballet International that the Chisinau National Opera has become one of the most popular phenomena of the British stage. The energetic and imaginative Kent has not only organised an impressive schedule of appearances embracing the major UK centres (Edinburgh, Manchester, London's Royal Albert Hall), but also -- and this is a key part of her achievement -- has identified an unfulfilled appetite for opera and forged contacts with outlying places in the British Isles (including Wales and Scotland, and further afield in Ireland) where opera is relatively scarce and where she has been known to attract capacity audiences.

Chorus of Sicilian women in the church scene from the Chisinau National Opera production of 'Cavalleria Rusticana'
Chorus of Sicilian women in the church scene from the Chisinau National Opera production of 'Cavalleria Rusticana'

Back home, Chisinau National Opera employs some three hundred personnel -- more than San Francisco or London's Royal Opera -- and Ellen Kent is viewed back there as something of a national hero. It may even be partly thanks to her that a British Embassy has just -- at long last -- opened in that country.

Kent has promoted other East European opera companies in addition to her longstanding Chisinau connection, forging valuable contacts for the Romanian and Latvian opera companies. More recently she has brought the Ukrainian Opera of Odessa, a no less impressive outfit with possibly an even stronger orchestra, to Britain, for which she was able to draw to advantage on her leading Moldovan soloists as guests.

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Copyright © 5 September 2002 Roderic Dunnett, Bath, UK

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