“There is major room for improvement,” organizers say, especially when it comes to high-standard concert venues in Romania. Yet that did not stop 60,000 music lovers from attending the AC/DC and Madonna concerts, many of whom were tourists, perhaps visiting Romania for the first time for the occasion. In spite of the growing fame of B’estfest, one of the most well-established local brands, other music festivals are emerging, offering the widest array of crowd pleasers, from the most alternative niche genres to the classical strains of the world’s top composers.
Along with Events, One Event and D&D East Entertainment, Emagic is one of the main players on the Romanian concert scene, as organizer of the Depeche Mode, Shakira, Kylie Minogue, Metallica, Lenny Kravitz, Bob Dylan and Madonna concerts, as well as B’estfest and now Ciuc Summer Fest, among others. Laura Coroianu, Emagic CEO, estimated the local concert business at around EUR 10 million. The biggest problem that Romania is currently facing, however, is the lack of large enough concert locations, as Bucharest still has no 50,000-seater venues, such as stadiums, to join the larger indoor concert venues – Sala Polivalenta and Sala Palatului.
The Romanian public, although perhaps relatively inexperienced when it comes to concert going, is already being described by organizers as very difficult to please. Zone Arena, one of the newest gig venues in Bucharest, was launched in May with a Dalaras concert. In June it hosted Bob Dylan and Aerosmith, and is a more than welcome investment on the Romanian concert scene, says Coroianu, in spite of some public criticism. Zone Arena, part of Arena Invest group, is owned by Dorian Ciubuc, who considers negative feedback a natural consequence for any project of such dimensions.
With 30 years in the concert organization game, Ciubuc sees the EUR 1 million investment behind Zone Arena as a necessity, offering local and international market players a professional concert venue, with affordable prices in a time of crisis, he says. Although concert goers complained about the poor visibility offered by the stage, the Zone Arena official says it is of international standards. The surface on which the crowd stands is made of tego boards, which do not produce dust or accumulate water. Sound complaints on the other hand, says Ciubuc, should be made to organizers or to the artists’ crew, which in the case of the Bob Dylan concert, says Coroianu, Emagic CEO, were not valid, as the public always tends to be a bit cavalier. But Ciubuc still believes that public opinion, manifested throughout the blogosphere and via online social networks, is very important for organizers and host alike and sees the good feedback generated by the recent Aerosmith concert as a good sign.
One of the most eagerly anticipated concert and sporting locations in Romania, the Lia Manoliu stadium, will hopefully be finished in the second trimester of 2011 (despite being initially planned for 2010), if government subsidies arrive in due time, as Bucharest city halls cannot finance the long-awaited building’s completion. Lia Manoliu is expected to contain 55,000 seats, 94 access ways and increased parking space to add to the current meager 200 parking spots.
In spite of the alternative and mainstream predilections of Romanian music lovers, classical refrains are also held in very high esteem. After the success of Mozart Fest in 2006 and the subsequent Vienna Music Film Festival, ArCuB, the Center of Cultural Projects for Bucharest City Hall, is organizing the Bucharest Music Film Festival, which this year took place between June 12 and 20. George Enescu Square was, for nine days, the capital’s center for classical European music, dance and opera, and was chosen as the festival’s location, so as to highlight to Romanians the cultural importance of and possibilities offered by public spaces, ArCub representatives reported.
When asked about Romanians’ taste for classical music, ArCub officials said that such concerts remain firm favorites. In the organizer’s opinion, attendance at the festival was very high and this year it succeeded in attracting a younger audience. Attendance was free of charge not only to promote classical music, but to make it accessible to music lovers on lower incomes. What’s more, Vienna’s Das Karusell Orchestra, one of the event’s guests, had previously performed in Romania at a venue with tickets on sale, which, however, did not preclude a full house. When asked about the existing classical music concert venues, ArCub official said the situation left a lot to be desired, but added that the ArCub concert hall will enter the cultural circuit this autumn.
Another important classical music festival at the moment is Summer Symphonies’ Dream, which is taking place in downtown Bucharest, in Coltea Park, every weekend between May 8 and October 3. The purpose of the event, organized by Bucharest’s Sector 3 Town Hall, is in the words of the local mayor, Liviu Negoita, to raise the community’s awareness of classical and artistic performance, which is why it is free of charge. Moreover, the festival follows a well known concept in worldwide music capitals, such as Paris, New York and London. The location is in the center of Bucharest, so as to emphasize the city’s architectural highlights. Negoita says that around 500 spectators have attended every edition of the Summer Symphonies, which have been very well received by the public, and the costs of staging the festival were not very high, due to media barters, as well as to some artists’ agreement to participate for no fee – which was the case with internationally acclaimed actor Marcel Iures.
All in all and in spite of the constant quest for improvement, the Romanian concert scene is considered to be highly receptive to a wide array of music genres – as is shown by the concerts and festivals organized in recent years and announced for the near future. Artists coming to Romania from various backgrounds might arrive at a somewhat exotic location, without knowing what to expect, but always leave with a “This is one of the best concerts we’ve ever done” and “We’ll most certainly come back” impression. From heavy metal lovers’ Artmania festival in Sibiu and Sonisphere in Bucharest, to the hip-hop, reggae and electro-oriented SummerJam Fest, from the coherent rhythms of the classical extravaganza of Bucharest Music Film Festival and the newly founded Summer Simphonies to trip-hop masterminds Massive Attack and electronic daredevils Royksopp, Romania is becoming a significant spot on the international concert map.