Ladies and gentlemen,
Welcome at the National Bank of Romania!
We are honoured to host today this exquisite event that celebrates the fascinating life and personality of Hariclea Darclée. Allow me to greet Mr Rene Seghers, the author of the biography “Vissi d’Arte, Vissi d’Amore. The Life and Times of the First Tosca. Hariclea Darclee” and Mr. Anthony van der Heijden, a dear friend of Romania, the book’s prime sponsor.
The gold vein that unites us today is the love for music, as a unifying force and an art form that is worthy to be cherished. Music is known as the universal language of humankind. Thus, the passion for music that both our guests share is the key element that laid the foundation stone for the birth of this beautiful biography of the soprano Hariclea Darclée, whose illustrious carrier outshined any other performer, making her one of the most significant cultural figure of the 19th century.
Let me say a few words about the author and his “labour of love”, as Rene Seghers names it himself. I should like to begin by congratulating him, as he accomplished a work of art. I could only imagine the amount of documents, archives, photos related to Hariclea Darclée he gathered and studied over the 25 years that this book has taken to be finished. This detailed unbiased account of Darclée’s life and career has brought together a significant number of people, whom Mr. Seghers kindly remembers and thanks in his book. I hope this biography will find its way in Romania and in Romanian, keeping the high quality of the printing and bringing this great artist’s life and career closer to her birth country. Rene Seghers will introduce the highlights of the book and the importance to finally have Darclée’s biography and chronology available in English.
This important book release is strongly connected to a great admirer of the Romanian culture, Anthony van der Heijden. I have known Tony for almost three decades. Our professional paths have crossed many times. He was the first CEO of ING Bank Romania, one of the first international financial institution to start operations in Romania since 1989. Besides his notable professional activity in our country (introducing instruments of the modern banking system, financing the first businesses in Romania), Tony is a solid and constant admirer of the Romanian culture. He is a great art lover, art investor and art collector. But most of all, he loves music, especially opera. Shortly, Anthony, who is the principal sponsor of the book, will look into his motives to support the project.
You might wonder why we talk about Hariclea Darclée at the National Bank of Romania. Over the years and within our legal framework, we offered the grand prix at the Hariclea Darclée International Voice Competition in 2010, 2012, 2015 and 2017. I wish to mention the tireless and noteworthy effort of the late soprano Mariana Nicolesco, honorary president of the above-mentioned international competition, who, alongside her husband, Radu Varia and the authorities of Brăila, Darclée’s birth town, established a prestigious global musical event in her memory. Mariana Nicolesco and her adored “dragons”, as she used to call her novices, alongside laureates of the Hariclea Darclée Voice Competition, will always remain in the hearts of the employees and collaborators of the National Bank of Romania, as they yearly performed the remarkable traditional Christmas Concert in the Marble Hall.
Following the book presentation, you are all invited to a concert in the same Marble Hall, to delight in some good music, that would give us the flavor of Darclée’s times. Performing will be Dutch soprano Barbara Schilstra and Romanian soprano Madalina Barbu. Accompanying on the piano is Romanian pianist Liana Mares.
Thank you all for your attention and for attending this event!
Before giving the floor to Anthony, I would like to congratulate him in advance for the big day to be celebrated on June 8th. Many happy returns of the day, Anthony! And many great projects like this one!
București, 29 mai 2023