National Theatre Bucharest

National Theatre “I. L. Caragiale”, Bucharest

The National Theatre Bucharest (Romanian: Teatrul Naţional “Ion Luca Caragiale” Bucureşti) is one of the national theatres of Romania, located in the capital city of Bucharest.




The old building of the National Theatre in 1856, photo by Ludwig Angerer

It was founded as the Teatrul cel Mare din Bucureşti (“Grand Theatre of Bucharest”) in 1852, its first director being Costache Caragiale. It became a national institution in 1864 by a decree of Prime Minister Mihail Kogălniceanu, and was officially named as the National Theatre in 1875; it is now administered by the Romanian Ministry of Culture.

In April 1836, the Societatea Filarmonica — a cultural society founded by Ion Heliade Rădulescu and Ion Câmpineanu — bought the Câmpinencii Inn to build a National Theatre on the site, and began to collect money and materials for this purpose. In 1840, Obşteasca Adunare (the legislative branch established under the terms of the Imperial Russian-approved Organic Statute) proposed to Alexandru II Ghica, the Prince of Wallachia, a project to build a National Theatre with state support. The request was approved on June 4, 1840. Prince Gheorghe Bibescu adopted the idea of founding the theatre and chose a new location, on the spot of the former Filaret Inn. There were several reasons to favor this locations: it was centrally located, right in the middle of Podul Mogoşoaiei (today’s Calea Victoriei); the earthquake of 1838 had damaged the inn beyond repair, and it needed to be torn down.

Old building

The August 13, 1843, report of the commission charged with building the theatre determined that construction would cost 20,300 Austrian guilder (standard gold coins, a sum worth about US$45,000 at the time[citation needed]), of which only 13,000 gold coins were available. In 1846, a new commission engaged the Vienese architect A. Hefft, who came up with an acceptable plan.

Construction got under way in 1848, only to be interrupted in June by the Wallachian revolution. In August 1849, after Prince Barbu Dimitrie Ştirbei took power, he ordered that construction be completed.

The front of the Bucharest Novotel, on Calea Victoriei in 2010, replicates the exterior of the old Romanian National Theatre approximately in its original location

The theatre was inaugurated on December 31, 1852, with the play Zoe sau Amantul împrumutat, described in the newspapers of the time as a “vaudeville with songs”. The building was built in the baroque style, with 338 stalls on the main floor, three levels of loges, a luxurious foyer with staircases of Carrara marble and a large gallery in which students could attend free of charge. For its first two years, the theatre was lit with tallow lamps, but from 1854 it used rape oil lamps; still later this was replaced by gaslights and eventually electric lights. In 1875, at the time its name was changed to Teatrul Naţional, its director was the writer Alexandru Odobescu.

The historic theatre building on Calea Victoriei — now featured on the 100-leu banknote — was destroyed during the Luftwaffe bombardment of Bucharest on August 24, 1944 (see Bombing of Bucharest in World War II).[1][2]

The modern theatre

The current National Theatre is located about half a kilometre away from the old site, just south of the Hotel Intercontinental at Piaţa Universităţii (University Square), and has been in use since 1973.

It forms part of a complex that also includes the Romanian National Operetta, an art gallery and exhibition space, and several of the city’s most prominent bars, including the massive rooftop terrace La Motoare. The present facility includes:

  • Sala Mare (“the Large Hall”), with 1,155 seats;
  • Sala Amfiteatru (“the Amphitheatre Hall”), with 353 seats;
  • Sala Atelier (“the Studio Theatre”) with no fixed stage, with 94-219 seats depending on how it is configured;
  • Sala Studio 99, also without a fixed stage, seating 75-99 people.


See also


  1. ^ (Romanian) “Cumpăna între nazism și comunism”, Evenimentul Zilei, August 22, 2004; accessed June 16, 2013
  2. ^ (Romanian) Ioana Pârvulescu, “Cioburi din istoria Teatrului Naţional”, România literară, nr.11/2007; accessed June 16, 2013
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h George Oprescu, “Istoria teatrului în România”, Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România, 1965, v. 3 p.37
  • Constantin C. Giurescu, Istoria Bucureştilor. Din cele mai vechi timpuri pînă în zilele noastre (“History of Bucharest. From the oldest times to our days”), Ed. Pentru Literatură, Bucharest, 1966, p.128, 141.
  • This article draws heavily on the corresponding article in the ro: Romanian Wikipedia, accessed 20 July 2006. Which, in turn cites:
    • George Potra, Din Bucureştii de altădată (“In Old Bucharest”), ed. Ştiinţifică şi Enciclopedică, Bucharest, 1981.

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