The actress who wrote the history of Romanian theatre was one of the best known on the Romanian stage and beyond. However, she died in poverty, living at the “mercy of the state”.
In the 19th century, Aristizza Romanescu was one of the most famous actresses, counting three decades of career. Although she made a great contribution to the Romanian theatre scene, she ended up living on state aid to survive. In her memoirs, the famous actress noted that she would not recommend anyone to pursue an artistic career.
The famous actress was born on 24 December 1854 in Craiova, coming from a family of actors, Constantin Demetriad and Paulina Stavrescu, the latter being a cousin of the mezzo-soprano Elena Teodorini. At the age of 18, she made her debut on the theatre stage and later moved to the National Theatre in Iasi.
Here she met Grigore Manolescu, a young man born in the capital who came from a wealthy family, a descendant of the Bolintineanu family. At the age of 14 he was thrown out of the house by his father because he wanted to follow his dream of becoming an actor.
He attended the Conservatory in Bucharest, and at the age of 16 began acting under Matei Millo. The collaboration between the two soon began, and in 1879 they chose to go to Paris on a scholarship, where they later became life partners.
The two choose to return to Romania, and they end up performing on the stages of the National Theatre in Bucharest, as well as the one in Iași. They appear in plays such as Ovidiu by Vasile Alecsandri, O scris pierdută, O noapte furtunoasă and Năpasta, works by I. L. Caragiale, as well as Romeo and Juliet, Othello and Macbeth by William Shakespeare.
Aristizza Romanescu became a teacher of declamation at the Conservatory of Bucharest, and she was the one who guided several generations of future actors such as Maria Ventura, Lucia Sturdza Bulandra and Maria Filotti.
The great actress in the history of Romanian theatre ends up living “on the mercy of the state”
Grigore Manolescu fell ill with cancer in 1892 and went with his wife to Paris to be treated by a famous surgeon. Luck was not on his side, so he died only one day after the surgery, at the age of 35.
This was a great blow to the actress, and her husband’s early demise caused her to become increasingly isolated. However, she continued her teaching career and ended up acting in several plays, as well as in the first Romanian film, Independence of Romania.
The film’s cast also included such famous names as Constantin Notarra, Agepsina Macri, Maria Ciucurescu, Sonia Cluceru, Maria Filotti, Elvira Popescu and Ecaterina Zimniceanu. In her 30-year career, Aristizza Romanescu has performed 400 roles in a special way.
Despite an impressive career, the actress retires on such a small allowance that she ends up living on the edge of subsistence. In 1904, she was granted “by the mercy of the state” an allowance of 100 lei. After her retirement, she published a book entitled ‘Reminiscences’ in which she noted that she did not recommend a career as an artist.
“To be an actor is to be a slave; to have no rest, no celebration, no child, no affection, no heart. Until death! The thing most to be pitied is the heartbreaking misery of the comedian, who lives only for others,” the famous actress noted in her volume “Memories”.