The Freemason of Hârlău


Premier: 6 June 2020

run time: one hour 40 minutes

Young Vasile Alecsandri returns in the late 1830s from France buoyed by modern ideas, but also with lasting impressions gathered from the theatres he had patronised with tenacity in Paris. He finds the theatre in Romania in a deplorable state: the few companies in existence offer to the public in Iaşi live performances with an extremely low artistic level. Several foreign troupes perform in improvised playhouse halls and the repertoire is totally unrelated to the Romanian reality. French vaudeville, boulevard plays and Italian operettas, that was all the audience could watch. However, the biggest problem was the Romanian language. Most of the audience looked with scepticism at the very idea of a show in Romanian. It was argued that the Romanian language was not suitable for theatre.

Aiming to dispel these retrograde ideas, Alecsandri, together with M. Kogălniceanu and C. Negruzzi, founded the National Theatre. Out of unparalleled enthusiasm, Alecsandri writes “The Freemason of Hârlău” which, with all its imperfections, is an original play, well put together, and can be considered the play with which the National Theatre was born in Romania. Rushing to produce a play for the newly established theatre, Alecsandri had quickly written “The Freemason of Hârlău”, and on November 18, 1840, the play, written in a simple style and in accordance with both the audience’s education and the budding talents of the new, amateur actors, is performed on the stage of the National Theatre. It was a great success, being long applauded by the spectators. The audience felt that they were on the verge of an important event. And the event was indeed momentous! That evening, the Romanian language was heard on an established stage for the first time, and most of those present thoroughly enjoyed the performance. This show was a decisive step towards the future of Romanian theatrical art. The Romanian language won a hard battle on its own territory.

In brief, about “The Freemason of Hârlău”: a young aspirant to the hand of the daughter of quartermaster Ganganu, by the name of Pestriţ, who comes from Hârlău, finds himself in the hands of some boyars from Iași eager to have fun and party for free. Pestriţ comes to Iaşi with two purposes: to get married and to enter the society of Freemasons. This desire of a country boyar is strange and is in fact the focal point of this play. In order to prevent Pestriţ’s engagement, the mischief-makers he meets in Iaşi pretend to be a Freemason society and undertake to receive Pestriţ in their ranks.

The comedy acquires grotesque valences through the way the “bonjourists” (young Romanian men from rich families returning home from the schools of Paris with new and progressive ideas, and using French more than Romanian in everyday conversations, hence their nickname) imagine the reception ceremony in the Masonic lodge. The ceremony takes place, as it is fitting, in a basement. The naive Pestriţ is subjected to the so-called ordeals of the lodge, is slapped, invokes lightning, travels to the realm of death where he meets other pretenders to the Masonic lodge, who have been wandering for weeks there, unable to find redemption. Eventually, Pestriţ loses his position as a fiancé, finds out that he was actually the victim of a farce, and, adding insult to injury, that he has not become a Freemason. Grieved, Pestriţ returns to Hârlău.

“The Freemason of Hârlău”, a comedy in three acts, marks the beginning of the history of this theatre. The opening night was on 18 November 1840, and on this occasion the text was published in the shape of a leather-bound book, with 50 pages in Romanian, but using the Cyrillic alphabet.

The year 2020 marks 180 years since this play was written and staged. It was directed by Costache Caragiale, Ion Luca Caragiale’s uncle. This date is considered to be the birth date of the National Theatre, and that of the first performance of a Romanian play in a National Theatre in Romania.


Daniel Onoae – Pestriţ
Gelu Ciobotaru – Titirez
Florin Gardan – Leonil
Alexandra Paftală – Aglăiţa
Alexandra Macovei – Zizí
Iuliana Budeanu – Garofa
Sorin Cimbru – Quartermaster Gânganu
Codrin Dănilă – Frantz Macson
Dumitru Florescu – Commissioner
Alexandru Guşă – Trântescu
Vlad Ștefancu – Milescu
Francisc Bucur – Vasile
Petre Sapojnic – Grigore
Director: Ion Sapdaru
Scenery: Cătălin Târziu
Costumes: Alina-Dincă Puşcaşu
Stage movement: Alice Veliche
Musical arrangement: Daniel Muşetoiu
Director’s assistants: Radu Mihoc, Francisc Bucur
Lights: Florin Simion, Cristian-Gabriel Bortoş
Sound: Robert Mihalache