Ion Caramitru, a Romanian actor, theater director and prominent face of the anti-communist revolution has died, friends and the theater union said. He was 79.
Mr Caramitru died on Sunday at the Elias Hospital in Bucharest, the UNITER theater union he founded said. No cause of death was given.
One of the best-known and versatile actors of recent decades, Mr Caramitru also served as culture minister from 1996 to 2000. He became internationally known for his role in the world’s first televised revolution. After that, he briefly served as vice president of the National Salvation Front.
As gunfire erupted around the city, the actor rode to the television station on a tank and appeared with a group of ad-hoc revolutionaries on the newly-liberated state television network.
Others such as poet Mircea Dinescu, who stood next to him, were overwhelmed by the momentousness of the occasion.
Hard-line communist rule
But Caramitru’s training as an actor stood him in good stead and he made the announcement to the nation that dictator Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena had fled after almost 24 years of hard-line rule.
Weeks earlier, he traveled to London at the invitation of the British Council where he read a poem by Ana Blandiana who was out of favor with the regime. The poem was not on the official program and embassy officials visibly bristled at the unannounced reading.
The Christmas revolution, the bloodiest in Eastern Europe, gave him an audience outside Romania and beyond the world of the theater. In 1995, he was awarded an OBE by Queen Elizabeth II.
He headed a tour of Hamlet to London’s National Theater and to Dublin in 1990 which sold out. Romania was a major news story at the time and the Daily Mail, which was without its usual correspondent, sent its gardening correspondent to write a review.
He won critical acclaim in Britain and Ireland for his interpretation of Hamlet, considered to be one of the best in recent times, anywhere.
As an actor, Caramitru, had a particular way of pronouncing ‘s’ which his detractors mocked as a lisp. His voice was melodious and his vocal range was wide. He possessed not only a charismatic stage presence, but versatility.
He had the ability to perform the same scene in numerous ways, with slight changes to create a different effect each time.
He played more than 60 roles in plays by Shakespeare, Chekhov, Pirandello, Bernard Shaw and others. He played the lead in some 40 films.
Actor friend Victor Rebenciuc, another giant of Romanian theater, called his passing: „A huge loss for Romanian theater. He is an emblem that has fallen and in this moment he cannot be replaced,” he told Digi24.
President Klaus Iohannis also sent his condolences.
Gifted with management as well as acting skills, he was appointed general manager of the “National Theater in Bucharest in 2005, a position he held until his death. Under his management, the theater underwent a massive facelift costing a reported 51 million euros. The work was inspired by Le Corbusier’s Chapel on the hills of Ronchamp,
He founded the UNITER theater union in 1990 and hosted its annual award gala every year.
He belonged to the Aromianian minority, traditionally known for their anti-communist stance.
His eldest son, Andrei Caramitru is an influential political voice in Romania, and considered more intransigent than his father. Caramitru’s father was a political prisoner under the communist regime.
His is survived by his wife, the actress Micaela Caracas and three sons, Andrei, Stefan and Matei.
There was no immediate word about funeral arrangements.