Nicolae Bretan was one of the leading figures in Romania's music world until his forced early retirement in 1948. Unlike many twentieth century composers, his works were generally Romantic in style, with little experimentation in harmony or rhythm, let alone serialism. During his lifetime, he composed more than 200 songs, as well as several operas, sacred compositions, and orchestral works, and wrote libretti to all but his first opera. He studied at the Cluj Conservatory and later at the Vienna Academy and the Royal Hungarian Academy of Music, studying both voice and composition (as well as taking a law degree). After graduating in 1912, he sang at the Bratislava Opera and Oradea Opera before returning to Cluj and the Romanian National Opera, where he not only sang as the leading baritone until 1940 and composed, but also directed productions. His first opera, Luceafarul (The Evening Star) premiered at the Romanian Opera in 1921 and was followed by Golem Lasadasa (The Golem's Revolt) in 1924, Eroii de la Rovine (The Heroes of Rovine) and Scrisoarea III (The Third Letter) in 1934, Horia (a reworking of Eroii) in 1937, and Arald in 1942. In 1944, he was named general director of the house, but the political climate forced him to retire in 1948 after he refused to join the Communist Party. His music was no longer allowed to be performed and he himself was treated as no longer existing in any musical role and was not even allowed to be a member of the Musician's Union. After the fall of communism, however, his reputation in his native country dramatically rose and he is today considered one of Romania's greatest composers, with the famous Nicolae Bretan International Competition created in his honor in 1993. Nimbus, the recording company, has championed his music together with his daughter Judit, releasing the world-premiere recordings of many of his works.