The Romanian conductor Jonel Perlea (1900-1970) was born in Ograda of a German mother and Romanian father. After studying in Munich and Leipzig he made his début as a conductor of one of his own compositions in Bucharest in 1923. The following year Perlea served as an assistant conductor in Rostock. Then followed a period of obligatory military service in his native country before joining the staff of the Royal Opera in Bucharest. Four years later he became music director of the opera, with appointments at the Royal Academy of Music and Bucharest Philharmonic Orchestra.
During his ten years in Bucharest he conducted the local premières of Der Rosenkavalier, Falstaff and Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. In 1944 the Nazis interned him, after he had made an abortive attempt to escape to France.
The following years were spent in Italy including engagements at La Scala in Milan conducting Samson et Dalila, Così fan tutte, Orfeo ed Euridice, Boris Godunov, Salome, Werther and Fidelio between 1947 and 1950. He was then engaged at the Metropolitan Opera in New York during the 1950-51 season, conducting Tristan, La traviata, Rigoletto and Carmen.
In 1952 Perlea returned to Romania as a guest. He taught conducting at the Manhattan School of Music between 1955 and 1970, also serving as conductor of the Connecticut Symphony Orchestra in 1955. In 1957 he suffered a heart attack and the following year a stroke which forced him to conduct with his left hand. Perlea recorded a considerable amount of purely orchestral music for the Vox label: in addition he also directed Manon Lescaut (Naxos 8.111030-31).