The Slovenia Times

Austrian theatre puts on opera in Slovenian

The Graz Opera ensemble performs Gorenjski Slavček in Slovenian. Photo: Graz Opera

The Nightingale of Gorenjska, a mid-19th century Slovenian opera by composer Anton Foerster, will premiere at the Graz Opera in Austria on 10 February in what is the first time ever for a foreign ensemble to sing a Slovenian opera in Slovenian abroad.

Members of the Graz Opera ensemble will sing Gorenjski Slavček in Slovenian and there will be German subtitles. Nine reruns are planned, after which the Graz Opera will record the production on a CD, TV Slovenija reported.

Several Slovenians are involved in the production, including conductor Marko Hribernik, set designer Marko Japelj, costume designer Leo Kulaš. The opera was directed by Janusz Kica, a director of Polish descent who lives in Croatia but has worked extensively in Slovenian theatre.

The Graz Opera announced the production as a Slovenian folk opera which tells a story about the split between love of home and longing for the big world, as well as how a collective defines itself through its own traditions.

The score was written by Foerster (1837-1926), a Czech-born composer who found his home in Slovenian lands. His original score was found during the renovation of the Ljubljana Opera and Ballet House over a decade ago.

He initially composed an operetta based on the libretto by Luiza Pesjak, one of the first Slovenian woman writers, but adapted it into opera a few years later. It opened for the first time in 1872.

The opera is about Franjo, who returns to his hometown, where his friend Lovro and his girlfriend Minka were waiting for him.

Then, French entertainer Chansonette hears Minka sing as he arrives in the idyllic town in the region of Gorenjska, and wants to make her a professional singer, but the locals decide to undermine his plans.

The Austrian production, which features Slovenian symbols such as Mount Triglav and traditional costumes, comes after Ulirch Lenz took over as the new intendant of the Graz Opera. His plan is to bring pieces from the neighbouring countries on the Graz stage.

"I think people should look over the border and see what rich culture there is in Slovenia and if you do research on opera in Slovenia, the first you will find is Gorenjski Slavček," he told TV Slovenija.

"The fact that a music powerhouse such as Austria, with all its composers and musical tradition, should bow to our arts is a fine gesture," said Marko Hribernik, the conductor and artistic director of the Ljubljana Opera.


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