Last night I saw the premier of Balkanska Carica (The Balkan Empress) in Crnogorsko Narodno Pozorište (Montenegrin National Theatre), which is the first staged Montenegrin opera ever.
Before I start expressing my views about the opera, let me say I enjoy seeing an opera occasionally, but I'm far from being an opera buff.
The original story was written by the last Montenegrin king, Nikola Petrović (1841-1921).
The libretto goes something like this:
Sometime in the 15th century, the Montenegrin ruler, Ivan Crnojević sends his younger son, Stanko, to help an Albanian duke fight the Turks and therefore defend Montenegro against their advance. Stanko resents that, as well as the fact he won't be the heir to the throne. Before Stanko leaves, Danica swears her eternal love to him and they secretly get engaged.
Here it gets very complicated X-(. Stanko has crossed the lines and joined the Turks who promised him to become the Balkan emperor. On his return everybody is obviously very upset :) including his fiance Danica. They shoot each other.
Stanko begs Danica for forgiveness. They die in each others arms. :p
Even though the story is pretty daft, I enjoyed some other aspects. Mainly the singing. The tenor Dejan Maksimović as Stanko and soprano Vedrana Šimić as Danica generally performed well. Their acting in parts was little wooden, but their singing was world class. The rest of the cast was reasonably good. It was shame the opera didn't have many choral numbers. A minimalist stage set has two slopes and works well with with simple clean background lighting. Throughout the opera the director Radmila Vojvodić added the rhythm of the traditional Montenegrin dance, which reminds you of the turbulent times and the nature of the locals ;-). Another traditionally (over)used detail in depicting the Montenegrin history and culture, the instrument called gusle, was (pointlessly) used at the beginning of the opera.
The opera was written and composed by Dionisio de Sarno – San Giorgio, an Italian composer who lived in Kotor between 1886. do 1893, where he got married. He returned to Montenegro towards the end of his life and died in Perast in 1937.
I enjoyed the music, which was performed by Montenegro Symphonic Orchestra and well conducted by Aleksej Šatski.
The opera programme can be found here: http://www.muzickicentar.cg.yu/docs/Balkanska%20carica.pdf
The official CNP (Montenegrin National Theatre) site is http://www.cnp.cg.yu/meni.html