Verdi’s Rigoletto at Belgrade National Theatre

Belgrade National Theatre – Perspectiv

Last night I attended Rigoletto at Belgrade National Theatre. The Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra accompanied the opera. Rigoletto has appeared at the National Theater many times. It premiered in 2001 with soloists from Teatro Alla Scala Milan.

Rigoletto Cast Left to Right – Assassin Sparafucile, Duke of Mantua, Gilda, Rigoletto, Maddalena Sparafucile’s Sister, Countess Ceprano

It’s my third performance at the National Theatre. As with the other performances, it was sold out. I arrived 20 minutes early to an empty house. Five minutes before the performance began, the theater filled quickly.

Serbians are friendly but you must make the first attempt to communicate. If someone approaches you, they’re often openly taken aback if you don’t speak Serbian.

Opera, ballet, and classical music are popular in Belgrade. Drama is also in high demand and there are many theaters – performances are in Serbian.

Belgrade National Theatre Ceiling – Maximilian Böhm

Rigoletto

Rigoletto is sometimes described as an “exciting and gritty opera not for the faint-heated” … If you like drama, Rigoletto has few rivals – heart-wrenching tragedy and human emotions are well portrayed!

National Theatre Ceiling

The programs and supertitles were in Serbian. I found limited information about the singers online. With a basic understanding of the plot, the incredible voices describe what’s going on during an opera.

Gabrijela Ubavic Soprano (Gilda) – Newtiers

The original title, La Maledizione (The Curse), refers to “a curse placed on the Duke of Mantua and Rigoletto (his hunchbacked court jester) by Count Monterone, a courtier whose daughter the Duke seduced with help from Rigoletto”. The curse materializes when Rigoletto’s daughter Gilda falls in love with the philandering Duke and sacrifices her life to save him from Sparafucile, an assassin hired by her father”.

Soprano Gabrijela Ubavic made a guest appearance as Gilda. She has an extraordinary voice! Her first “major international success” was in 2010 singing the role of Pamina in Mozart’s The Magic Flute. Since then, she’s received considerable recognition and won many awards.

Belgrade National Theatre – Narodno Pozoriste

I found a list of the opera’s cast from earlier productions but not the names of singers during last night’s performance. At any rate, it was a rousing production and an evening thoroughly enjoyed!

Central Belgrade Serbia

Church of St. Mark

After catching my breath, I’ve continued exploring Belgrade. It’s an impressive European city influenced by Roman, Byzantine, Ottoman, Serbian, Russian, and Austro-Hungarian empires. One of the oldest cities in Europe, it’s the only capital built at the confluence of two rivers – the Danube and Sava.

Old Telephone Exchange – Wikipedia

Complex history, language, and names make writing about Belgrade a formidable task. Belgrade’s history runs deep. Memories are short, so the purpose of my blog is making the effort to capture travel experiences.

Branko Radičević Serbian Poet – sikari.rs

Belgrade Tours

I’ve taken several guided walking tours and learned about Belgrade on my own. The complex history is a bit overwhelming. One tour guide – the owner of my rental flat – is “strongly connected with the history of Belgrade and Serbia”.

St. Mark’s Cathedral

Aleksandar’s family has lived in Belgrade for four generations. He’s knowledgeable about its history, traditions, and heritage and enjoys sharing his knowledge with visitors. The goal is providing tourists with an “understanding of Belgrade’s history and a perspective on modern life and culture”. Aleksandar is developing tours of Belgrade and outlying areas. His central city tour was fun and well-organized.

Syndicate House – Wikimedia

Central Belgrade

Central Belgrade is near my apartment. It’s a short walk to iconic buildings like the Old Telephone Exchange, Central Post Office, Church of St. Mark, Parliament Building, Presidential Palaces, and other landmarks. Many of the buildings were damaged during WW I and II and rebuilt.

Building of the Patriarchate Serbian Orthodox Church

Old Telephone Exchange

The Old Telephone Exchange is around the corner. Completed in 1908 it was designed by architect Branko Tanazević in Serbo-Byzantine style. The beautiful building is part of Belgrade’s cultural heritage. I enjoy admiring it from cafés along Kosovska Street.

Belgrade Central Post Office

Belgrade Central Post Office

A significant cultural monument, Central Post Office architecture reflects the “complexity of social and political circumstances during the interwar period – 1919 to 1940”. It represents modernist and functional architecture. Built as a branch of the National Mortgage Bank, Serbian architect Aleksandar Đorđević designed it in the “spirit of the French school of academic style”.

Belgrade Historical Museum – Virtuelni Mazei Dunava

Orthodox Church of St. Mark

The Church of St. Mark is spectacular inside and out! Dedicated to Apostle and Evangelist Mark it’s in Tasmajdan Park near the National Assembly. Spring is in the air and trees in the lovely park are beginning to bud. Walks in the park and stopping for coffee at nearby cafés is always on my itinerary.

Old Telephone Exchange Belgrade

The original church was destroyed during the war. Construction of a new building occurred during the interwar period. There are several tombs inside the church, including Mlan Obrenovic, King Alexander Obrenovic, his wife Queen Draga Mašin, and King Stefan Dušan the Great.

Belgrade National Assembly – Parliament Building

Completed in 1936 and designed by Russian architect and painter Nikolay Petrovich Krasnov, the National Assembly is the Republic of Serbia’s “supreme representative body holding constitutional and legislative power”. The Assembly has 250 elected members. The scope of the National Assembly is “given by the Constitution of the Republic of Serbia”.

Belgrade National Assembly

I haven’t been inside the National Assembly but it’s beautiful and the sculptures at the entrance are magnificent. Entitled Black Horses at Play, they’re the work of Croatian sculptor Toma Rosandića.

Belgrade National Theatre – Shutterstock

Supposedly, the theme of the statues is the struggle between man and nature. There are other more “political stories” about the meaning – most of them over my head. Belgrade has sculptures throughout the city honoring leaders and historical events. Some are by exceptional Croatian artist and sculptor Ivan Meštrović.

Black Horses at Play – Toma Rosandica Sculptor

Old and New Palaces

Belgrade’s palaces are across the street from the National Assembly on Andrićev Venac Street. Each palace has complicated history. There are interesting stories of Serbia’s two royal dynasties – Karađorđević and Obrenović – including an assassination.

Terazije

New Palace – Novi Dvor – was the royal residence of Serbia’s Karađorđević dynasty and later the Kingdom of Yugoslavia. Today, it’s the seat of controversial President Aleksandar Vučić.

Belgrade National Assembly

Built when Serbia became a Kingdom, Old Palace – Stari Dvor was the Royal Palace of Serbia’s Obrenović Dynasty. The beautiful palace was restored after damage from WW I and II. Today it houses Belgrade City Assembly.

King Alexander Karageorgevich – Heroes of Serbia

Nikola Pašić Square

Serbian and Yugoslav politician Nikola Pašić is an “important statesmen and diplomat”. He’s credited with protecting Serbia from Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman, and Russian influences.

Mihailo Obrenović III, Prince of Serbia

Pašić founded the People’s Radical Party and held prominent government positions including president of the Serbian National Assembly, Prime Minister of both Serbia and Yugoslavia, Mayor of Belgrade, and Serbian Envoy to Russia. He was one of the authors of the St. Vitus Day Constitution of 1921 giving Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes a unitary monarchy.

Belgrade National Assembly

A square in Central Belgrade is named after Nikola Pašić. In 1998 a monument created by Serbian Sculptor Zoran Ivanović was erected in his honor.

Tasmajdan Park – debuggil.wordpress

Terazije Square and Fountain

Terazije Fountain began as a water source for Belgrade. Towers were built throughout Belgrade to bring water from wetlands into the city. The “Turks called the water towers terrazioni,” so the square was named Terazije.

Nikola Pašić – en.wikipedia.org

Located close to famous hotels, taverns, and shops, Terazije Square was “the center of Belgrade’s social life”. It’s also near the location where German fascists hanged five Serbian patriots in 1941. Moved and reconstructed many times, the Terazije is now in front of famous Moscow Hotel, a great place to enjoy tea or coffee.

Terazije Square Moskva Hotel Belgrade – Tradesco Tours

Republic Square

Republic Square is undergoing major renovation. The square features a monument to Prince Mihailo Obrenovic (1823-1868), son of Prince Miloš and Princess Ljubica. He came into power following the death of his elder brother Milan in 1839.

Belgrade Republic Square Statue Prince Mihailo Obrenovic – Travel to Serbia

Italian sculptor Enrico Pazzi created the monument in 1882 honoring one of Prince Mihailo’s most important political achievements – “expulsion of the Turks from Serbia after five centuries of governance”.

Djura Danicic Serbian Scholar – Wikipedia

Mihailo Obrenovic was elected. He wasn’t a hereditary prince. In 1842, an uprising forced him into exile and brought Alexander Karageorgevich to the throne. Obrenovic spent six years outside Serbia collaborating with writers and poets including Vuk Karadžić, Đura Daničić, and Branko Radičević. When Prince Miloš returned to Serbia in 1858, Mihailo accompanied him and took command of the army.

Nikola Pašić Square – Relja Ivanić

After the death of Prince Miloš, Mihailo regained the throne in 1860 and established an army to “rid Serbia of the Turks”. “Expecting war with Turkey, Mihailo made alliances with other Balkan states – Montenegro, Greece, Bulgaria, and Romania.” In 1868, he was assassinated in Košutnjak, a forested Belgrade suburb.

Black Horses at Play Toma Rosandića – Atlas Obscura

Albania Palace

Built in Republic Square in 1939, Albania Palace is one of the tallest buildings in the Balkans. It replaced beloved 19th century Albania Tavern, a popular but cramped and neglected establishment. In spite of its shabby condition, the old Turkish-style building was a favorite spot for local socializing.

Palace Albania

Albania Tavern’s loyal patrons were “reluctant to abandon their favorite gathering place”. On the day it was demolished they gathered at the tavern. Guests were served “until firemen started taking tiles off the roof”.

Belgrade National Assembly

The Palace was the main headquarters of the Nazi work organization Todt. During 1944 in a WW II Allied bombing it was hit by a “half-ton bomb”. Luckily the well-constructed building only suffered minor damage. In 1983 Albania Palace became a Belgrade Monument of Cultural Importance.

Cathedral Church of St. Michael – Flickr

Belgrade National Theater

As directed by Prince Mihailo Obrenović, Aleksandar Bugarski, the “most productive Belgrade architect in the 19th century”, designed the National Theatre. The architecture is based on the design of La Scala Theater in Milan. It’s built on the location of former Stambol Gate – one of four gates placed at each way out of Belgrade.

Belgrade National Theatre Republic Square – Hostel Show Belgrade

Built in 1869, it’s a symbol of Serbian culture, tradition, and spirituality. The popular theatre hosts opera, drama, and ballet performances. The amazing performing art venue has performances every day of the week. Most are sold out. National Theatre was declared a Monument of Culture and Importance in 1983.

Nikola Pašić – Zoran Ivanovic

Bombings during 1941 and again in 1944 damaged the theatre’s exterior, interior, and façade. Many architects and engineers participated in upgrades, annexes, expansions, and reconstruction between 1870 and 2018.

Vuk Karadžić Serbian Linguist – Kurir

The design is a blend of Vienna Secession and Baroque architecture. Even with auditorium and stage expansions, there’s limited seating.

King Alexander Obrenovic and Queen Draga – balkanekspresrb.rs

Belgrade National Museum

Established in 1844, Serbia’s National Museum is the largest and oldest museum in Belgrade. Since 1950 it’s been in Republic Square. The “museum’s collection has grown to over 400,000 objects, including several foreign masterpieces”. It was declared a protected Cultural Monument of Great Importance in 1979.

Belgrade National Museum – Like A Local Guide

Like the National Theatre, the National Museum experienced bouts of redesign and renovation. Various architects and builders were involved, including Andra Stevanović and Nikola Nestorović. It’s built in Neo-Renaissance style with Neo-Baroque elements on the domes. WW II bombings destroyed the domes.

Belgrade Neighborhoods and Rosenberg Trio Gypsy Jazz Band

Savamala Neighborhood – getyourguide.dk

Belgrade has been a wonderful surprise. I’m happy and enjoying the experience! I moved from a studio apartment in Dorćol neighborhood to a loft in more central Palilua. It’s sunny, comfortable, and close to everything. The old renovated building has high ceilings and a fascinating antique open-cage elevator!

Belgrade has festivals almost every week and many museums and galleries to explore. I’m slowly making my way through attractions of interest. The friendly apartment owner provides valuable information on special activities and performances.

Typical Belgrade Kafana – BTURN

After traveling since October, my brain is on overload. I’m taking downtime to explore Belgrade – no rushing. Have had simple, memorable experiences interacting with locals. There’s so much to learn and see. Serbia’s turbulent history is complicated. Stories of its royal dynasties – Kardjordjević and Obrenović – are fascinating.

Zemun Neighborhood – StefanRTW

This post has brief descriptions of Belgrade’s neighborhoods. I’ve visited most of these and explore new areas every day. When you look beneath the surface, every building and street has its own history and a deeper meaning.

Skadarlija Bohemian Borough Belgrade – Serbia Incoming™ DMC

Belgrade’s unique atmosphere and way of life is a refreshing change from anything familiar. It’s good for the heart and soul to experience new places and cultures, but takes considerable effort and energy. I’m due for a rest :o)…

Nebojša Tower Kalemegdan Park – Belgrade my way

Dorćol

Dorćol is a laid-back neighborhood known for its cafés, restaurants, and pubs. The name means “crossroads” in Turkish. The area is near the Sava and Danube Rivers and was “a busy trading point during Ottoman occupation”.

Dedinje Mansion – Mentor Real Estate

Belgrade’s Bohemian district – Skadarlija – is in Dorćol. It’s best known for reasonably priced Serbian kafana restaurants with attentive waiters. I have a few favorites but am always trying new places. Traditional food is delicious and reasonably priced. I’ve gotten used to roving musicians playing gypsy music while you dine.

Typical Kafana Restaurant Belgrade – Restoran Beograd

Kalemegdan Park – The Happy Hermit

Dorćol represents Belgrade’s multicultural history. In addition to Orthodox churches it’s home to the only surviving mosque – Bajrakli Mosque – and the former center of Belgrade’s Jewish community. Each Orthodox church has a unique story!

Mural Savamala  Neighborhood – Wikipedia

Dorćol has Belgrade’s largest park – Kalemegdan – near the confluence of the Sava and Danube Rivers. The park includes Belgrade Fortress, a two-thousand-year-old Roman Well, and Nebojša Tower.

Roman Well Entrance Kalemegdan – tipotravel.com

They say if you haven’t visited Kalemegdan you can’t claim you’ve been to Belgrade. I’ve walked through the large park – it was raining that day – and will return. The views are magnificent. The mystery of Roman Well fascinated Alfred Hitchcock.

Savamala Neighborhood – mreast.dk

New Belgrade – Novi Beograd 

New Belgrade has “massive expanses of towering concrete building blocks in a world within itself”. It’s one of the “most populous parts of the city”. Established at the end of the 1940s, Novi Beograd “satiated Josip Broz Tito’s desire for a huge capital city”.

Beograđanka Skyscraper – The Skyscraper Center

As in Sarajevo, the blocks with ugly but functional communist-style concrete buildings – also known as Brutalist Architecture – are slightly overwhelming. Genex Tower is a prominent Novi Beograd landmark. In spite of the architecture, some describe Novi Beograd as one of the “most exciting parts of Belgrade”.

Brutalism – Soviet Architecture New Belgrade – ArchDaily

New Belgrade Neighborhood – Flickr

Vračar

Vračar is Belgrade’s smallest municipality. It’s considered one of the most desirable neighborhoods. The iconic Church of St. Sava, National Library of Serbia (once a brothel), and Beograđanka Skyscraper are in Vračar.

Bajrakli Mosque  Belgrade – Todayonline.

Kosančićev Venac 

West of central Belgrade, Kosančićev Venac was “built on the site of an ancient Roman necropolis”. The area was “damaged heavily during World War II”. It’s Belgrade’s oldest neighborhood where cobblestone streets, a “charming mix of architecture and tree-lined paths, and palaces make it one of the city’s most appealing spots”.

Orthodox Church of St. Sava Vračar Neighborhood – Mondo

Savamala

I’ve ventured into Savamala. It’s near the Sava River waterfront. Once considered Belgrade’s “cultural powerhouse” At one time Savamala was known as the “shabbiest part of the city” inhabited by drug dealers and pimps. Live music, popular bars, and art galleries have turned Savamala into a nightlife and cultural centre.

Dorćol  Neighborhood – CityExpert

Dedinje

Magnificent villas and mansions are characteristic of Dedinje, Belgrade’s wealthiest neighborhood. It’s said that “strolling through Dedinje opens one’s eyes to the riches of diplomats and businessmen involved in questionable actions during the 1990s”.

Kosančićev Venac Neighborhood – Wikimedia

Zemun

Practically the “dictionary definition of a town within a town” Zemun hugs the banks of the Danube River. People from Zemun are “fiercely independent” and don’t consider themselves part of Belgrade. The neighborhood is known for its restaurants – especially for fish lovers – and lively bars, pubs, and nightclubs.

Dedinje Neighborhood – Nekretnine

Zvezdara

Zvezdara neighborhood is Belgrade’s forest haven. Its “mass of greenery” is home to interesting fauna, including owls and hedgehogs. This is the neighborhood for hiking, walking, and enjoying nature.

Dedinje Neighborhood Wikipedia

Palilula

My neighborhood Palilula “occupies some of Belgrade’s prime real estate”. It’s close to the city centre but without the traffic and intensity. The neighborhood developed during the Habsburg occupation of Belgrade. It’s an active desirable location with interesting landmarks, markets, restaurants, and shops.

Belgrade Genex Tower – The Bohemian Blog

Rosenberg Trio Gypsy Jazz Swing Band

Rosenberg Trio is a famous Gypsy Jazz Swing Band from the Netherlands. They’ve performed throughout Europe, at Carnegie Hall, and several times at Belgrade’s Jubilee Guitar Art Festival.

Inspired by French jazz guitarist Django Rinehart and considered the “essence of Gypsy Jazz Swing Music” the group has performed together for over 25 years. It’s a family affair and the concert features two brothers and an uncle.

Beograd Fortress – Wikipedia

Last night I saw them perform at Belgrade’s Kombank Hall as part of Belgrade’s Guitar Festival. The group consisted of founder and virtuoso Štochelo (Štoke) Rozenberg main guitar, Mozes Rozenberg rhythm guitar, and Noni Rozenberg bass guitar.

Rosenberg Trio

Štoke is considered one of the best guitarists of all time. He started playing guitar at age 10 and won Guitarist Magazine’s prestigious Golden Guitar Award.

The performance was sold out and the audience went wild for the trio. They did two encores and ended with a toe-tapping Serbian / Hungarian piece that had the audience squealing with delight. They’re a lovely group with a wonderful vibe and have recorded 26 studio and concert albums. It was a memorable evening.

Kombank Hall Belgrade – SEEbtm

Next week there’s an International Piano Competition and luckily, I got a ticket! I’m taking some walking tours and have tickets for March ballet and opera performances at the National Theatre.

Interior Subotica Synagogue – szecesszio.szegedvaros.hu

Sergei Polunin’s Sacré Belgrade National Theatre

National Theater Belgrade – Apartment Beograd

While exploring Belgrade last week I discovered the magnificent National Theatre. Founded in 1868 the theater has a museum and two stages for ballet, opera, drama, and comedy performances. The March repertoire is amazing with something different appearing every day of the week! I joined the ticket line and booked two ballets and an opera. The total cost for all three performances was an unbelievable $30.

Sergei Polunin – The Independent

I’d heard of Sergei Polunin but didn’t know much about his career. His modern dance performance looked interesting. Luckily, I got the last available seat in the house – third-floor balcony! The elegant main stage has limited seating forcing many to watch while standing along the sidelines.

Sergei Polunin – Art2Arts

Sergei Polunin

Sergei Polunin is a 29-year-old Ukrainian ballet dancer who has danced since the age of 4. He attended London’s Royal Ballet School and holds citizenship in Ukraine, Russia, and Serbia. After resigning his position as principal dancer with the British Royal Ballet Polunin began freelancing.

Interior National Theater Belgrade – Itinari

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At 19, Sergei Polunin became the “British Royal Ballet’s youngest principal male dancer”. A few years later he resigned from the company with the words ‘the artist in me was dying’.

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Sacré Finale – Kolarov, Oishi, Polunin, Lyubimov

Polunin has been a guest artist at major dance theaters all over the world, including the Royal Ballet, Sadler’s Wells Theatre London, Bolshoi Theatre, Stanislavski and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow, La Scala Theatre Paris, Teatro San Carlo Naples, and Bayerisches Staatsballet Munich.

In 2014 and 2015 Polunin “collaborated with American photographer and music director David LaChapelle“. He participated in several new projects, including a dance video to the song “Take Me to Church” by Hozier.

Yuka Oishi Choreographer – Noizz

Polunin also performed in ballet-related film roles in Red Sparrow, Murder on the Orient Express, and a new film called Passion Simple, his first lead role.

Sergei Polunin – Dance Hall News

Controversial Polunin was the subject of the 2016 documentary film Dancer, directed by Steven Cantor. The documentary “analyzes Polunin’s childhood, training, and rise to international fame”.

Sergei Polunin and Laetitia Dosc Film Passion Simple – Wiki-commons

Sergei Polunin Sacré – Facebook

Sergei recently started the “Polunin Foundation dedicated to finding young and underprivileged individuals, providing them access to a professional dance education, and encouraging and developing their creativity “.

Yuka Oishi Choreographer, Dancer – Fiveprime

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“The goal of the Sergei Polunin Foundation is promoting ballet and dance to a wider audience while honoring traditional ballet and combining it with the most cutting-edge approach.”

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Vaslav Nijinsky Legendary Dancer and Choreographer – Wikiquote

Sergei Polunin’s Sacré

Last month Sergei Polunin performed his powerful new show Sacré in MoscowIt premiered in Switzerland in 2018. In the production, Japanese choreographer Yuka Oishi reinterprets Igor Stravinsky’s iconic ballet Le Sacré du printemps – Rite of Spring.

Alexey Lynbimov Soloist, Principal Ballet Dancer – Kulturserver

The ballet is a “tribute to legendary Russian dancer and kindred spirit Vaslav Nijinsky with Igor Stravinsky’s music taking center stage”. During Polunin’s solo he “explores Niminsky’s madness and his demand for a feeling, not thinking human”.

Igor Stravinsky Composer, Pianist, Conductor – The Guardian

Yuka Oishi Choreographer and Dancer

Yuka Oishi graduated from Hamburg Ballet School. She became an apprentice in 2002 and danced with the company as a soloist. Oishi began choreographing in 2012 and won prizes and recognition for her creativity and talent. Since 2015 she’s a freelance dancer and choreographer.

Alexey Lynbimov Soloist, Principal Ballet Dancer – tickets-to-the-theatre.com

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Sergei Polunin’s Sacré brings back the visions and music of the glorious Ballets Russes 1909 – 1929.

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Alexey Lynbimov and Dejan Kolarov

The evening began with dramatic performances by Alexey Lynbimov and Dejan Kolarov. Alexey is a soloist and principal dancer at Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Moscow. He was awarded Ballet Magazine ‘Soul of the Dance’ Award in 2017 and has danced in ballet productions with Polunin.

Alexey Lynbimov Soloist, Principal Ballet Dancer – Pictame

Dejan Kolarov attended Serbian ballet schools in Zrenjanin and Belgrade and became a soloist at Germany’s Theatre Augsburg. In 2010 he returned to Belgrade National Theatre and became the ballet company’s first soloist. A multi-talented artist, Kolarov is a dancer, director, and choreographer.

Dejan Kolarov Dancer, Director, Choreographer – Narodno Pozoriste

It was a splendid performance! I’m still processing the deep message and creative performance – so much talent!

Dejan Kolarov Dancer, Director, Choreographer – Narodno Pozoriste