Barber of Seville and Lady of the Camellias Sarajevo

Boston Ballet – BosGuy

The Barber of SevilleCancelled

Sarajevo’s Opera and Philharmonic were set to perform The Barber of Seville on Tuesday night. Written by Italian composer Gioachino Rossini the popular comic opera first appeared in Sarajevo in 1948 with repeat performances over the years.

Co-produced with the Italian Embassy the opera is based on a play by French playwright Pierre Beaumarchais. The performance got cancelled with short notice when the lead vocalist developed laryngitis.

Marie Duplessis Alexandre Dumas’ Lover – Kinuko Y. Craft

The Lady of the Camellias Ballet – aka Camille

Thursday night Sarajevo Ballet performed The Lady of the Camellias at the National Theater. Written by American choreographer and producer John Neumeier the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra accompanied the ballet with choreography by Russian Vasili Medvedev and Frédéric Chopin’s music.

Background and Plot

John Neumeier’s ballet is based on Alexandre Dumas’ novel La Dame aux Camellias written in 1848. In 1852 a play of the same name premiered in Paris and was “an instant success”. Giuseppe Verdi put Dumas’ tragic story to music creating the opera La Traviata, with female protagonist Marguerite Gautier renamed Violetta Valéry.

Italian Composer Giacomo Puccini – rhinegold.co.uk

Inspired by Verdi’s La Traviata, in 1978 Neumeier created a ballet using the same tragic theme with music by Frederic Chopin. His ballet is the story of a couple who meet in Paris at a performance of Puccini’s Manon Lescaut. This is significant because Manon Lescaut characters are similar to those in Neumeier’s ballet.

Armand and Marguerite The Lady of the Camellias – Ooppera Baletti

The title role, Marguerite Gautier, is based on Marie Duplessis, the real-life lover of Alexandre Dumas. Set in mid-19th-century France, it’s a tragic love story between fictional characters. The female protagonist, Marguerite, is a famous rococo courtesan with terminal consumption. Armand Duval, a young bourgeois aristocrat, meets her in Paris and falls in love.

La Dame aux Carmelias Poster – Pictorem.com

Prologue

The ballet takes place after Marguerite’s death at an auction of the furnishings in her “luxurious Paris apartment”. The story evolves as a “series of memories” recalled by several people:

  • Nanina – Marguerite’s loyal servant
  • Armand Duval – Marguerite’s lover
  • Monsieur Duval – Armand’s father

Vasily Medvedev Russian Choreographer

Act I

Carrying Marguerite’s diary, Nanina says farewell to the Paris apartment. Among those at the auction is Monsieur Duval, whose son Armand “rushes in frantically overcome by his memories and emotions”. Armand tells his story about meeting Marguerite in Paris at a performance of Manon Lescaut and falling in love with her

Sarajevo National Theatre – Wikimedia

Aware of her fatal illness Marguerite needs the comforts of luxury provided by wealthy Dukes and Counts. She’s attracted to Armand and they enjoy a “series of adventures” in and around Paris. For the benefit of her other admirers Marguerite “insists their affair remain secret”.

Frédéric Chopin Polish Composer and Pianist – WRTI

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“While Marguerite continues her hectic life, hastening from ball to ball, from one ardent admirer to the next, from an old Duke to a young Count, Armand is always there — waiting for her.”

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Sarajevo Ballet Cast

Act II

As time passes Marguerite acknowledges her love for Armand. They move to the countryside and are finally together while she regains her health.

Monsieur Duval visits Marguerite to insist that living with a prostitute will “ruin his son”. Marguerite protests but realizes the truth of Monsieur Duval’s accusations. She “gives in to his demands and out of deep and sincere love” leaves Armand.

Alexandre Dumas French Writer – Smithsonian American Art Museum

Unbelieving, Armand follows Marguerite to Paris and finds her in the arms of the Duke. He takes revenge by flirting with a beautiful young courtesan, Olympia.

“Deathly ill, Marguerite visits Armand begging him not to hurt her by flaunting his affair with Olympia. Their passion ignites once more, but she remembers her promise to his father and leaves Armand a second time.”

Armand publicly humiliates Marguerite at a grand ball, by handing her money as payment for past services. She collapses.

John Neumeier American Choreographer, Dancer, Director – Nationale Opera and Ballet

Epilogue

Armand reaches the end of his story. Rejected because of her past, his beloved Marguerite dies alone. He will never see her again. Deeply moved, Armand’s father leaves. Marguerite’s servant Nanina approaches and gives Armand the diary containing Marguerite’s last thoughts of love for him.

The theme and characters from Puccini’s Manon Lescaut – where Armand and Marguerite first met in Paris – are ironically similar. The main character dies in the arms of her faithful lover. Armand silently closes Marguerite’s diary.

Italian Composer Giuseppe Verdi – Giovanni Boldini WQXR

It was a lovely ballet and all seats in the house were sold. The set, costumes, and symphony were exquisite. Talented dancers shined while performing difficult choreography and the audience clearly appreciated them. Throughout the evening I detected many Italian and Russian accents. There was no printed program listing names of the dancers, and photos were not allowed.

Symphony, ballet, and opera performances in Sarajevo are inexpensive. I paid about $10 for a great seat at this performance.

Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra

Toshio Yanagisawa Conductor and Boštjan Lipovšek Horn Soloist

Last Thursday I attended a Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra performance at the National Theatre – literally around the corner from my apartment. The Philharmonic is more active in summer, so it was lucky finding this special winter performance. Samra Gulamović, a native of Sarajevo, is the orchestra’s principal conductor. Toshio Yanagisawa was guest conductor with Boštjan Lipovšek as horn soloist.

History Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra

Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra is the first professionally organized symphonic orchestra in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The orchestra is “rooted in ensembles established during Austro-Hungarian rule”. Created in 1923, it’s a “significant pillar of music culture for Sarajevo and the Bosnian region”.

National Theatre Sarajevo – visistmycountry.net

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“Counting decades in an environment where social developments ruthlessly affected cultural circumstances, the Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra repeatedly reprinted the pages of its history.”

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Samra Gulamović Principal Conductor Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra – Spettacoli

During World War II 1941-1945, the Sarajevo Philharmonic stopped working. In 1948 the orchestra resumed its activities and pursued several goals:

  • Perform symphonic music by national and international authors
  • Encourage new symphonic works
  • Raise the quality of performances
  • Satisfy the cultural needs of citizens
  • Support institutions developing music culture

Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra – Uroš Lajovic

Beginning in 1992 the Bosnian War and Siege of Sarajevo destroyed much that was built during the previous decade. The Sarajevo Philharmonic “suffered great material and human losses and stopped performing for two years”.

Zubin Mehta Conductor – thenationall.ae

A “turning point for the Philharmonic” was a concert in 1994 conducted by Indian maestro Zubin Mehta. The orchestra performed Mozart’s Requiem in the bombed remains of Sarajevo’s City Hall.

City Hall After Siege of Sarajevo – Wikipedia

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The Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra will celebrate its 97th anniversary in 2020.

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Boštjan Lipovšek French Horn

February 21st Performance

The evening included brilliant music and interesting company!  It was my first time inside the National Theater, a small but spectacular hall! The performance sold out.

Sarajevo National Theatre

Japanese guest conductor Toshio Yanagisawa led the orchestra. The horn soloist was Slovenian Boštjan Lipovšek. This was the program:

Chandelier National Theatre Sarajevo – visistmycountry.net

Toshio Yanagisawa Guest Conductor

Born in 1971, Toshio Yanagisawa studied conducting at Ecole Normal de Musique in Paris. He has conducted throughout Japan, Europe, and the US including Tokyo, Osaka, Kosovo, Macedonia, Vienna, Geneva, and New York. Yanagisawa is Music Director of the Balkan Chamber Orchestra, Chief Conductor Kosovo Philharmonic Orchestra, Honored Principal Conductor Beograd Sinfonietta, and Principal Guest Conductor Serbia Nis Symphony Orchestra. He’s a fantastic, humble conductor, always deferring applause to the soloist and orchestra.

Toshio Yanagisawa Conductor

Boštjan Lipovšek Horn Soloist

Boštjan Lipovšek comes from a “Slovenian musical family of horn players”. He graduated from Ljubljana’s Music Academy and attended the Salzburg Mozarteum. As a soloist he’s received many awards and played with the Slovene Philharmonic Orchestra, Maribor Philharmonics, Dubrovnik Symphony Orchestra, Philharmonic Orchestra from Udine, Chamber Orchestra Padova e Veneto, Jeunesses Musicales World Orchestra, La Monnaie Opera House Brussels, Berlin Symphony Orchestra, and Mahler Chamber Orchestra. He teaches at Music Academies in Ljubljana and Zagreb.

Toshio Yanagisawa Conductor

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On June 19, 1994 Sarajevo Philharmonic Orchestra performed Mozart’s Requiem in the ruins of  City Hall.

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Boštjan Lipovšek Horn Soloist

The atmosphere and music were spectacular. Sarajevo’s Philharmonic ended with an exceptional performance of Beethoven’s Symphony No. 5! Opera and ballet performances are on the February schedule, so I will visit the National Theater again.

Sarajevo Bosnia and Herzegovina

Gazi Husrev-Beg Mosque – Bjoertvedt WikiCommons

I love Sarajevo – a cool European city with a laid back atmosphere! It’s a treat exploring such an agreeable place. The people are friendlier than Berlin, Croatia, and Montenegro. They make things comfortable and it’s easy to blend.

Austrian Architecture Old Town

Performing Arts and Architecture

My apartment is along the Miljacka River which has 20+ bridges. It’s near Old Town close to restaurants, markets, museums, and the National Theatre, a venue for symphony, ballet, opera, and theater performances. Sarajevo Philharmonic is more active in the summer, but there’s a concert February 21.

Cathedral Church of the Nativity of the Theotokos – Bjoertvedt WikiCommons

The University of Sarajevo and Sarajevo’s Academy of Performing Arts work with Open Stage Obala, an “alternative theatre scene”. Students present their works along with professional actors, directors, and writers. I remember thoroughly enjoying an alternative theater performance in Ljubljana a few years ago. There are plays almost every day at the National Theatre. 

Franz Leo Ruben Bascarsija Sarajevo

Architecture in Sarajevo reflects Ottoman, Austro-Hungarian, Yugoslavian, and Soviet influences. The churches, mosques, and synagogues are spectacular!

Sarajevo City Hall – Lasserbua WikiCommons

Bumpy Trip Kotor to Sarajevo

The trip from Kotor was a bit bumpy. I booked the bus not only because it was economical but also to enjoy glorious Balkan scenery – the sunset was gorgeous! Later I learned that Internet bus bookings aren’t the best option. It’s better to make reservations in person at the station. Apparently, no buses go directly from Kotor to Sarajevo, so the trip involved a layover. The drivers (there are two who switch) looked at my ticket and had a lively conversation in Montenegrin. Neither spoke much English.

Sarajevo Vista – Luke McCallin

One driver approached speaking Montenegrin. He quickly realized I didn’t understand and tried to speak English asking where I was from – the other driver said Netherlands, I shook my head, then Denmark, UK… When I smiled and said US, they both laughed – not sure what that meant, but people in the Balkans seem to like Americans. Gruff and unfriendly when I boarded the bus, the drivers warmed up.

Sarajevo National Theatre – Youth History Blog

Border Crossings, Other Passengers

There weren’t many passengers but several pick-up and drop-off stops. At each border crossing – Montenegro,  Croatia, Bosnia – we got off the bus. After immigration agents checked and stamped our passports, we walked a few meters between countries and the bus picked us up on the other side. This reminded me of border crossings in South America. During the process I met other passengers. Two young guys from Sabah Malaysia seemed a bit lost. Mountain climbers, they were working up to the Himalayas. We chatted about Mt. Kinabalu in Malaysia which I climbed many years ago.

Sculpting Old Town

Bus Change, Taxi Drama, Early Arrival

Several stops later the drivers suggested I switch buses and take one going directly to Sarajevo – another passenger on the bus translated. The change would bypass a layover and cut 2 hours off my travel time. I agreed.

Sarajevo Clock Tower – KB Abroad

It was slightly unnerving when we pulled off the highway in the dark to meet the other bus and make the change. There were only a few passengers on board. The drivers were smoking so much it almost made me sick. After a pit stop at a small café, we arrived in Sarajevo around 10 pm. It was snowing!

Ali Pasha Mosque Sarajevo – Damien Smith

The next hurdle was notifying my accommodation I was arriving early. There was no Internet and I didn’t have a local SIM card yet. I asked the bus driver about taxis – big mistake. He immediately called a friend who gladly picked me up – ha no taxi sign on the car or meter inside, but since no “real taxis” were in sight… With few options, I got in and asked the driver to call the accommodation to explain I was checking in early. We arrived at the apartment before the landlord.

Sarajevo Scene Near Apartment

Then the dodgy driver said the charge for the “taxi ride” was 20 Euro (that’s almost 10 times too much) for such a short drive! I had no opportunity to get local currency – Bosnian Marka (BAM). Fuddled I didn’t ask the fee before getting inside his car :( which clearly was not a taxi. I gave him a piece of my mind as he grabbed the 20 Euro note, jumped into his car, and sped off leaving me standing in the cold and dark.

Old Town Vista

Just as I was about to scream, the landlord arrived to welcome me. I told him the taxi story. He rolled his eyes agreeing that local taxis weren’t always reliable or trustworthy.

Latin Bridge Miljacka River Near Apartment

I take responsibility for the taxi fiasco. The situation caught me off guard – difficult to think out all scenarios. Word of advice for travelers – always beware of taxi drivers! I seem to relearn that lesson often. Uber isn’t available in Bosnia but a local company supposedly has a mobile app – couldn’t find it… In transit between countries I’ll remember to use my international SIM card.

Sarajevo Old Town – World Nomads

More later…