In September of 2018, the Carpathian Homeland Opera Tour was extended to include a new final stop in Zagreb, where there was a traditional theatre building ready to greet us instead of an athletic facility, allowing us to stage Ferenc Erkel’s opera Hunyadi László and Ronald Hynd’s ballet choreographed to the music of Ferenc “Franz” Lehár’s The Merry Widow in considerably more comfort than elsewhere on the road. It is appropriate to return the same opportunity and promise of success, so now, a bit over a year later, the company of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb will be visiting the Erkel Theatre, also for two nights, with a pair of works that are important to them.
As Jakov Gotovac’s most successful and popular work, Ero the Joker has long been considered one of the finest Slavic comic operas. Since its premiere at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb in 1935, it has been almost constantly included in the repertoires of every Croatian national theatre.
Many reviews of productions on foreign stages have held Ero to be the symbol of Croatian opera, the one that brings the songs and dances of its homeland to the world, with text and music impeccably intertwined. The chromatic music, rich orchestration, lively rhythms, and continuously flowing melodic vocal lines are closely tied to the exceptional libretto by Milan Begović, which is full of humorous and witty verses.
The main character of the opera and the central figure of the narrative is Mica, a young man from a wealthy rural family in Dalmatinska Zagora. While searching for a wife, he follows his mother’s advice and pretends to be a poor man. He introduces himself to everyone as “Ero from another world”, wishing to be certain that his chosen one, Đula, truly loves him. In spite of the fact that he tricks many people, he is eventually forgiven for everything and gets the girl he loves.
The vigorous ballet finale of the opera, with its frenzied tempo, is an ode of sorts to a rural way of life, wherein the music, full of the ethos of the Dalmatian hinterland, swells to prominence.
World premiere: 2 November 1935, Zagreb
Premiere of this production: 9 May 1992, Zagreb
Revival: 12 March 2010, Zagreb