In September of 2018, the Hungarian State Opera staged Ferenc Erkel’s opera Hunyadi László and Ronald Hynd’s ballet choreographed to the music of Ferenc “Franz” Lehár’s The Merry Widow in Zagreb. It is appropriate to return the same opportunity and promise of success, so now, 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 production by director Krešimir Dolenčić stars Stjepan Franetović and Tamara Franetović Felbinger, the ensembles of the Croatian National Theatre are conducted by Josip Šego.
According to Thomas Mann, “Art is an enhancement of life. It makes you more deeply happy, it wears you out faster. It engraves on the face of its servant the traces of imaginary, intellectual adventures, and with time, even when his external existence is one of cloister-like calm, it makes him spoiled and fastidious, producing a weariness and nervous curiosity that could hardly be generated by a lifetime full of extravagant passions and pleasures.” It was this essence of art transcending life that captivated choreographer Valentina Turcu, a former dancer who now often works as a director and at developing librettos and musical concepts for stages in different countries. This choreography set to the music of Mahler – which is practically intertwined with the novel – presents Mann’s still-relevant thoughts as transplanted into the modern world and features ballet dancers Takuyama Sumitomo, Guilherme Gameiro Alves and Andrea Schifano in the main roles.