“Before us are musical events that represent the highlights of the ECOC concert program, but also the highlights of the classical music program of our Theatre in general,” said the intendant of the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka, Marin Blažević, at the beginning of the announcement of upcoming musical events at today’s press conference titled, “Musical Highlights” (“Glazbeni vrhunci”).
On that occasion, he announced the gala concert of the world opera prima donna Karita Mattila on September 18 at the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc, then the performance of Mahler’s grandiose Second Symphony “Resurrection” on September 23 at the Zamet Center, which are part of the ECOC – Rijeka 2020 project program, as well as a nearly all-day program celebrating the 135th anniversary of the opening of the Rijeka Theatre building and the start of a new theatre season, featuring Zajc’s opera “Nikola Šubić Zrinjski” and a concert performance of Verdi’s “Aida,” alongside the opening of the Zajc Theatre Gallery.
Karita Mattila Gala Concert
“Karita Mattila is certainly among the greatest sopranos and opera stars who have come or will come to the Rijeka Theatre and collaborate with the Rijeka Symphony Orchestra. She is not only a fantastic singer, but also an extraordinary actress who belongs to a special category of world opera stars. Because of her unusual experience of roles, dramatic and psychological, she is often compared to Maria Callas,” said Marin Blažević. He then highlighted the performances from her rich biography which have featured on the world’s largest opera and concert stages, such as the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Houston Grand Opera, London Royal Opera and Covent Garden, the Paris Opera and Bavarian State Opera, Berlin State Opera Unter den Linden and many others. In addition to the roles and performances with which she has dazzled the opera world, among the highlights of her career are two recordings which have been awarded with the prestigious Grammy Award for Best Opera Recording, with which she won a number of other international awards and recognition.
“Another special feature of Karita Mattila is that she is a role model for contemporary singers; she sings almost the entire repertoire, Italian, Slavic and German. Therefore, the program of her concert in Rijeka, which will be conducted by maestro Villa Matvejeff, will include arias from operas by Puccini, Dvořak and Wagner, and the program will, of course, include the greatest composer of her native Finland, Jean Sibelius.”
Mahler’s Second – “Resurrection”
“After the gala concert by Karita Mattila, a concert spectacle awaits us, which tries to ‘defy’ the pandemic situation in which we live, so it will be performed at the Zamet Center. Mahler’s Second Symphony, one of the greatest symphonies ever composed, will be performed by the Rijeka Symphony Orchestra and the Rijeka Opera Choir, joined by the Croatian Radio and Television Symphony Orchestra and Choir, in a performance bringing together more than a hundred orchestral musicians and as many choir members. It will also be the inaugural performance for maestro Philipp von Steinaecker, the new main guest conductor of the Rijeka Opera,” announced Intendant Marin Blažević.
He added that the performance of Mahler’s “Resurrection” was never planned in the Rijeka Theatre, whose stage could not accommodate such a large number of performers, and that the hall of the Zamet Center, in addition to its excellent acoustic ambience, allows for the prescribed physical distance between performers. However, precisely due to this observance of anti-epidemic measures, only 700 spectators can be admitted into the hall at once. Intendant Blažević therefore urged audiences to secure their tickets as soon as possible.
After the Rijeka performance, which will be attended by soprano and national principal Kristina Kolar, as well as mezzo-soprano and principal of the Rijeka Opera Ivana Srbljan, the Zagreb performance will follow a day later in Dom Sportova, which will be recorded and broadcast by HTV.
135th Anniversary of the Opening of the Theatre Building: Zrinjski and Aida
“On the anniversary of the opening of the Theatre building on October 3rd, which may not be chronologically one of the ‘round’ ones that are usually celebrated, we will perform two operas in one day: at noon, Nikola Šubić Zrinjski by the Rijeka-born Ivan pl. Zajc, which was not performed at the opening in 1885 though it had already been composed at the time, and the evening concert performance of Verdi’s Aida, whose performance in Rijeka was interrupted by a power outage on October 3, 1885,” began Blažević’s announcement of the program marking the anniversary of the opening of the building.
He then emphasized that Zrinjski, under the controversial direction of Dora Ruždjak Podolski, which divided the audience at the time of the premiere, will surely especially resonate now, because its placement in a dystopian space, with choristers as scientists trying to find a formula for the salvation of the nation, anticipated exactly what is happening today.
The main roles will be played by Robert Kolar, Kristina Kolar, Anamarija Knego and Aljaž Farasin, who also participated in the recording for the CD edition which was recently released and presented in Rijeka, produced by the famous international recording house, CPO.
Thanks to the idea of maestro Igor Vlajnić, who will conduct the performance, the opera will still be performed with musicians in the orchestra pit at their recommended distance, since the composition of the orchestra will be exactly as it was during the long-ago Zagreb premiere, with about 30 musicians.
However, since this is not possible with Verdi’s Aida, the opera will, conducted by the new house conductor Valentin Egel, be performed in concert, or semi-stage.
It will also be a charity performance, with revenues going towards students of the newly started Giorgio Surian Opera Studio, which is why all guests who normally receive tickets are invited to buy them this time.
All guest soloists will also perform pro bono, donating their fees to the work of the Opera Studio.
In this performance, the people of Rijeka will be introduced to Aida as performed by Maida Hundeling, whose interpretations of Elektra and Isolde were greeted by a standing ovation from the enthusiastic Rijeka audience. Domagoj Dorotić will make his debut in the role of Radames, Dubravka Šeparović Mušović will play Amneris, and the role of Amonasro will be performed by Giorgio Surian.
The Zajc Theatre Gallery
The theatre gallery project, created on the initiative of a long-time theatre employee, photographer Dražen Šokčević, was presented to the press by the head of the audience development program, Katarina Mažuran Jurešić.
“The basic idea of the exhibition is that there is no single and exact story about the theatre, because the theatre is made up of people,” said Katarina Mažuran Jurešić. “Just the different perspectives of people: those on stage, behind the stage, in the audience, those from the past as well as our contemporaries – they all make up a series of parallel stories in which this house is reflected. An emotional history of the theatre is being created, which is layered, and which, most importantly, doesn’t end on the opening day of the Gallery on October 3, but goes on! As with the Time Capsule project, we have been collecting records and memories of our audience for a year now, a process which continues in the Gallery. We are inviting citizens to contact us and record their statements and memories, as we collect photographs and objects reminding you of our theatre, thereby continuing the steady and lasting growth of the Gallery’s content.”
In addition to these records, she added, the Zajc Theatre Gallery will also provide a historical overview of the work, plays and artists that have distinguished the Rijeka Theatre. Parts of the scenography will be exhibited, as well as props and costumes which can be touched and felt. Furthermore, certain hitherto unknown stories will be revealed, such as the bizarre failure of the attempt to establish the first theatre museum in Rijeka in 1952, insights into the human side of the great Ivan pl. Zajc, stories of theatre etiquette, fantastic theatrical vocabulary, and more. Of course, the Gallery is also an opportunity to emphasize that the originals of the early works of the great Gustav Klimt are kept in the Croatian National Theatre, works which will return to their rightful place as soon as their restoration and exhibition in the Rijeka City Museum are completed.
“The exhibition is organized as a project of the European Capital of Culture and a part of the European Project ADESTE+, with tremendous help from the employees and artists of the Theatre, the audience, volunteers and donors. We especially thank Ms. Grozdana Božić and Ms. Ivanka Pavičić with the Rijeka Textile Company,” concluded Katarina Mažuran Jurešić.
Spectacular Conclusion, Spectacular Continuation
“After the spectacular conclusion of the summer season before the break, with concerts and as many as seven premieres, each better than the last, it is evident that the story will continue in the same manner,” said Rijeka Mayor Vojko Obersnel.
“However, I must point out that I am extremely sorry that, due to the anti-epidemic measures, these spectacular programs will only be able to be seen by a smaller audience than would normally be the case.”
Recalling that the September concerts are an integral part of the ECOC program, Mayor Obersnel expressed satisfaction with the overall program following the shock in March, because of which a summer packed with various excellent programs is behind us, which will continue with the concerts announced today.
Sponsor of the Karita Mattila Gala Concert