Last year I enjoyed Edmonton Opera’s production of Beethoven’s Fidelio, my first opera ever. This winter I decided to try out a contemporary opera, Svadba – Wedding, by composer Ana Sokolović, produced by Toronto’s Queen of Puddings Music Theatre and part of Edmonton Opera’s ATB Canadian Series.
Svadba is Serbian for wedding, and the opera is sung in Serbian (with English surtitles of course). It is performed almost completely a capella (with some percussive sound effects done on stage), with a cast of only six singers, four sopranos and two mezzo-sopranos. The show didn’t really seem to have conventional linear storyline, but was rather a series of songs sung by a bride and her group of female friends throughout the night before her wedding and as she finishes preparing in the morning. In one of the songs the bride, Milica, seemed to be saying that she wanted to marry Ilija but her mother was giving her to Jovan, but I’m not sure I understood that right since the later wistfulness and farewells could have just easily been a sort of farewell to unencumbered life with friends.
The close harmonies and impeccable timing of the singing were impressive. I don’t know enough about music to tell why they worked so well, but Mark Morris’ review from the Journal explains some. I was surprised before the show to see that there was a conductor, because I had never really thought about whether a conductor in a fully orchestrated opera would be directing the singers as well as the instrumental musicians.
The costumes were all black and red: flouncy short dresses, corset-inspired tops, and leather in a combination with both folkloric and modern allusions. There was a lot of magenta-toned lighting making the reds harsher, and some effective dramatic use of other colours in a couple of songs. Good use was made of interesting props enhancing the mood and imagery.
There are two more shows, Friday and Saturday night at C103 (the space on Gateway Boulevard formerly known as Catalyst Theatre), and probably not many tickets left. My own operagoing experience was marred somewhat by an inconsiderate fellow patron who chose to occupy two seats until the last minute before the show, but I gather from the conversation that I couldn’t help overhearing that she’s gone back to Toronto now so you shouldn’t have that problem.