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Feb. 11 2024

Peabody Chamber Opera transforms Theatre Project with SVABDA

By Gavin Witt | Posted in Interviews, Staff Blogs, WBJC Programs | Comments Off on Peabody Chamber Opera transforms Theatre Project with SVABDA

What do you get when you join six sopranos and mezzos, take away the orchestra, add folk dances and wedding customs, and put the whole thing in Serbian? Some of us might end up with nothing short of aa cacaphonous mess; but in the capable hands of composer Ana Sokolović , conductor Djordje Nesic, stage director Erin Ridge, six talented Peabody musicians, and a host of others, the result promises to be an unique chamber opera filled with delightful surprises and resonant reflections.

As the director notes in the production program,

Svadba (“marriage” in Serbian) is an opera without orchestra, and almost without plot. The scenes unfold not in a linear narrative but in a playful interconnection of moments that transform the ordinary into the mystic. On the eve of the ceremony, Milica, the bride-to-be, and her five bridesmaids gather to share in intimate, pre-wedding rituals that prepare the bride as she traverses that liminal space between girlhood and womanhood to an unknown world beyond. It is here on the precipice of change that we join these women in their joy, grief, reconciliation, love, and ultimate celebration of enduring sisterhood.
You will notice that while supertitles for the Serbian text have been provided, following the text closely might not always illuminate the story on stage. Instead, we encourage you to interact with this piece through the individual elements of its unique sound world — the contours, the rhythm, and the way the voices and bodies relate to each other. Allow your sense to roam through the piece and notice what emerges. We will see you on the other side.

You can hear an extended version of my conversation with conductor Djordje Nesic and Peabody Opera Interim Artistic Managing Director Mary Duncan here, and find out more about the production (and grab tickets for this very short run) at the Theatre Project website, https://www.theatreproject.org/

In supplement to our chat, the conductor noted that he wanted to add additional special thanks:

“I want to share my appreciation for WBJC as well as Peabody and all the people who helped create our show, including: Mary Duncan, Laurie Rogers (head of music staff), Erin Ridge (director), Gloria Yin (assistant music director), and Allison Bailey (stage manager).”

I’d like to thank both Djordje and Mary for making time, at short notice and in the midst of their final rehearsals, to bring us their thoughts on the piece!

NOTE: The Peabody Chamber Opera has been performing at Theatre Project for 20 years! Past productions you may have seen there include Postcards From Morocco, Giulio Cesare, Mansfield Park, Women in the DarkOut of Darkness: Two Remain, Dido and Aeneas, The Fairy Queen, and The Falling and the Rising.

The Peabody Chamber Opera is part of the Peabody Institute Opera Theatre Program. They present complete productions of operas calling for smaller stage and instrumental forces than their mainstage productions. These productions use simple scenery and full costumes; they are sung in the original languages and (typically) accompanied by a small orchestra. They tend to fall into two categories: baroque and modern. All have multiple performances, and many roles are double-cast.


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WBJC listeners and Baltimore audiences may know Gavin from his nearly 20 years as dramaturg and associate artistic director at Baltimore Center Stage (in which capacity he was a frequent guest on WBJC to talk about programs and events), or from regular appearances alongside Jonathan Palevsky at the Charles Theater for Cinema Sundays discussions. A director, dramaturg, producer, translator, and adaptor who also teaches on the theater faculty at Towson University, Gavin is a recent addition to the WBJC team and delighted to play this new role.

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