National Theatre in Belgrade
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In 1868, the Serbian National Theatre from Novi Sad (then the capital of Serbian culture in Austria-Hungary) performed in Belgrade (then the capital of the Principality of Serbia). Prince Michael, impressed by the performances he experienced, invited Jovan Đorđević (the founder of the Novi Sad Serbian National Theatre) to found a similar institution in Serbia. Having accepted, Jovan Đorđević came to Belgrade with half of his company of actors and founded the National Theatre in Belgrade, seven years after having founded the Novi Sad theatre.
The National Theatre building
The National Theatre Belgrade was built in 1869 according to the design of Aleksandar Bugarski, the most productive architect of Belgrade in the 19th century. The decision to construct a special building for the theatre was made by Knez Mihailo Obrenović. The building was a typical theatre building at the time and was particularly reminiscent of La Scala, Milan, with regard to its Renaissance conception and the decorative finish. Later, reconstructions completely changed the original appearance. The heavy reconstruction was made in 1986 when the theatre regained the 1922 look and an annex was built towards Braće Jugovića Street. Beside theatrical purposes, the hall has been used for charity balls and concerts during the 19th century. The Great Constitutional Assembly adopted the famous 1888 Constitution in this building.
The National Theatre Belgrade has 2 halls for performing arts.
- Main Stage
The Grand Hall has 3 levels. The ground level has 219 seats in total with the seats at the front being most expensive. There are 3 balconies in the theatre with the first one being the most expensive.
Large operas, dramas and ballets are presented at the Grand Hall.
- Raša Plaović Stage
Raša Plaović has 281 seats and with no balconies. It is much smaller and less beautiful then the Grand Hall. Smaller scale dramas are played out on this stage.
The events of 1999
During one of the toughest times in Serbian history, which is the 1999 NATO bombing, this theatre was the only one to open its doors to the public during the 78-day air raids. For only 1 dinar, opera, plays and ballets were performed to the public. The performance times were very unusual, from 15:00 to 18:00. It was done because in that period of time there were not NATO air strikes on Belgrade. World well-known opera conductor, maestro Alberto Zedda, said once that during those horrible days Belgrade Opera was proudly writing the most dignified pages of history of world opera.
Drama, opera, ballet
The activity of Drama of the National Theatre can be viewed as a development in four stages: from 1868 till 1914, from 1918 till 1941, from 1945 until 1991, and from 1991 till today. The first stage is marked by many tragedies and enactments inspired by medieval and modern history, like The Death of Uroš V by Stefan Stefanović. The characteristic of the repertoire of the National Theatre, especially at the end of the 19th century were plays with singing like dramatizations of Stevan Sremac’s popular short stories: Zona Zamfirova and Ivkova Slava.
In the first two decades of the 20th century the broadening of subject matters was noticeable. Beside Branislav Nušić others like Simo Matavulj, Vojislav Jovanović Marambo, Mirabo and Milivoj Predić must be mentioned. Koštana by Borisav Stanković was first shown at the very beginning of the 20th century and it has remained the cult performance of this theatre till this day. In the first stage on the repertoire of the National Theatre were plays written by the most significant writers of all periods: from the earliest (Sophocles), to Shakespeare, Calderon, Molière, Racine, Goldoni, Rostand, Gete, Ibsen, Strindberg, Gogol, Ostrovsky, Chekhov and Gorky.
Between the two world wars, speaking of domestic dramaturgy, the plays of Jovan Sterija Popović, Branislav Nušić, Milutin Bojić, Borisav Stanković, Ivo Vojnović, Milan Begović, Ivan Cankar and Todor Manojlović were staged.
In the period from 1945 till 1953 the plays with clear political message were played. Political changes and certain liberalization characterise the relationship towards the foreign dramaturgy and discovering of the American drama and the works of Jonesco and Becket.
The seventies and eighties were marked by plays of Borislav Mihajlović Mihiz, Aleksandar Popović, Žarko Komanin, Ljubomir Simović and Jovan Hristić. The National Theatre opened its door to the contemporary world dramaturgy. Plays by Martin Mcdona, Erich Emanuel Schmidt, Nina Valsa, Jasmina Reza, Pavel Kohout are played and plays by Serbian contemporary writers Siniša Kovačević, Vida Ognjenović, Jelena Kajgo, Miloš Nikolić, Stevan Pešić can be seen on the stage of the National Theatre.
The music ensemble of the National Theatre in Belgrade worked towards being a professional opera ensemble from 1882.
As an independent ensemble, the Opera of the National Theatre began its work in 1919. On 11 February 1919, under the leadership of the first music director of the Opera Sector of the National Theatre, Stanislav Binički, a conductor, the opera Madam Butterfly by Giacomo Puccini, was performed. The first opera performances were received very favourably, most of them were operas by Italian composers (Rossini, Verdi), while Serbian music was represented by the works of Stevan Hristić (The sunset), and Petar Konjović (Prince of Zeta).
In the ten years 1924 to 1933 Stevan Hristić was the director of the Belgrade Opera. This period marked an expansion of the repertoire and the first tour abroad. Conductors such as Lovro Matačić, Ivan Brezovšek, directors Branko Gavela and Josip Kulundžić were notable in the period between the two wars. Russian singers prevailed in the ensemble, but there were also Serbian singers such as Zdenka Zikova, Melanija Bugarinović and Nikola Cvejić; as well as Bosnian singers such as Bahrija Nuri Hadžić.
The golden period of the Belgrade Opera saw significant development and international affirmation of the Serbian operatic art. Starting in 1954 with a very successful performance of Boris Godunov by Modest Mussorgsky in Switzerland as a part of a concert cycle 'Clubhouse', and gramophone recordings of seven major Russian operas for Decca. The Decca series was supported by Gerald Severn, an émigré white Russian. The venue found in the then Yugoslav capital for the first batch of recordings was the cinema in the Dome of Culture (House of culture) complex, but which could only be used after the last film of the day (around 11pm) so sessions took place at night. Prince Igor and Khovanschina were recorded in February 1955, with Eugene Onegin, Life for the Tsar, Snow Maiden and Queen of Spades in September and October that year, all among the early Decca stereo records. The company's recording of Boris Godunov took place in Zagreb between the other sets of sessions.
The culmination of this 'golden period' was an outstanding production of Mazeppa by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky on the stage of the Theater das Westerns in West Berlin. The most eminent foreign critics pointed out the wholeness of the performance, good teamwork and the beauty of the performing, outstanding soloist creations, acoustic superiority, the homogeneity of the choir and the professional playing of the orchestra of the National Theatre from Belgrade. The opera has attracted talented musicians, including Sándor Szabó and others.
Ballet has always been a great part of the National Theatre Belgrade. One of its most important and most watched ballet performances is the Swan Lake. Ballet of the National Theatre is very well known by its world premieres. One of the titles national Ballet is proud the most is Anna Karenina by Russian composer Schedrin, as well as The Legend from Ohrid by Serbian composer S. Hristic.
- List of directors of the National Theatre in Belgrade
- Monuments of Culture of Great Importance
- Tourism in Serbia
- Monuments of Culture in Serbia: Народно позориште / National Theatre (SANU) (Serbian) (English)
- Walker, Malcolm. Two-channel pathfinder (interview with Roy G Wallace). International Classical Record Collector, Autumn 1997, p52-62.
- Philip Stuart. Decca Classical, 1929-2009 (Discography) .
- Independent Press (March 15, 2012). "Concert alert: Oratorio Society Performs a romantic spring Brahms program". nj.com. Retrieved 2012-09-25. "About Dr. Sandor Szabo ... teaching piano at the University of Music Arts, Novi Sad, and working as Assistant Conductor/Accompanist at the Ser-bian National Opera. Dr. Szabo has studied with many distinguished musicians, including conducting with Stanko Sepic, Ann Howard Jones and Joseph Flummerfelt; piano with Zol-tan Kocsis, Nevena Popovic, Anthony di Bonaventura and Tong Il Han; organ with Gabor Lehotka, Max Miller, Eugene Roan and McNeil Robinson; and harpsichord with Mark Kroll. ..."
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