Wednesday, April 06, 2016
Svadba-Wedding at the SF Opera Lab
The San Francisco Opera is presenting a contemporary a capella opera by Ana Sokolović for six female voices, Svadba-Wedding, at their new adjustable theater space on the top floor of the retrofitted Veterans Building.
Before the Sunday afternoon performance, Sokolović was interviewed by Opera Lab Programming Director Elkhanah Pulitzer. The composer is a Serbian immigrant to Montreal, Canada who loves her new world, though she mentioned that at first she was offended when people commented on how her music had "great Slavic soul. I thought of myself as a modern, avant-garde composer, not a folk artist, but finally realized that it was a compliment."
The hour-long Svadba-Wedding is more of a song cycle than a dramatic opera, with five Serbian girlfriends in seven scenes hosting a bachelorette party for their friend Milica: getting sentimental, then tipsy, quarreling, making up, before sleeping it off and saying goodbye to their bride-to-be in her wedding dress.
The theater-in-the-round staging by director Michael Cavanagh and the lighting, projections and production design by Alexander V. Nichols were superb, with scenes creatively playing out on a round platform in the center of the circular room and in various tall alcoves.
Though the music was easy to listen to, with an unusual variety in its limited palette of soprano voices and the occasional percussion instrument played by the singers, it also sounded fiendishly difficult to perform. Conductor Dáirine Ní Mheadhra was kept busy running around the hall from one music stand to another, trying to keep up with her rotating bachelorettes. Jacqueline Woodley, Laura Albino, Andrea Ludwig, and Kristzina Szabo were in the original 2011 Toronto cast, and were joined for this production by Liesbeth Devos and Pauline Sikirdji who have performed in subsequent European productions. They were uniformly wonderful.
At the "after-party" with cake and champagne following the show, I asked one of the singers if the music was hard to perform, and after an amused sigh, she replied, "Yeah, you have NO idea." There are more performances through Sunday, April 10th, and you can find tickets here. (Production photos by Stefan Cohen.)