Opera Under the Stars

Maestro welcomed with a standing ovation by a fully packed Lisinski!

When Vjekoslav Šutej, the head conductor of the Zagreb Philharmonic, came out onto the floor of Lisinski last night, the entire audience in the fully packed Lisinski welcomed him with a standing ovation. After his brave and difficult fight with leukemia, this was his first appearance at his place of work, as conductor. This time he appeared as conductor of the Croatian Radio Television Symphony Orchestra for another series of the popular project “Opera Under the Stars.” No doctor would probably recommend this course of action, however, his restless spirit, a good music fairy and the lights of the stage that have been his faithful companion since his early youth and probably have a positive effect.

Instead of taking place at Šalata, where for years audiences tolerated the heat and even listened from under umbrellas, for the first time, Opera Under the Stars should have taken place at Bundek. However, a poor weather forecast moved the performance under the comfortable “electric” stars of Lisinski. Only a seat here and there remained empty and the dignitaries, lead by the Speaker of the Parliament, Luka Bebić, and Mayor Bandić, as well as Miomir Žužul, who discretely made a late entrance, proved once again that Šutej is a national and state conductor. If you were not aware of the story surrounding his illness, you would not have even noticed based on the concert. It was understandable that this was the perfect occasion for a concert to be dedicated to the Ana Rukavina Foundation. With slightly fewer gestures, Šutej was back to his old prowess, on his opera terrain in which he has acquired a world renowned reputation. This time he was only accompanied by tenor Tomislav Mužek, one of the original initiators of Opera Under the Stars. The most popular of the popular musical pieces – the kind that we all like to listen to over and over again and sing along to – went on for a whole hour without intermission. The audience delighted in the intensity of Verdi’s overture Force of Destiny and the playful performance of Nabucco, the expansive tones of Mascagni’s intermezzo from Cavalleria Rusticana, the rapid overtures of Strauss’s The Bat, all accompanied by the cheerful orchestra. Why singers love to work with Šutej was shown by Mužek’s overpowering performance of arias from Donizetti’s Elixir of Love and those often wrongfully neglected from Puccini’s Tosca. This time, Mužek’s powerful performance was mostly dedicated to Italian canzones and Lehar’s The Land of Smiles.

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