Thoughts on life and music.

Banja Luka

I've been a bit of a slacker lately with the blog, I didn't realize it had been a month since I last posted! We spent a few weeks rehearsing and performing The Merry Widow, and the next week played an arias concert of Verdi to celebrate the composer's 200th birthday.

Our production of The Merry Widow was well received, the audience seemed to really enjoy the show. We performed the show twice (the first performance being the premiere - aka fancy reception with free wine), then rehearsed and performed the arias concert, and performed The Merry Widow once more. Then on Wednesday of this week, we rehearsed Gianni Schicci by Puccini for a run-out performance in Banja Luka.

Banja Luka is the principal city of the Republic of Serbs (Republika Srpska) within the country of Bosnia. The governmental organization here is very confusing, but basically the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina contains three areas; Bosnia, Herzegovina, and the Republika Srpska. People who are of Serbian ethnicity are the majority in Republika Srpska, which borders the country of Serbia. Bosnia-Herzegovina is mostly populated by Bosniaks, Croats and a smaller number of Serbs. Each ethnic group has its own president, and the Republika Srpska has one as well, so Bosnia has four presidents. It contributes to a lot of the political corruption and inability to get anything done, as far as I understand. I can't pretend to comprehend such a complicated political climate, but what I hear from most Bosnians (as in residents of Bosnia, not ethnic Bosnians) is that they are sick of political posturing and inefficiency, and just want a government that provides economic stability and advancement.

In front of the main cathedral in Banja Luka
The crew walking through Banja Luka's main street
Happy Women's Day!
I got a flower from the reception at the hotel, and an unexpectedly nice single room to myself.

The performance was in the national theater in Banja Luka, which was a bit smaller than ours in Sarajevo but still very pretty. I loved the big chandelier. 

View from the stage!
This guy stands guard at the entrance to the lobby.
I can't read Cyrillic (or Bosnian, really, if I'm honest) but he looked cool.

The singers we have at the Pozorište are all incredibly good, they never cease to amaze me in performance. Gianni Schicchi is kind of a twisted story, it's basically about a group of people plotting to steal the wealth of a dying man by having Gianni impersonate him to the lawyers. The punishment for such a crime is having your hand cut off, so while the lawyer is there Gianni Schicchi (as the sick man) leaves all his possessions and wealth to himself. It's part of a triptych of three short operas, so it was only about an hour long. I had no clue what was going on until Mattia explained the plot during our rests, sitting next to an Italian has a lot of advantages when you're playing Puccini!

Becca really liked the green room.
Kent's caricature doppelgänger.
Ivana's ready to party.

Backstage we had a little green room, and a kitchen with an espresso maker that I promptly proceeded to investigate. I worked at Starbucks for a while, and think I know what I'm doing but actually didn't. I only ruined one coffee before someone else took over, but I did manage to steam some milk and make nice foam for my and Kent's drinks.

We had a bit of time between arriving in Banja Luka and our sound check, so Chihiro, Rebecca, Mattia and I ended up eating at a nice Italian restaurant called Phillipe dine&wine. I had Milanese risotto that was the most delicious thing I could have asked for. Mattia was very excited to show us the nice wines from his region of Italy on the wine list, but our per diem wasn't quite enough to justify a 75KM bottle of wine... 
Days I wish I could eat free bread.
Espresso is for dinner.
This is not what I made, but the espresso I had at the really nice Italian restaurant we ate dinner in.
Couldn't tell you what kind of wine this was, but it was awesome.
After the concert we went to the bar area near the theater and found a club that could actually accommodate all 12 of us. We also discovered the joys of spicy popcorn from street carts, and polished off a few containers of chili, chicken and pizza flavored popcorn. Yum.
The next morning before our bus left, Ivana and I took a walk to the Kastel ruins nearby the hotel.

River near the Kastel ruins


Ivana and I in front of the Kastel river

Ivana was everywhere!

State building for Republika Srpska

We also stopped by McDonald's. I'm sorry, but McCafe makes awesome coffee drinks that you can actually take to-go. In America it's a given that you could take things with you, but in Europe it's hard to find places that carry paper cups. McDonald's also never runs out of whipped cream. It's the little things.

Oh look, an American in McDonald's! That never happens.

It was a great trip, and we had today off to recover. Tomorrow we start rehearsal for the musicals concert. We're playing Broadway songs with Bosnian singers, so I'm interested to hear how a Bosnian orchestra interprets Broadway, and how a Bosnian accent might sound on Phantom of the Opera. At least during these rehearsals I can sing all the words, usually the orchestra sings the arias when we don't have singers! Becca and I plan to have a karaoke singalong rehearsal.

Surprise Visit to America

Lady of the Camellias, Eugene Onegin and The Merry Widow