The Ljubljana SNG Opera and Ballet company is opening a new season tonight with a concert celebrating the centenary of the opera orchestra. It will be a rare occasion for the orchestra to move up from the pit.
The jubilee concert will feature a medley of operas from The Bartered Bride by Bedrich Smetana, the first opera production to be staged at the renovated national opera house in December 1918, to Wagner.
Speaking to the STA ahead of the concert, the orchestra’s former chief conductor Igor Švara, said the idea of the artistic director Rocc was to combine Slovenian, Italian, French and German music.
It was based on this concept that Švara and the other three conductors to perform tonight selected the excerpts from the operatic tradition.
“Considering it’s the orchestra’s centenary, it’s right to have the orchestra in focus. That’s why we selected only one singing act with soprano Rebeka Lokar. The emphasis will be on Romanticism.”
Švara, the orchestra’s chief conductor for 40 years, says that the Ljubljana opera orchestra has always been among the top-tier opera orchestras not only in the former Yugoslavia, but also in Europe.
“I’m not talking about the type of orchestras which are mostly top symphony orchestras and which also perform at the opera, such as those in Vienna, Munich, Leipzig, Dresden or Salzburg.
“I believe it’s very hard for opera orchestra members to realise their ambitions because they work in the opera pit, in the shadow, even though they are almost the most important part of any opera or ballet evening.
“They often wouldn’t see what’s going on on the stage. The jubilee concert will be on stage, in front of the audience, which will be an encouragement for all orchestra members before they return to the pit.”
Švara, who has conducted three generations of the orchestra, says that the latest one is one of the best, also because they are mostly young, but not so young as to be inexperienced.
“Every young musician’s ambition is to perform as a soloist or at least a member of a symphony orchestra. Those who come to the opera, come because they love opera music,” said Švara, adding that most of them stay.
The building housing the SNG Opera and Ballet theatre was home to two theatres at the turn of the 20th century; the German Theatre, which later moved to the building now occupied by the SNG Drama theatre, and the Slovenian Provincial Theatre, which featured drama and opera ensembles.
Until 1908, when the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra was established, opera performances were accompanied by bandsmen of the infantry regiments of the Imperial and Royal Army.
After a break during First World War, the drama theatre moved to today’s Drama, while the professional Opera Orchestra, consisting of 54 musicians, was established in 1918.
The orchestra performed mainly Italian and French operas, as well as Slavic and Slovenian operatic works. After the professional ballet ensemble was established in 1918, the orchestra also accompanied ballet productions.