Christmas Concert ”Good Tidings of Great Joy” in Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb

The Zagreb Opera will complement this year’s seasonal holidays with a Christmas concert titled Good Tidings of Great Joy. The concert will be held on December 23, 2017 at 7.30 p.m. under music direction of Nikša Bareza and Luka Vukšić with the participation of opera soloists, Choir and Orchestra of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb.



Part I

Conductor Nikša Bareza

  1. Nikolai Rimsky Korsakov Suite from opera Christmas Eve* ( 30′)
    Vakula, Ivo Gamulin, tenor
    Solokha Dubravka Šeparović Mušović, mezzosoprano
    Patsyuk Siniša Štork, basso
    2. P. I. Tchaikovsky Intermezzo from ballet The Sleeping Beauty for violin and orchestra (8′)
    Solo violin Vlatka Peljhan
    3. Bohuslav Martinů Concerto for two violins and orchestra (19′)
    Solo violins Vlatka Peljhan and Mojca Ramušćak



Part II
Conductor Luka Vukšić

  1. Anđelko Klobučar O, Tannenbaum
    Soloist Ljubomir Puškarić, baritone
    5. John Cameron Les anges dans nos campagne
    Soloists: Ivo Gamulin, tenor and Ljubomir Puškarić, baritone and Choir of the Opera
    6. Adolphe Adam: Cantique de Noel
    Soloist Ivana Lazar, soprano and Choir of the Opera
    7. Osias Wilenski Adeste fideles
    Soloist Stjepan Franetović, tenor
    8. Nikša Njirić: Veselje ti navješćujem  (Choir of the Opera)
    9. Boris Papandopulo Radujte se, narodi (Choir of the Opera)
    10. Boris Papandopulo U se vrime godišta(Choir of the Opera)
    11. Boris Papandopulo Narodi nam se (Choir of the Opera)
    (part II – duration approx. 30′)

Soloists, Choir and Orchestra of the CNT in Zagreb
Concert mistresses: Vlatka Peljhan and Mojca Ramušćak
Stage managers: Aleksandra Ćorluka and Zrinka Petrušanec



                                                                    OPERA “CHRISTMAS EVE”


Opera Christmas Eve was composed by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov after the story of Nikolai Vasilievich Gogol Christmas Eve, published in 1832 as part of the collection Evenings on a Farm near Dikanka. The opening night of the opera took place on December 10, 1895 at the Mariinsky Theatre in St. Petersburg. It was composed a year earlier, immediately after the tragic death of Pyotr Ilych Tchaikovsky. Namely, Christmas Eve is the fourth music work composed after the same story written by Gogol. Tchaikovsky wrote two operas with the same synopsis – first opera Vakula the Smith, which he later on revised as the more known work Cherevichki (The Slippers) and Nikolai Soloviev composed an opera to the same libretto and called it Vakula, the Blacksmith.


Rimsky-Korsakov was fascinated with the story and in his opera, he tried to present old customs, beliefs and fantasies of Slavic people that were based on the power of nature and the understanding of its phases in rural regions. Since he presented the Slavic pantheistic mythology with great affection, his contemporaries were not entirely satisfied with the exaggerated mythology taking place around Gogol’s innocent story, so the opera did not remain on the repertoire for long. The staging process was rather frustrating for Rimsky-Korsakov because on the general rehearsal two of the great princes were insulted with the fact that the composer introduced the character of Catherine the Great in his work and demanded that her parts be left out from the opera. The composer was so frustrated that he did not show up at the opening night. Namely, in Gogol’s story and in the versions of Tchaikovsky and Soloviev only the title Her Majesty – the Empress was used.


In his autobiography Rimsky-Korsakov wrote that he was carried away with the plot, but that error gave him the opportunity to compose a lot of interesting music. Truly, opera Christmas Eve is full of innovative, unusual harmonic and colouristic solutions that were Rimsky-Korsakov’s trademark, making way for later generations of composers who were inspired by Russian music and the world of imagination. Rimsky-Korsakov was a great orchestral master and this opera brings to light exceptional instrumental textures and a consistent use of celeste – an instrument that was made as late as 1886, as a sound parable of enchantment and magic.


The synopsis relates to a young blacksmith Vakula whose mother is witch Solokha and who, persuaded by the Devil, steals the moon. Vakula’s goodness and bravery stop the Devil to get his revenge and take his soul. When Oxsana, a girl with whom he is in love asks for the shoes of the Empress as proof of his love, Vakula leaves for the Russian court. He succeeds to defeat the Devil and makes him take him to the court on his back. All the villagers believed Vakula had disappeared, but when he returned with the shoes, he married his loved one and the opera has a happy ending with a great celebration of Christmas.


Music fantasy in 4 scenes:

  1. Introduction: it is late, a cold Christmas Eve on the farm near Dikanka.
  2. Celestial vastness: the Moon and the stars. Stars are gathering on white clouds, dancing and creating fairytale-like shapes in the sky; mazurka, comet tail, csardas and at the end a rain of falling stars. Suddenly dark clouds appear, the stars disappear and the magic turns into a scene of dark powers of evil witches and other flying impure forces. Blacksmith Vakula arrives on the back of a winged horse and all impure forces follow him in order to catch him. In the distance, through the night fog, there are lights of the city illuminated by candles.
  3. Lavishly illuminated royal hall. Polonaise. The Devil appears and everything turns into darkness.
  4. Celestial vastness. Night, the setting moon is peeping behind the dense clouds. Brooms, rakes, prongs and pots are levitating between the clouds. Blacksmith Vakula on the back of the Devil returns to his village; the clouds are splitting up and the morning star appears in the sky. It began to dawn.  Koliada*, in the form of a young virgin and Ovsen*, as a young man riding a golden boar, with their entourage of blessed spirits lighten the sky. In the distance village Dikanka is illuminated by the first sun rays. A chiming song of the villagers is heard in harmony with the sound of Christmas church bells.


*Koliada, an old Slavic mythological deity and pre-Christian winter holiday (Koleda), later on embedded into Christmas holidays.

*Ovsen, an old Slavic God, born as a human who became a deity after numerous heroic deed.




Information taken from: Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb /