New Film Svadba, Produced by Boston Lyric Opera Combines Music and Dance at a Dreamy Oceanside Cottage

New Film Svadba, Produced by Boston Lyric Opera Combines Music and Dance at a Dreamy Oceanside Cottage

The power of unadorned human voices meets the rustic, expansive beauty of a dreamy oceanside cottage, where six women celebrate the eve of a wedding — and all its ritual, emotion, fun and reflection — in Svadba, a new cinematic opera experience produced by Boston Lyric Opera (BLO) and co-produced with Opera Philadelphia.

Premiering January 28 on BLO’s and the Opera Philadelphia Channel (, Boston Lyric Opera’s Svadba film combines Serbian composer Ana Sokolović’s striking acapella music and text with a new dance-led visual interpretation by film director Shura Baryshnikov and screenwriter Hannah Shepard. Slovenia-born Daniela Candillari conducts the music.

Ana Sokolović’s original score includes text drawn from several sources, including Serbian poetry and Balkan folk music. Collectively, the libretto suggests story elements of a woman leaving her family, conversations about marriage and allusions to ceremonial preparations.

Live productions of Svadba have had artists sing and embody the six characters onstage; a film brings opportunities for added dimensions. Here, six dancers and actors are on screen as the story’s main characters, while six singers who create the film’s music with voices and spare instrumentation also appear, suggesting ancestral spirits who watch over the action. Reflecting the alternately serene and hectic moments of wedding preparations, Svadba unfolds in non-linear ways.

Characters include bride-to-be Milica, maid of honor Ljubica, and family elder Lena who leads the events of the day. Bridesmaids Danica, Nada and Zora carry out the celebratory rituals with friendship and enthusiasm. The women make the most of the wedding eve, adorning the bride’s dress, dyeing her hair, making food, picking flowers for the procession, and taking time for carefree fun on the beach where the wedding will be held. Sokolović describes the characters as “distilling magic and fantasy from ordinary moments.”

Sokolović was intrigued to write about a wedding and its prenuptial rituals because they occur in nearly every country. “Weddings are an important turning point in many women’s lives, with emotional and joyful moments,” she says. “I wanted to explore these themes, in a place where we are privy to private and ancient rituals between a bride and her girlfriends.”

Artists embodying the characters include dancer Victoria L. Awkward (Milica), actor Jackie Davis (Lena), dancer Jay Breen (Danica/attendant), dancer Sarah Pacheco (Zora/attendant), dancer Emily Jerant-Hendrickson (Nada/attendant), and dancer Sasha Peterson (Ljubica, the maid of honor). Olivia Moon makes a special appearance as The Betrothed.

Acting Stanford Calderwood General and Artistic Director Bradley Vernatter says Svadba offers another distinctive take on the company’s aim to bring new perspectives to opera storytelling, and expand its audiences. “Ana’s music creates a transcendent sound world unlike anything I’ve heard in contemporary opera,” Vernatter says. “We had the opportunity to interpret this sweet, emotional and universal story through the intersection of music, dance, design and film. Svadba lets us escape to a whole other world and celebrate the beauty of togetherness.”

Boston Lyric Opera’s Svadba film debuts January 28, 2022 on BLO’s and the Opera Philadelphia Channel ( streaming services. Both services are available on branded apps found on Apple, Android, Google, Amazon and Roku platforms. On-demand viewing is $15. Subscribers to either service may access the film two days earlier on January 26.

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