Jacqueline Woodley, center, plays a bride-to-be in “Svadba-Wedding,” a chamber opera onstage at the new Taube Atrium Theater. (Courtesy Stefan Cohen/San Francisco Opera)

Girls just want to have fun in SF Opera Lab’s ‘Svadba-Wedding’

If the new SF Opera Lab were looking for a suitable candidate for the intimate Taube Atrium Theater, it could find few better matches than “Svadba–Wedding,” a delightful and moving chamber opera by Serbian composer Ana Sokolovic.

At Saturday night’s West Coast premiere of “Svadba-Wedding,” the stage was circular, and tables and chairs surrounded it — an arrangement like one at a wedding, or in this case, a bachelorette party leading up to one.

Sung a cappella, in Serbian, conducted by Dairine Ní Mheadhra, and directed by Michael Cavanagh (who helmed San Francisco Opera’s “Lucia di Lammermoor” in October), the opera is about a bride-to-be and her five girlfriends who exuberantly enjoy themselves in ways so familiarly universal, the audience can relate to what’s going on, even if they don’t understand Serbian. (However, supertitles are tastefully projected.)

Jacqueline Woodley, fetching and radiantly voiced, portrays bride-to-be Milica. Her pre-nuptial synchronized sisterhood of Slavonic song includes clear-voiced and charming Laura Albino as Lena, Andrea Ludwig as Nada, Krisztina Szabo as Ljubica, Liesbeth Devos as Danica and Pauline Sikirdji as Zora.

Their playful girl talk boasts an attention-grabbling mix of vocal methods: sublimely hushed tones, nonsensical yet rhythmic chatter and lush chants derived from Serbian folk tunes, all judiciously supplemented by various percussion instruments.

They’re no static girl group, either. They move between alcoves in the theater, occasionally weaving their way through the audience.

The ladies imbibe, bolstering the celebratory mood as well as suggesting that lips will be loose. Sure enough, a dramatic, alcohol-fueled spat ensues between Milica and Ljublca. (They touchingly reconcile.)

Each friend sparks a lesson for Milica, including how marriage can irrevocably change one’s life. The key pivot is symbolized when the women change into wedding attire, and Zora (which fittingly means “dawn” in Serbian) plays an ocarina and sings like a nightingale to announce the dawn of a new day and relationship.

Finally, the ladies reassemble center stage, with Milica shimmering in her gown and towering over her maids of honor. As the groom and his party are about to arrive, Milica, in an achingly beautiful aria, bids farewell to her friends, who join her wistful song, but must recede from her new life and into the theater’s antechamber.

It was an emotionally charged scene, one that visibly moved the audience, which was noticeably younger than usual for an opera.

Perhaps imaginative, inviting productions like “Svadba-Wedding” will keep them coming back for more.

REVIEW
Svadba-Wedding
Presented by SF Opera Lab
Where: Taube Atrium Theater, Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Ave., S.F.
When: 8 p.m. April 5-6, April 8-9 and 3 p.m. April 10
Tickets: $75
Contact: (415) 864-3330, www.sfoperalab.com

Just Posted

SF public defender calls deputy shooting ‘preventable and unnecessary tragedy’

Sheriff identifies four deputies involved in incident that killed dog, allegedly wounded owner

Proposed pay raises for City College administrators anger students, faculty

Large increases come as college cuts classes, trims budget

Fatal Mission Terrace fire takes lives of father and daughter

Neighbors mourn loss of family after early morning blaze

Central Subway project projected to run $55 million over budget

San Francisco’s $1.6 billion Central Subway is roughly $55 million in the… Continue reading

Newsom, Becerra lash out at Trump plan to rescind California emissions standards

In a series of tweets early Wednesday morning, Trump said that revoking California’s authority to impose emissions standards will help make cars more affordable.

Most Read