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A Night at the Opera:
National TheaterMasked Outside the TheaterOne of the perks of an expat posting in Europe is the opportunity to sample Old World culture. We took full advantage of this in late November, heading to the National Theater with some of Tracy's colleagues at AISZ to watch of performance of Carmen in this beautiful hall which opened in 1870. The title of this section is an allusion to a Marx brothers film (no, not the Queen Song), and our journey to the theater had tragic/comedic overtones. Our regular No. 14 Zaprude tram was nowhere in sight and so we consulted the map and took the No. 14 Savski Most which appeared to initially follow the same tracks. However, it made an unexpected turn and we hastily exited, and so had to hoof it many blocks to make it Republic Square just five minutes before curtain! Fortunately, there was still a line around the block to get in, as this rather large theater had one set of doors and only two people checking covid certificates and tickets. We ultimately had plenty of time to get in, check our coats and settle into our aisle seats. The photo to the upper right shows the entrance to the Our seatsNational Theater and our position in the Box Seatsline at just prior to curtain, while the photo to the upper right shows us in our covid appropriate theater wear--looking more like a audition for Phantom of the Opera! The photo at the lower left shows our aisle seats relative to the stage. Of course there was a man 6' 5" sitting right in front of us. Lower right is a photo of the box seats on the opposite side of the theater--lucky them! Below is a 360 degree panorama of the theater, taken at intermission.

National Theater Zagreb
National Theater ZagrebSnap Content

The Theater:
The National Theater is exactly what you would expect in an old European capital: it is shaped in the traditional horsehoe, with gilded boxes beneath and an ornate ceiling. It was a scaled down version of the great opera houses (such as Teatro alla Scala). Below are a few photos of the theater--some are ours while others are from the work of Bernard Gagnon taken from Wikimedia Commons.
Theater Entrance Dome
View of Stage
Box Seats
View from Boxes
Theater Entrance
Chandelier and Dome
View of Stage from Balcony
Box Seats Stage Right
View from Box Seats
Box Seat Details
Ceiling Details
Decorative Sink
Box Seat Details
View from the Balcony
Ceiling Detail
Orchestra Pit
Decorative Sink

The performance itself was a bit jarring to anyone familiar with the opera--The set literally consisted of nothing but a series of chairs, and up and side stage areas (including the fly system) were clearly visible. The costumes were a mixture of old and contemporary design. The singers and the orchestra, however, were superb. The minimalist  staging did keep one's attention focused on the singers and the music. As always in opera, realism and age considerations take a back seat to voices. Carmen could have been Don Jose's mother, and while Escamillo looked as though he was well past his bullfighting prime (by decades), his voice was impressive.

We capped the evening with Tracy's AISZ colleagues at a local bar, sampling pelinkovac, a Croatian liqueur made from wormwood, with apricot flavoring. Described as a bitter drink resembling Jagermeister, we found it to have a pleasant, citrus-y flavor, the perfect ending to an evening of Croatian culture.

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