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Thursday Opera Matinee: Ivan Zajc's Nikola Subic Zrinski

Ivo Lipanovic conducts Nikola Subic Zrinski, an opera written in 1876 by Ivan Zajc, who overhauled Zagreb's musical life during his 30-year reign as director of the city's opera.

Ivo Lipanović conducts a performance of the Croatian opera Nikola Šubić Zrinski, from the Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall in Zagreb.

Written in 1876 by Ivan Zajc, who overhauled musical life in Zagreb during his 30-year reign as director of the city's opera, it tells the true story of the Battle of Szigetvár and Captain Nikola Zrinski who led his forces into a heroic last stand against the Ottoman army and Suleiman the Magnificent. Well received at its premiere its enduring appeal in Croatia is due in large part to its climactic chorus, "U boj, u boj!" ("To battle, to battle!") which has been adopted as a popular patriotic song.

Nikola Šubić Zrinski … Ljubomir Puškarić (baritone)
Eva… Kristina Kolar (soprano)
Jelena… Valentina Fijacko Kobić (soprano)
Mehmed Sokolović… Stjepan Franetović (tenor)
Suleiman the Magnificent … Ivica Čikeš (bass)
Lovro Juranić… Domagoj Dorotić (tenor)
Suleiman’s doctor... Leon Košavić (baritone)
Gašpar Alapić... Ozren Bilušić (bass)
Vuk Paprutović ... Mario Bokun (tenor)
Mustafa… Siniša Galović (tenor)
Ali Portuk… Miroslav Živković (baritone)
Ibrahim Beglerbeg… Vjekoslav Hudeček (bass)
Timoleon… Davor Radić (baritone)

HRT Chorus
HRT Symphony Orchestra
Ivo Lipanović (conductor)

Presented by Tom McKinney

21 days left to listen

3 hours

Music Played

  • Gareth Glyn

    Vita Davidis: Buchedd Dewi

    Performer: Catrin Finch. Orchestra: BBC National Orchestra of Wales.
  • Franz Schubert

    Symphony no.8 in B minor ('Unfinished')

    Orchestra: BBC National Orchestra of Wales. Conductor: Jac van Steen.


The opera switches between scenes in the Ottoman camp and Croatian scenes in Siget.

The first act, the longest of the three, is composed of three scenes: the first is the Scene in the Ottoman Headquarters in Belgrade: Ottoman leader Suleiman the Magnificent, already in poor health, decides to attack Vienna. His doctor Levi warns him that this could be fatal to him, but Grand Vizier Mehmed Sokolović supports him. Suleiman plans to take Siget and defeat Nikola Zrinjski. The Ottomans gather for a warlike chorale. In the second scene in Siget, Nikola’s daughter Jelena tells her mother Eva about her fear of the Ottomans and of slavery; at the news of the Turkish invasion, Zrinjski decides to resist. Simultaneously, Jelena and officer Lovro Juranić are planning their wedding, but Zrinjski delays it until the end of the war. The third scene unfolds on the ramparts of Siget. The soldiers greet Juranić and Alapić, whom Zrinjski has named his deputy. They are joined by Nikola, Eva and Jelena. They decide to remain with the soldiers. Zrinjski and his soldiers solemnly vow to defend Siget until the last man.

The second act begins with a scene in the Ottoman camp near Siget. The Ottomans are celebrating their victory at the Battle of Mohač (Mohács in Hungary), which is described by Timoleon. Suleiman and Grand Vizier Mehmed Sokolović attend a formal dance. Suleiman, vexed by Zrinjski’s resistance, sends Mehmed Sokolović to negotiate.

Zrinjski is worried because of the ever-greater intrusion of the Turks, and he decides to demolish the walls of the new town and retreat to the old centre with his soldiers. Mehmed Sokolović attempts to use threats, blackmail, and even rewards to make him surrender, but Zrinjski refuses, showing him the flame swallowing the new part of town. Zrinjski and his soldiers repeat their solemn oath, and Mehmed Sokolović leaves.

The third act begins with the scene of Suleiman’s death. Suleiman dies, but Mehmed Sokolović hides this from the army and assumes leadership.

Jelena sings her mother’s lullaby and falls asleep. In her sleep, she sees fairies singing a praise of her wedding with Juranić. When she awakens, Juranić comes bearing the news that a decisive battle is coming. Sensing an ill outcome, Jelena asks Juranić to kill her to keep her from falling into Turkish hands; they say their parting words, and holding Jelena in his arms, Juranić stabs her.

In the last scene before the battle, Zrinjski and Eva part. Zrinjski’s final orders follow, and he parts with his soldiers and officers with a shared battle cry. The finale, the Catastrophe, is a tableau vivant presenting the charge out of the burning town and the battle, which ends the opera.