After our incredible trip to Vienna, we had to work for a living playing Carmen for a run-out performance in Mostar. The orchestra and singers traveled to Mostar, the fifth-largest city in Bosnia and principal city of Herzegovina about two and a half hours southwest of Sarajevo. Mostar is famous for the Stari Most, or "old bridge." During the war, Mostar was the scene of an incredible amount of violence for such a small place. In November of 1991, the Croatian Democratic Union declared a Croatian Republic of Herzeg-Bosnia, and the city was divided with the Croatians in the west and the Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina on the east, along with the Bosniaks who had lived in the west and were driven from their homes by the Croats. The bridge became the center of the conflict, and was subsequently destroyed during that fighting and later when the Yugoslav People's Army attacked in 1992. Many important historical buildings were destroyed, and the Serbian orthodox churches in particular were targeted after the Yugoslav Army (essentially Serbian army) was expelled. The history of this small area of the world is so complicated, and it is always amazing how recently such terrible things were happening.
The bridge was finally reconstructed and the two sides of the river joined in 2004. Less than ten years ago, the bridge did not exist in its current form and I'm sure the area had lost all of its lucrative summer tourists. Now all kinds of craftspeople and trinket sellers line the streets of the old town on both sides, and the cafes and restaurants advertise the beautiful terraces on the river with delicious local dishes.
Our performance of Carmen was in the smaller national theater in Mostar, it was very modern compared to our theater in Sarajevo. I think it had been reconstructed or just built after the war, but I don't know for sure. The performance was sponsored by BH Mobile, one of the largest cell phone providers in the country. I'm glad corporate sponsorship is universal, I think it's really helped with all the budget cuts we've been experiencing. I apparently forgot to take a picture of the theater itself, but here's me and Rebecca on the bridge:
The singers were not the usual NPS soloists, we had a mezzo from Serbia playing Carmen and the tenor was from elsewhere as well. I take our singers for granted; they may not be perfect but they have such good musical sense. Aida (our main soprano that I'm slightly obsessed with, her voice is amazing) never fails to impress me with her professional demeanor and perfect ear, and the other main soloists we have are excellent musicians. These new singers were less rhythmically accurate and had issues with transitions that hadn't been a problem in previous productions.
There were a number of schoolchildren in the audience, so I think it was put on with educational intent. The show was a bit rough as we only had one run-through and a short rehearsal, but we made it through and the audience seemed very pleased with the result given the applause at the end!