In the second half of the 19th century the Slovenian Dramatic Society and Slovenian Provincial Theatre were not only important for the development of the Slovenian drama production, but also stimulated the domestic musical theatre production. Without them it would be difficult to even imagine the works, conceived by the composer Anton Foerster (1837–1926), who although Czech by origin, came to stay in Slovenia, in 1867. He was not only active in the Dramatic Society, but also served as a Regens Chori in the Ljubljana Cathedral and as a Music Teacher in various schools as well as composed a number of orchestral, vocal and church compositions. He became famous as an author of the first Slovenian operatic piece.
The Nightingale of Gorenjska was initially conceived as an operetta, which was tendered by the Dramatic Society and offered two awards for both the operetta and libretto. The Commission made up of Bedřich Smetana, Karel Bendl and Ludevit Prochazka awarded the First Place to Foerster and thus The Nightingale of Gorenjsko was first performed under his leadership at the Provincial Theatre, on 27th April 1872. Twenty years later Foerster decided to rewrite his operetta into opera. The libretto, initially made by Luiza Pesjak, was rewritten by Czech librettist Emanuel Züngl, whereas Foerster composed an additional number of musical acts and recitatives to replace the spoken text. The opera was first staged on 30th October 1896. Subsequently the Nightingale of Gorenjska was remade and complemented several times, as the opera apparently – at least according to connoisseurs - had some weaknesses. But even Smetana wrote in his revue, that the opera has »fresh melodics« and that it is »thoughtfully and skilfully harmonised, as well as artfully instrumented«.
»The Nightingale« reappeared in the repertoire of the Ljubljana Opera time and again, and its last staging in the 1996/1997 season was primarily based on the performance, prepared by the Conductor Rado Simoniti and the Stage Director Osip Šest in 1953. It is considered one of the most popular Slovenian operatic works mainly for its openness, melodiousness and its folk spirit, making it pleasant to both the eyes and ears.
The story of the Slovenian operatic classics tells about Franjo, who returns to his hometown, where he is eagerly expected by his friend Lovro and his girlfriend Minka. At that time the entertaining Chansonette stops in this idyllic place in Gorenjsko, hears Minka singing and immediately decides to take her away – and out into the world - to help her train her voice and earn her living with it. This all happens, when Minka's family is pushed by the creditors to leave the house. Although Chansonette is offering money, Minka's mother refuses to take it and the villagers decide to prevent the foreigner’s plans …
The present perfomace of The Nightingale of Gorenjska was directed by Vito Taufer (1959), the director of many outstanding performances as at the Mladinsko Theatre, where he is permanently employed, as well as on many other Slovenian stages. His performances are always spiced with a great deal of theatrical magic, as he signs them, time and again, in full artistic swing and accomplished director’s concepts. He has been always dedicating his utmost attention to the direction of classical theatre pieces, among them Slovenian as well, showing them in a fresh and entirely different light. He is famous among both national and international theatre lovers for his numerous theatre hits as his performances have been regularly appearing both at Slovenian and international festivals all over the world. He has already directed for our theatre Rossini's Barber of Seville (1990), Mozart's opera Cosí fan tutte (1991), Walton's opera The Bear and Poulence's The Breasts of Tiresias (2004), Rossini's opera The Turk in Italy (2005) and Prokofiev's opera The Love for Three Oranges (2006).
Text: Tatjana Ažman