Bachelorette parties -- the limos laden with drunken damsels whooping it up in wine country, the wet T-shirt competitions in Las Vegas bars -- are by no means unique to the United States. Pre-nuptial traditions are a thing in almost every country in the world. People do it a little differently depending on where you go, though.
The Scots like to “tar and feather” a girl the night before her wedding, by slathering her with various sticky substances and feathers and then parading her around town. The Germans smash plates and kidnap the bride-to-be. Ladies get to drive around naked 24 hours before they tie the knot in Argentina. Meanwhile, women in central China invite their close female relatives over for a good cry.
And then there’s the soon-to-be-weds of Serbia, who, judging by a contemporary chamber opera by composer Ana Sokolovic, like nothing more than to get together and sing on a girl’s wedding night. Sokolovic’s Svadba-Wedding, created for six female performers singing without instrumental accompaniment looks at a group of young women as they convene to celebrate -- and mourn -- the impending espousal of one of their number.
The work is being produced as part of San Francisco Opera’s new SF Opera Lab program from Saturday, Apr. 2 through Sunday, Apr. 10 under the direction of Michael Cavanagh, Dáirine Ní Mheadhra and John Hess, and stars Jacqueline Woodley as Milica, the lucky bachelorette.
Sokolovic, a native of Serbia who currently lives in Montreal, composed the hour-long work as a way to explore the strong feelings that girlfriends share before they get saddled with husbands. “It’s an important emotional moment,” she says.
To that end, she’s composed energetic, irrepressible music inspired by Igor Stravinsky (the Russian composer’s Svadebka is a ballet and orchestral concert work for percussion, pianists, chorus, and vocal soloists) as well as the close-crunchy harmonies of Balkan vocal music and the rhythms of jazz and pop.
Listen to music from the opera:
The production team is making sure that audience members who attend the show get to feel like they’re truly part of this Serbian hen night. They’re inviting people to stay on and celebrate with a DJ, champagne and wedding cake.
Watch a 2015 production of the opera from the Festival d'Aix en Provence in France:
Svadba-Wedding plays Saturday, Apr. 2 - Sunday, Apr. 10 at The War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. Tickets and information here.