"Goca e Kaçanik" evokes love for the homeland and the art of opera

A premiere like that of "Kaçanik's Oyster" by the composer Rauf Dhomi would be quite ordinary in another context. But it is not like that. It is historic for several reasons: It is the first opera of Kosovo, its first staging in the country of origin. Among facts like these, there is another reality: Since it was written, it took more than half a century for it to be staged in foreign homes, or by an institution without a home. It came 45 years after the first staging, that of 1979 in Tirana.

But above all, "Kaçanik's Oyster" on the sixteenth anniversary of Kosovo as a state, opens a new chapter in the history of art. And this he managed to do magically. On the stage where the improvisations come out, the artistic brilliance on the stage is the contrast behind the scenes.

There, bravery and love for the country collide on one side, betrayal on the other. The first two win. In the context until the realization of this production, the love and the will to bring opera triumph, together with the courage with all the challenges of the artists. The positive and negative sides from the narration in the show also come as a reflection for the institution of the Kosovo Opera, founded in the summer of 2021.

The whole body of the institution, including the soloists, the Choir and the Orchestra led by maestro Edon Ramadani, as well as a part of the National Ballet of Kosovo are accommodated on the 12-meter wide stage of a private hall on the outskirts of the capital.

At the very beginning, the portrait of the hero Idriz Seferi appears. This is the first sign that turns time back over a century, to 1908, when the hero led the Albanian uprisings against the Ottomans.

"Goca e Kaçanik" based on the novella by Milto Sotir Gurra is a symbiosis of the fight for freedom. The event takes place in Gryka e Kaçanik and the landscapes are clearly visible on the screens that are props of the scenography.

The costumes were neatly made by Vesa Kraja, while the scenography by Mentor Berisha. The choreography by Sead Vuniqi brings a piece of Albanian dance heritage into the operatic narrative.

It was the years 1971-1972 when the first and only composer in the country of operatic works, Rauf Dhomi, would compose "Kaçanik's Oyster". He was quite excited on Friday, at the premiere of his opera. He also emphasized the lack of an opera institution without a theater.

"This premiere for me is warmer, more heartwarming. I see everyone happy. It is a topic for this country. It is a suggestion to the Government that in this hall it is not a compact premiere. How to marry a bride in a foreign house. This is a foreign house, not a theater. I believe that after this premiere we will soon have the house, the opera house".

The direction of the opera in Kosovo has been entrusted to master Nikolin Gurakuqi. The premiere of "Kaçanik's Oyster" was a spectacle for him.

"I had just finished school. I was an intern at the Opera. They told me if I want to participate in this opera and I told them I want to. I have been familiar with this opera since that year. So I have heard everything. Now that I took it back to put it on stage in the director's position, when I took it to study the score, I immediately had the music in my ears".

The main role in the opera was played by the soprano Adelina Paloja, who portrayed the Albanian heroine on the battlefield and in the family.

"Blessed with the reception given to me by the public and I dedicate this role to all Albanian women, those who historically have been self-sacrificing, they were there when they had to have a rifle in their hand, where the family asked them. They have always been there, not having themselves in the first place and taking risks in this case as if it was the role of Pafika".

With books by Ajmone Dhomi and Jusuf Buxhov, "Goca e Kaçaniku" would send to Tirana a fragment of history not only of music from Kosovo.

Librettist Ajmone Dhomi said that the premiere of the opera on Friday brought her back to the moments when she was writing the verses for this art form.

"For the conditions we have, it was a miracle itself. We have a lot of good youth. It was a wonderful evening. The whole time it left an impression on me, and what I was excited about, who would have thought that this opera was performed in Tirana 45 years ago. Who would have thought that history would repeat itself with what happened to us in the 90s. You say we thought about it then, and it happened."

The rhythms of songs and music have often been dressed with elements of folklore. At the very end, as a sign of triumph, they sing of freedom, loyalty and love and devotion to the motherland.

With the premiere in Prishtina of "Goca e Ka֛çaniku", tenor Hektor Leka has gone back in time, when he attended the premiere in Tirana.

"This production was very special for a number of reasons. Because at the premiere in 1979, my mother was Chorus Master at the Opera House. I was little when I saw the first show. I could never have imagined that I would come to Pristina and become a protagonist. It was a very nice experience".

The deputy director of the Kosovo Opera, Meriton Ferizi, has said that this time too they managed to improvise and adapt another stage as an opera house.

"You still find us without opera and ballet houses, but with this hall we managed to improvise and adapt it to look like a theater with the whole stage, direction, roles and the wonderful audience for which we didn't have room for everyone".

Often love in the opera is a phrase dedicated to a countryman.

The writer Ag Apolloni has estimated that some interventions should be made in the composition and in the verses.

"It was also interesting as a book written and beautifully inspired by the novel. However, some interventions should probably be made, especially in the composition and verses. But in general I think he communicated well with the public".

On July 21, 1979, the opera "Goca e Kaçaniku" was to be premiered at the Opera and Ballet Theater in Tirana. A year before, in 1978, it would be given in a concert version in Prizren and Prishtina under the direction of Mark Kačinari.

Love for the homeland echoes even when the opera ends. "Kaçanik's oyster" was applauded for a long time. Even for the fact that it marks a chapter of history with multiple weight. The premiere atmosphere was also seen in Sunday night's replay. The plans are for this opera show to return to the capital in the fall after Skopje and Tirana.