Svadba, a Serbian “wedding ceremony,” poetically explores the traditions and rituals associated with the night before marriage. Milica, the bride, prepares for the wedding day with her five girlfriends, all channeling a range of enthusiastic and anxious emotions into decorations, games, and song. The Ancestors oversee the action, appearing in ceremonies and dreams and speaking across time; the contemporary and ancestral worlds are thus cast in conversation with one another. The seven scenes of the drama are set on a beach and cottage by the Atlantic Ocean, and the water, sky, sand, flowers and creatures all play a part in the physical and spiritual landscape. Invoking Slavic and Balkan folk tales and myth, the scenes carry a mystical charm, but also relay universal cultural themes on how marriage shapes family and friendship.
The women consider the duality of a wedding as both the end of one phase of life and the beginning of another. Milica and her bridesmaids carry sea grass and wildflowers to the cottage to begin decorating, and Handymen arrive to roll out the wedding rug. Lena, the Elder, begins preparing colored henna to dye Milica’s hair, marking the rite of passage. Later, Milica reflects by the shore and sinks into a dream, entering a decorative fairy tale world with her betrothed.
Tension builds, blurring the line between lighthearted role-playing and contentious confrontation. Milica’s girlfriends act out a gender-role battle– a fiery call and response game. Ljubica, the maid of honor, begins to stew in earnest jealousy of Milica. Out at the beach, the tension comes to a boil during a standoff between the two women, which the other bridesmaids are keen to mitigate. The striking of the drum leads the bridal party back to the cottage to ready themselves for nighttime.
Milica wades out in the water to bathe, looking up at the stars and returning to her fairy tale daydream. The Ancestors lullaby her to sleep. Dawn breaks and the final preparations are underway. Emotions are raw as Milica dresses on the morning of the ceremony. The bridesmaids play ocarinas and percussion to greet the wedding day. Milica and Ljubica embrace and make amends. Finally, all decorations are set– Milica and her betrothed at last greet each other face-to-face in a beautiful ceremony by the shore.
Opera Philadelphia Channel
Approximately 54 minutes.