S is for Singing, Scene, Serbia: Tendencies in the world of 21st Century (Post)Opera

  • Jelena Novak Center for Study of the Sociology and Aesthetics of Music, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa
Keywords: Contemporary opera in Serbia, Music and opera identity, Jasna Veličković, Anja Đorđević, Irena Popović Dragović, Ana Sokolović, Isidora Žebeljan, Katarina Zdjelar, Marko Nikodijević


The twenty-first century saw an abrupt and remarkable resurgence of activity in the contemporary opera scene in Serbia. In particular, three new operatic works appeared around the turn of the millennium: DreamOpera (2001) by the group TkH (Teorija koja Hoda [Walking Theory]) with Jasna Veličković, the chamber opera Narcissus and Eho (Narcis i Eho, 2002) by Anja Đorđević, and the opera Zora D. (2003) by Isidora Žebeljan. Those three works exemplified three different attitudes to opera in Serbia: (1) a reliance on and reinventing of conventional operatic protocols while drawing inspiration from national heritage, folklore and tradition (Žebeljan); (2) various postmodern strategies calling into question the conventional form, way of singing and content of opera (in the case of Narcissus and Echo by Đorđević, this meant exploring crossover music); and (3) a conceptual and experimental approach to opera (TkH and Veličković).

Author Biography

Jelena Novak, Center for Study of the Sociology and Aesthetics of Music, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa

Jelena Novak works as a researcher at CESEM, FCSH, Universidade NOVA de Lisboa. Her fields of interests are modern and contemporary music, recent opera, singing and new media, capitalist realism, voice studies and feminine identities in music.  Exploring those fields, she works as a researcher, lecturer, writer, dramaturge, music critic, editor and curator focused on bringing together critical theory and contemporary art. Her most recent books are Postopera: Reinventing the Voice-Body (2015), Operofilia (2018) and Einstein on the Beach: Opera beyond Drama (co-edited with John Richardson, 2019). Most recently she collaborated as a dramaturge at the opera in 17 songs Deca (Children, 2022) by Irena Popović at the National Theatre in Belgrade. Currently, she is working on a book Opera in the Expanded Field and is researching about what it means and what it takes to sing beyond human.