Ms. Livljanic enacted the ancient drama with splendidly pure singing in Croatian, urgent narration, a penetrating gaze and expressive hands. (…) What makes “Judith” seem almost startlingly modern and metaphysical at times is Ms. Livljanic’s incorporation of other 16th-century texts dealing with inner dialogues at climactic moments in the story.
Captivating! Around the rich mezzo timbre, sculptural appearance and charisma of the singer who created this project, the film plays subtly with changes in mood and setting…. Surprising dance of Holofernes's drunkenness, in which both instrumentalists change places as if by magic…
"It takes an eloquent artist and a patient scholar to recruit and arrange the relics of a truly distant past in a way that creates a work capable of enthralling modern listeners. The resulting piece is a mesmerizing and at times hauntingly beautiful work, with Livljanic's pure-toned voice at its core. ... The undulating vocal lines provide a certain melancholy expressive tug, and a rich array of piquant dissonances makes the music sound both very old and very new. Sanda Hrzic has provided a subtle and organic staging that makes poetic use of light and shadows as the fine musicians Norbert Rodenkirchen and Albrecht Maurer drift and hover around the singer. ... It is an exercise in a kind of generative musicology at its best..."
"All three musicians were so attuned and so responsive to one another they seemed as one, none dominant, all equally necessary. Playing a selection of early and Croatian folk instruments, Norbert Rodenkirchen, flutist and medievalist and Albrecht Maurer, string player, jazz musician and specialist in improvization, followed every nuance of Katarina Livljanic’s very powerful, flexible voice.
The music is rich and opulent in sound with long, hypnotic lines.
Livljanic’s subtle interpretations of the story kept the audience rivetted. Using mostly song with very effective spoken or half-spoken passages, Livljanic unrolled Judith’s story with awful inevitability, her firm and unbending character reflected by the supreme confidence of the singer."
"Judith" is an amazing 70 minute one-woman opera (that's the branding I'll suggest, although it would be more accurate to label it a musical monodrama) with stunning music offered not only in Livljanic's mesmerizing mezzo-soprano, but with faultless performances by Albrecht Maurer on fiddle and Iftica (a traditional stringed instrument of Croatia) and Norbert Rodenkirchen on archaic flutes."
Essay on Katarina Livljanić's work by the Croatian/Bosnian writer Miljenko Jergović, published in the daily Jutarnji list (PDF)
I have never seen or heard anything so powerful, yet created with so few elements. Excellent musicians Albrecht Maurer and Norbert Rodenkirchen were worth a whole orchestra. In their interaction with Katarina Livljanic’s marvellous voice, everything seemed like a perfect improvisation, created at the very moment of the performance. The scenes from Holofernes’s siege of Bethulia were brought to life with surprising force and breathtaking concentration.
Enchanted by ‘Judith’
The audience was immediately brought under her spell. The church space, the charismatic singer, and the instrumentalists – all in a refined lighting by Marie Bellot – together created … an enraptured, dense atmosphere, from which the listener could only slowly emerge at the end.
Katarina Livljanic …employs a wide spectrum of vocal nuances: in recitation and in singing she brings a wealth of emotions to our experience; in her clear, very agile and technically secure voice one hears not the tiniest insecurity. The concentration she brings to this tour de force is impressive.
The two instrumentalists proved themselves to be congenial partners. They beguiled us with lyric, gentle playing, but showed themselves equally at home with dramatic climaxes. In this way was born, in singing and playing, a riveting performance which draws its intensity from a reduction to that which is essential.
The warm voice (of Katarina Livljanic) with its dense colour and expressivity in a rich palette of sound nuances between speech, singing-speach and singing, was harmoniously accompanied by two German musicians specialized in historic instruments …Albrecht Maurer learned to play the Croatian traditional instrument lirica for this project … he enriched its tone with the soft bow technique. His colleague, the flutist Norbert Rodenkirchen, combined different kinds of wooden traverso flutes and also included Croatian dvojnice into his rich instrumentarium, spontaneously creating a simple polyphony with a developed melody and drone accompaniments.
Different sound sources were meeting and joining so precisely in countless nuances, so that in several moments it was impossible to distinguish the voice from the instruments.
The audience was hypnotized by the magic of this staged musical mystery which goes beyond the historic frame of its time and context.
… This was the only day in this year’s musical life in Croatia when we experienced a real ritual of hypnosis by a music-theatre magician KL.
Katarina Livljanic, in this demanding project, transforms this one hour long piece of musical theatre into a complete and total experience which one can follow very intensively in one breath. An aspect that should be especially mentioned is Katarina Livljanic’s supreme vocal skill, attributes of very rare performers, those who deeply reflect and live through the essence of the message they transform into sound. It is also essential to mention the subtle instrumentation of Albrecht Maurer and Norbert Rodenkirchen, excellent musicians. The elementary simplicity of Sanda Herzic’s stage direction provides a perfect frame for the course of this musical-theatrical play.
“Judith” was undoubtedly the biggest success among the various musical and staged musical performances during the 53rd season of the Split Festival. By choosing and connecting textual and musical fragments, by a superb vocal and dramatic performance in a compact relationship with excellent instrumentalists, K. Livljanic confirmed the strength of her creative imagination and scholarly dedication.
The texts are the main protagonists of this performance, based on a simple staging devoid of any adornments and focused on the words - sometimes sung and sometimes spoken. A very fine choice from Livljanic and Herzic. The two instrumentalists accompanying Katarina Livjanic underline the story in an extraordinary way, using rarely seen instruments such as the lirica and the dvojnice (double flute). The three musicians produce some magnificent moments.
"A voice of great beauty, with an extraordinary expressivity."
Accompanied by excellent musicians, K.Livljanic very wisely and profoundly found inspiration in the gregorian and glagolitic Dalmatian musical heritage. The staging was discrete but deeply impressive, performed by the musicians in a perfect resonance with the profound and inspired musical contents, full of emotional energy. The voice is in the center of the performance, refined and resonant with its perfectly shaped sound, using archaic melodic fragments with a lot of imagination and ease. The synergy with the original text is very moving. Liturgical and secular elements are interwoven in very harmonious dialogues/monologues. The communication between the singer and the instrumental accompaniment by Maurer and Rodenkirchen is impressive and extremely sensual.
This gripping drama of the human soul reached its high point in the surprisingly modern-sounding postlude: ‘Vanity, all is Vanity’…
Radislav Jovanov Gonzo’s film is outstandingly beautiful.