A Greek Tragedy in Renaissance Dubrovnik and Venice

Have you ever been terrified by your own thoughts, have you ever been wounded so deeply that the only relief for your anger and pain could come through… revenge? If you do not already know the Trojan Queen Hecuba, it is time to meet her.

The story

The story of Hecuba rises from the sea and wind. The war is over, Troy is destroyed, tired Greek soldiers are sitting on the burned no man 's land and hope to return home. But the wind stops, and the boats can't sail. In that moment of dead calm sea, when everything is stagnant and immobile, the warriors turn to the gods and beg for their help. In order to be able to leave, a sacrifice of something precious needs to be made. The spirit of the Greek hero Achilles appears and seeks the sacrifice of the greatest treasure - Polyxena, Hecuba's daughter - to restore the wind to the Greeks' sails.

The story of Hecuba unfolds between insomnia and prophetic dreams. In a dream, Hecuba predicts the fall of Troy and the death of Polyxena, not knowing that another ordeal awaits her: her youngest son Polydorus - whom his father had entrusted with great treasure to his friend Polymnestor during the war - will die by his friend's hand. Out of greed for gold, Polymnestor throws the boy into the sea.

In that moment, Hecuba is transformed from a dignified queen into a delirious monster who sees revenge as the only way out, and goes from one warrior to another, asking for explanations or help. Ulysses is already tired of everything, devious and wily, Agamemnon is a powerful macho ready to make pacts, Polymnestor is a cynical liar and opportunist. With Agamemnon's help, Hecuba will draw Polymnestor into the camp where Trojan women will take revenge on him - they will gouge out his eyes and kill his children.

Finally, the story of Hecuba finds release through the light that permeates the darkness. Hecuba reaches the catharsis through revenge, and Polymnestor begins to foresee the future through the darkness of his blindness.

Our performance

Dialogos draws inspiration for this staged music performance from two Renaissance sources. The Venetian writer Lodovico Dolce (1508-1568) translated into Italian the Erasmus' Latin version (1506) of Euripides' 5th-century BC Greek Hecuba. Dolce's elegant story influenced Marin Držić (1508-1567) in Dubrovnik, to rework and translate the Italian text into Croatian. It was performed in Dubrovnik in 1559, after having been prohibited twice by local authorities who considered it too… turbulent. Dolce and Držić, Adriatic twins who were born and died in the very same years, rest today in two Venetian churches, separated by a few narrow streets and canals of stagnant Adriatic Sea where no wind blows. Their two city-republics, Dubrovnik and the Serenissima, stood as two fortresses on the two shores of that same Adriatic Sea, at the time when they wrote their Hecubas. Did they ever meet?

Dialogos' creation intersects Dolce's and Držić's version of the story, Greeks and Trojans sing and confront each other in old Italian and Croatian dialects, in this drama for solo singers, instrumentalists and a group of traditional Dalmatian cantors who intervene as the ancient chorus…

The musical language of our Hecuba is born in the oral tradition of the Dialogos-laboratory, through improvisational techniques based on Dubrovnik and Venetian 16th-century musical sources, and the traditional music of the Dubrovnik region preserved to this day.

The result is a musical performance in which the timeless power of Greek myth embraces Venetian Renaissance finesse and the rough power of Dalmatia on the threshold of the Ottoman Empire.

In today 's world which increasingly falls into black and white simplifications of good and evil, Hecuba is a story of good that can be evil and of evil that can be merciful, Hecuba is a story of the human soul in all its depth and enigma, a story about darkness that can be light, about blindness that can become vision.

Let the good wind rise and Hecuba will come towards you.

Katarina Livljanić

Staged music performance with subtitles

Katarina Livljanić, Hecuba
Francisco Mañalich, Polydorus's ghost, Polyxena, Polymnestor
Ante Podrug, Ulysses
Milivoj Rilov, Agamemnon
Srećko Damjanović, servant

Chorus: Kantaduri
Joško Ćaleta, voice and direction
Srećko Damjanović, voice
Nikola Damjanović, voice
Tonko Podrug, voice
Milivoj Rilov, voice

Instrumentalists :
Norbert Rodenkirchen, flutes, dvojnice
Albrecht Maurer, fiddle, lirica
Francisco Mañalich, viola

Musical direction, scenario: Katarina Livljanić

Staging, scenography, costumes, subtitles: Sanda Hržić

Musical reconstruction: Katarina Livljanić, Francisco Mañalich, Joško Ćaleta

Instrumental musical reconstruction: Norbert Rodenkirchen, Albrecht Maurer

Lighting and engineering: Srećko Damjanović