Croats revolt against ‘know-nothing’ opera chief

Croats revolt against ‘know-nothing’ opera chief


norman lebrecht

February 11, 2021

From a correspondent in Zagreb:

The HNK (Croatian National Theatre Zagreb) is in crisis. In addition to opera, the HNK presents drama and ballet. The present Intendant Dubravka Vrgoč comes from a theatre background and has publicly admitted that she knows ‘nothing about opera’.

Dubravka Vrgoč’s spectacular lack of qualifications is exceeded only by an abrasive and dictatorial management style. In mid January, 12 Croatian cultural luminaries wrote an open letter demanding her dismissal on grounds of bullying and ignorance.

The Croatian Parliamentary Committee for Education, Science and Culture has held two special sessions to investigate the litany of complaints against Intendant Vrgoč. Testimony was signed by 30 past and present employees of HRK. The number of signatories supporting her removal has now mushroomed to over 450, including 18 opera soloists, 33 orchestral musicians, 26 chorus members and a plethora of international artists including baritone Željko Lučić, Bayreuth tenor Tomislav Mužek and Braunschweig Generalmusikdirektor Srboljub Dinić. The full list of names can be read here.

The Croatian conductor Nikša Bareza, HNK’s previous director of opera, has told the Nacional newspaper that Vrgoč is impossible to work with. She responded, calling Bareza ‘the emperor with no clothes’.

There’s no row like a Balkan row.


  • Rogerio says:

    Our thoughts and prayers go out to the Croats.
    Maybe the UN can send in peace-keeping … uhh…opera … troupes?

    • dd says:

      If only it was thus, Rogerio. Alas, un [sic] peace-keeping in reality,ain’t. Here’s a BFTP :’ As heavily-armed US and NATO troops enforced the peace in Bosnia, the press and politicians alike portrayed Western intervention in the former Yugoslavia as a noble, if agonizingly belated, response to an outbreak of ethnic massacres and human rights violations. In the wake of the November 1995 Dayton peace accords, the West was eager to touch up its self-portrait as savior of the Southern Slavs and get on with “the work of rebuilding” the newly “sovereign states.”
      But following a pattern set early on, Western public opinion had been skillfully misled… Lost in the barrage of images and self-serving analyses are the economic and social causes of the conflict. The deep-seated economic crisis which preceded the civil war had long been forgotten. The strategic interests of Germany and the US in laying the groundwork for the disintegration of Yugoslavia go unmentioned, as does the role of external creditors and international financial institutions. In the eyes of the global media, Western powers bear no responsibility for the impoverishment and destruction of a nation of 24 million people.
      But through their domination of the global financial system, the Western powers, in pursuit of national and collective strategic interests, helped bring the Yugoslav economy to its knees and stirred its simmering ethnic and social conflicts. Now it is the turn of Yugoslavia’s war-ravaged successor states to feel the tender mercies of the international financial community.

      As the world focused on troop movements and cease-fires, the international financial institutions were busily collecting former Yugoslavia’s external debt from its remnant states, while transforming the Balkans into a safe-haven for free enterprise. With a Bosnian peace settlement holding under NATO guns, the West had in late 1995 unveiled a “reconstruction” program that stripped that brutalized country of sovereignty to a degree not seen in Europe since the end of World War II. It consisted largely of making Bosnia a divided territory under NATO military occupation and Western administration.[…]

  • Hugo Mallet says:

    Is she STILL there?

  • H Rosen says:

    Know nothing Opera chiefs seem to be in vogue..the useless and nasty Stuart Murphy at ENO and dare we say it…P Gelb…

  • Herbie G says:

    It’s par for the course. We have a know-nothing ex-civil servant (I deliberately left out the second hyphen!) director at Radio 3. And we are getting lots of directors of music colleges whose only qualifications are PhDs in Wokeness from the University of the Blindingly Obvious.

  • Novagerio says:

    An opera house ruled by incompetence – now, where have we seen that before?…

  • henry williams says:

    I have worked with many people and have been reported
    for verbal violence. and they never get the sack

  • David K. Nelson says:

    One post/one person in charge of theater and opera and ballet is almost guaranteed to mean one or two of those specialties is going to get the short end of the stick when it comes to expertise and even interest. In a worst case, all three do.

    So if they get an opera person, would the theater workers all be penning the same complaints? Ditto ballet?

  • JussiB says:

    well, that hasn’t stopped all the ‘know-nothing’ film directors doing big opera in the U.S. woody allen.

  • Aussie opera lover says:

    In australia we have an artistic direc tor who hates most opera and most australian opera singers and anyone in the union. So he sacks them. He has recently boasted that he will float the company financially with long runs of The phantom of the opera both on a barge on the harbour and in the renowned Sydney Opera House. Hundreds of artists and opera supporters have decried his bullying tactics and cynical commercial stance …but with the board loaded with cronies and a government who cares not at all where 25 million dollars goes of taxpayer money…nothing changes but that he becomes more entrenc hed and despotic as he is now over 70 the leopard will not change. We in Sydney who love the art sympathise with the plight in Croatia…talk up loud and clear and early or you stuck with someone who will destroy the art..wipe out a generation of artists and lose a serious audience possibly forever.

    • Ali Baba says:

      It’s exactly the same in New Zealand. A national opera company led by an incompetent, ignorant narcissist, appointed by a board containing precisely zero operatic expertise. Woeful.

  • JussiB says:

    LA Opera just received $50,000 subsidy from the NEA. Woweeee!