Anja Đorđević (1970, Serbia) graduated from the Department of Composition at the Faculty of Music Art in Belgrade in the class of Prof. Vlastimir Trajković. Her graduate studies were supervised by Prof. Zoran Erić. She has composed music for a number of theatre plays in Serbia and abroad, for contemporary dance performances and several documentary films, and for many exhibitions, installations, and other multimedia art forms. Her musical creativity is primarily geared toward vocal-instrumental music, that is, musical theatre. Her opera Narcis i Eho (Narcissus and Echo)won the 2002 Mokranjac Award. In May 2005, she was a guest composer at the Visby International Centre for Composers in Sweden.
Her chamber opera Narcis i Eho (Narcissus and Echo)was premièred on 10 October 2002 at the 34th BEMUS. The libretto was written by Marija Stojanović, the staging was directed by Alisa Stojanović, the costumes were designed by Zora Mojsilović-Popović, and the stage set by Saša Ivanović. The role of Narcis was sung by Radmilo Petrović, Eho was sung by Anja Đorđević, the two nymphs were sung by Aneta Ilić and Ivana Dimitrijević. The performance was conducted by Premil Petrović. This piece marked the beginning of a new stage in the development of Serbian opera at the start of the new millennium, bringing new innovative moments in its development. The opera was composed as a festival production, independently from the programming policies of Serbian opera houses and constituted the first production of an opera by a Serbian author after 30 years and the first opera by a female Serbian composer. The author herself also participated in the staging, complementing it with her specific performing manner, known to the audience from her work with Marsija, a Balkan music ensemble, and the Ravno nebo (Flat Sky) trio. Her original interpretation of the ancient myth, a sort of postmodern take on the beginnings and tradition of opera, which brought a blend of elements from baroque opera, repetitive musical technique, and charming elements from pop music, captivated a wide audience, even though the piece had only three performances at BEMUS. Produced by Milan Govedarica, the opera had its British première in 2011 (in English translation). That same year, it served as inspiration for an eponymous film by Saša Radivojević.
As was already mentioned above, at the 2003 Tribina.zip (Review.zip), which was denied financial support by the Ministry of Culture and therefore had to be significantly curtailed, the usual formal presentation of the Mokranjac Award did not occur.
The chamber opera Narcis i Eho (Narcissus and Echo; completed in 2000, premièred at the 2002 BEMUS) by Belgrade-based composer Aleksandra Đorđević is one of those pieces, few and far between in our environment, that stem from the current moment of the youngest generation of urban intellectuals. Through her piece, the author poses questions, with much acumen, sophistication, and without compromise, not only about the fate of music as an art, but also about the fate of her generation, observed through the lens of gender: the self-aware, sophisticated, and subdued Eho and the arrogant, trite, but superior Narcis. The music in this piece is based on two mutually remote musical cultures: baroque opera and contemporary pop scene, staged in an unusual parallelism between a baroque operatic spectacle and that of a pop concert. The work’s musical conception is a contemporary post-minimalist compositional mould, which, owing to the composer’s masterful play, at times sports a baroque, at other times a pop profile. The classical subject thus gains an entirely novel transposition, a tragicomic interpretation of relations between the sexes and different kinds of music. Thanks to the composer’s entirely novel ideas, skill, and compositional maturity, the work features the coexistence of irony and non-juxtaposed different languages of music. The opera Narcis i Eho, although with only three performances, has become a classic musical story about our contemporary life. It poses serious and tragic questions regarding the survival of intellectuals and their art here and now in a seemingly light, witty, and seductive way. It poses questions about survival in such a way that, when we become aware of them, we do not simply want to yield to fate, but to confront our own conformism and, for a start, to overcome our bitterness with a smile at our own expense. With her multilayered and deeply metaphorical work, Anja Đorđević tells us that art survives even when seemingly renouncing itself. And for that reason, it survives all the more and more strongly.
(Commentary by Zorica Premate, a member of the jury)