To mark the death of Ratko Čangalović, we are publishing an obituary written by Marijan Zlobec, whom we join in mourning the loss of the music critic and a regular guest of the Ljubljana Festival.
Shortly before his ninetieth birthday, Ratko Čangalović (1930–2020), journalist, critic, commentator, editor, music educator and an active organiser of musical and cultural events, died in a Zagreb hospital.
For more than forty years, Čangalović was a regular contributor to some of Slovenia’s leading media outlets, such as Delo, for which he wrote a regular column on Zagreb’s cultural scene and the cultural life of the Slovene community both there and in Croatia, commenting on various cultural issues and controversies. In addition, he produced educational radio broadcasts on music history for Radio Ljubljana and Radio Slovenia.
For decades, Ratko Čangalović was a regular presence at cultural events in Slovenia. As a critic, he particularly focused on the productions of the national opera theatres in Maribor and Ljubljana, as well as the Ljubljana Festival, from which he reported for several Croatian newspapers (Vjesnik, Jutarnji list) and radio stations. He authored hundreds of critiques and reports, presenting and promoting Slovenian culture, especially music, to Croatian audiences.
A striking figure, imposing and self-assured, Čangalović also possessed a great appreciation of beauty in all areas of human creativity, especially that of opera and symphonic music, and of Lieder, of which he had great knowledge as a teacher of singing. He would often be found in the company of opera singers, whom he liked and befriended from his youth onwards and throughout his seventy-year career. His brother was the world-famous bass Miroslav Čangalović, who collaborated with the Ljubljana Opera in the 1950s, especially in the productions of Russian operas, and in the legendary recording of Massenet’s Don Quichotte featuring Ladko Korošec and the ensemble of the Maribor Opera.
He acted as a jury member of the Ondina Otta international opera singers competition in Maribor, and collaborated with the Ljubljana SNG Opera when it was directed by Darko Brlek, helping to organise its tour in Zagreb with Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro. He actively followed performances by Slovenian ensembles and soloists in Zagreb and at the Dubrovnik Festival (such as Dubravka Tomšič, Marjana Lipovšek, Irena Grafenauer, Janez Lotrič, conductors Samo Hubad, Anton Nanut and Uroš Lajovic, the Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra and the RTV Ljubljana Symphony Orchestra, later RTV Slovenia, as well as other ensembles and soloists).
He was a good friend to many musicians in Slovenia, whom he respected and admired. He personally knew every singer at the Maribor and Ljubljana Operas, collaborated with their musical directors, as well as with Darko Brlek, the director of the Ljubljana Festival. He contributed to the popularisation of the Gostič Days and the programme of the Slovene House in Zagreb. He readily shared his knowledge and gave advice on interpretation, not only in his published critiques, but in person, in friendly debates with soloists, where he reflected on their performances, especially in opera, on which he always had well-argued opinions. His life was full of experiences and stories. One of his favourite anecdotes was that of meeting the then Slovenian president Milan Kučan at a concert in Cankarjev Dom’s Gallus Hall. Čangalović went to get two glasses of wine only to notice that they were not equally full. He immediately offered the fuller glass to Kučan – who then refused Čangalović’s gesture with the words: “Great man great glass, small man small glass!”
Among his friends and colleagues at Delo, Čangalović was especially close to the late editor, critic and poet Peter Kolšek, whom he would meet regularly when in Ljubljana, and for whom he wrote a heartfelt obituary.
We enjoyed Čangalović’s company not only at various cultural events, but on many other occasions. He liked to come to Ljubljana, from where we would go on a trip to the Karst region, often visiting Ciril Černet in Tomaj to buy his homemade Teran wine and prosciutto. Čangalović always bought a whole leg of prosciutto, the best one of course, which he would test with a long bone needle, as well as Teran, straight from the barrel, and a bottle of Ciril’s white Malvasia. He was also a great lover of homemade rue brandy and juniper brandy. Afterwards, we would visit the nearby Tomaj inn for jota. Čangalović often teased Černet by asking him if he knew who the mayor of Rijeka was and where he came from. The mayor was Vojko Obersnel, a Slovene from Tomaj and Černet’s neighbour, who has now been mayor for six terms, from 2001 to the present.
Ratko truly loved Slovenes and Slovenia, where he found a purpose and a confirmation that his international activities as a journalist, critic and music teacher were both appreciated and useful.
When someone would introduce him as the brother of Miroslav Čangalović, Ratko always merrily replied: “He is my brother!”