The extraordinary success of Vito Žuraj’s contemporary opera

30. 01. 2023

On Sunday, the Frankfurt Opera premiered an opera by the Slovenian composer Vito Žuraj. The work, entitled Blühen (Blossoming), is his most extensive work to date, commissioned by the Frankfurt Opera House and set to a libretto by Klaus Händl.

The new work was premiered in the former Bockenheimer warehouse in Frankfurt, with the Slovenian soprano Nika Gorič in one of the central roles. The opera was directed by Brigitte Fassbaender, conducted by Michael Wendeberg, and the orchestra was the Ensemble Modern.

The Austrian librettist Klaus Händl based the story on Thomas Mann’s Die Betrogene (The Black Swan) from 1953, about a widow who falls in love with a much younger man, and who is suffering from terminal cancer. “It’s a very unusual love story for the opera stage, but one in which I saw great dramatic potential,” said Žuraj.

The critic Bernd Künzig, reporting for the German radio broadcaster Südwestrundfunk, described the premiere of Blossoming as a great success for contemporary opera. Meanwhile, the critic Florian Balke wrote in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) that Žuraj had composed music that “was spot on, in the vocal lines, the scenes and the piano excerpt”.

In 2015, Vito Žuraj was awarded the Prešeren Fund Prize for his composition Changeover, for which he also won first prize at the Stuttgart Composition Competition.

In 2016, he was awarded the prestigious Claudio Abbado Composition Prize by the Berlin Philharmonic. Last year, the International Rostrum of Composers in Stockholm included a recording of the premiere of his concerto for cello and orchestra, UNVEILED, from the conclusion of the 69th Ljubljana Festival. The concerto was performed by the ORF Vienna Radio Symphony Orchestra conducted by Kerem Hasan, and the soloist was the cellist Jean-Guihen Queyras.