Musical Evenings at St Donatus is a musical and music-performative festival which, through its reproductive, musicological, explorative and educational programme of an international character, fosters and promotes artistic values and the patrimony of Croatian and world musical heritage with two programmatic bases: chamber music, with the focus on the work of Zadar Chamber Orchestra, and early music, that is medieval and Renaissance music, with a special focus on local and national heritage of the field, with which the festival meets the demands of public needs in culture. City of Zadar is the founder and organizer of the Musical Evenings at St Donatus, while the production of the Festival has been entrusted to Zadar Concert Office – the public cultural institution of the City of Zadar. The artistic programme of the Festival from 2019 to 2023 is created by Jurica Šoša and Katarina Livljanić (early music). Musical Evenings at St Donatus has been taking place in Zadar annually since 1961, in July and August.
Musical Evenings at St Donatus were initiated thanks to the enthusiasm of a young musician who went on to become one of the greatest Croatian conductors, Pavle Dešpalj, a local of Zadar. He founded the festival hoping to fulfill two of his great wishes – to turn the church of St Donatus into a concert venue and for Zadar to get its own orchestra once again.
To meet the needs of the festival, Dešpalj founded the Zadar Chamber Orchestra, which was inaugurated in 1961 at the first concert of the Musical Evenings at St Donatus. The festival opened with the premiere of the song "Moba" for strings, composed especially for the occasion by his father, Šime Dešpalj.
The Zadar pre-Romanesque rotunda of St Donatus’ finally opened its doors to outside audiences, after a thousand-year-long slumber, to enjoy first-rate musical performances in its architecturally and acoustically exceptional space for decades to come.
The first phase of the festival was marked by an effort to bring prominent artists of both international and domestic reproductive music art to Zadar, but also by striving to strengthen the city’s own artistic forces by including their performances in the festival program on par with the other renowned participants.
From 1975 to 1990, a significant part of the program was dedicated to early music, which became the Evenings’ recognizable trademark within Europe and around the world. The local enthusiasm for early music was blooming at a time of great breakthroughs of early music and coincided almost entirely with the enthusiasm it was enjoying throughout the Old Continent. It was a period remembered for arrivals of exceptional experts and artists from various parts of the world, who passionately researched and performed music of the Middle Ages, Renaissance and Baroque.
After a dramatic break in 1991, the Evenings continued to operate, maintaining defiant continuity even in the midst of war, under artillery fire, in 1992 and 1993. Nevertheless, this was also the period when the underlying concept of the festival was initially developed, lasting to this day, based primarily on select symphony and chamber concerts, along with early music, but with an emphasis on promoting local composers and performers.
Besides performances by national and international orchestras and ensembles, guest appearances of eminent domestic and international artists, Musical Evenings at St Donatus also nurture continuous cooperation with the Zadar Chamber Orchestra. Furthermore, the Evenings’ summer music stages are a reliable platform for hosting performances by all academically educated Zadar musicians, while at the same time honoring the memory of the locals who had left their mark on the history of music, such as Franz von Suppè, Blagoje Bersa, Igor Kuljerić, and others.
Today Musical Evenings at St Donatus enjoy the reputation of being the oldest Zadar festival and one of the oldest Croatian music festivals. Thanks to them, the church of St. Donatus - the symbol of Zadar - is recognized as one of the most important music stages in all of Europe!
Jurica Šoša (Zadar, 1981) graduated in piano at the Music Academy in Zagreb in the class of Prof George Stanetti, where he later completed his postgraduate studies. During his university years, he won several awards at competitions, including the first prize at the national competition of the Croatian Society of Music and Dance Educators (2001), a special award of the Croatian Composers' Society for the best performance of a Croatian author (1998) and the University Rector's Award in Zagreb (2002).
Since 2003 he has been teaching piano at the Blagoje Bersa Music School in Zadar. From 2006 to 2016 he was the conductor of the Croatian Choral Society "Zoranić", and since 2010 he has been the artistic director of the Musical Evenings at St Donatus.
Katarina Livljanić, singer and musicologist, is an international specialist in medieval music and plainchant performance. Born on the Adriatic coast of Croatia, she decided to become a medieval music performer at a very early age, training at the Zagreb Music Conservatory before moving to France to study voice and musicology. She directs the vocal ensemble Dialogos, which she founded, specializing in medieval chant and liturgical theatre of the Glagolitic tradition. For her work in this field, she was decorated for cultural achievement in 2002 by the president of Croatia and received in 2016 the title Chevalier des Arts et des Lettres by the French government.
She obtained a Ph.D. at the Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes in Paris. As a Maître de conferences in medieval music at the Sorbonne University in Paris, she directed a medieval music performance Masters programme for almost twenty years. Since 2019, she became a voice teacher at the medieval and renaissance department at the Schola Cantorum Basiliensis. She is regularly invited as visiting lecturer or artist in residence at Harvard University (visiting lecturer in 1997, artist in residence in 2003 and Blodgett Artist in Residence in 2011) and to numerous universities in Europe, in the United States and Canada (Schola Cantorum Basiliensis, Fondazione Cini, Boston University, Yale...) as a teacher or resident artist. With Benjamin Bagby (Sequentia), she has been awarded a Cornille Visiting Professorship at Wellesley College (USA) in 2007. She publishes articles about medieval chant performance in specialized reviews worldwide and is the author of a volume in the collection Paléographie Musicale founded in by the monks of Solesmes in 1889. In 2002 she was a guest artistic advisor at the Early Music Festival in Utrecht, Netherlands and in 2012 she was artist in residence at the Laus Polyphoniae Festival in Antwerpen, Belgium.
As a soloist, she performs contemporary repertoire in collaboration with the Croatian pianist Danijel Detoni and the french ensemble Variances, directed by Thierry Pecou. She is also active as poet and publishes in Croatian literary reviews.
Dina Bušić (Zadar, 1979) graduated in musicology at the Music Academy of University of Zagreb. She has had a professional connection to the Musical Evenings at St Donatus since 2001, first volunteering as a student, and later as reporter for Jutarnji list, Zadarski list and Croatian National Radio. From 2005 to 2015 she worked as a producer of the Evenings and other classical music events organized by Croatian National Theatre Zadar either as producer, professional musicologist and in marketing. During that time, she worked on the development of music cycles that make up the very foundation of the city's concert life.
After multiple years of working towards enabling the city of Zadar to get its own public institution to deal with musical production and coordination and direction of concert life in the city, Bušić became the director of the Zadar Concert Hall in 2015. At that time, the Zadar Concert Hall received from the City of Zadar venues within Rector's Palace to govern, thus forming a whole array of new programs, along with the existing musical cycles, in the newly renovated space.
Since 2019, Dina Bušić has worked as Head of the City of Zadar's Public Department of Culture and Sports and council director of Musical Evenings at St Donatus. She is the author and editor of two monographs: Zadar Chamber Orchestra – Orchestra of Zadar's Desire (2015) and 70 Years of Musical School Blagoje Bersa (2017).
Ante Ćurković (Zadar, 1985) is the assistant head for EU funds of the City of Zadar. He received his master's degree in political science, majoring in public policy, management and development, and European Studies at the Faculty of Political Science, University of Zagreb. He participated in numerous seminars and courses on EU community policies, regional and local development, and EU funds.
Since 2013, he has been actively working on the coordination and management of EU projects aimed at regional and local development, civil society development, rural development, energy efficiency, infrastructure improvement, and encouraging the development of entrepreneurship and employment at the regional and local level.
In recent years, the City of Zadar Administrative Department for EU Funds has primarily been preparing and implementing projects funded through European Union programs aimed at local development and improvement of infrastructure.
Branko Dukić (Zadar, 1966) graduated from the Faculty of Medicine at the University of Rijeka in 1992, returning to Zadar as a medical doctor to begin his medical internship at the Zadar General Hospital.
Shortly after the start of the internship, in September 1992, he enlisted to participate in the Homeland War, joining the 134th Guards Brigade, which was soon transformed into TG 134. With the founding of the 84th Guard Battalion in Zadar, he became their member as a professional soldier as an army doctor.
Before becoming a mayor, he was the head of the Department of Gynecology and Obstetrics at the Zadar General Hospital for almost 13 years. He was elected mayor of Zadar in 2017.
Ante Gverić (Zadar, 1977) completed a two-year study of philosophy and a four-year study of theology at the Society of Jesus Institute of Philosophy and Theology in Zagreb, affiliated with the Pontifical Gregorian University in Rome. He graduated in archival studies from the University of Zagreb, Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, Department of Information Sciences.
He received his doctorate from the University of Zadar in 2016, and the title of assistant professor in 2019. Since 2012, he has been the director of the State Archives in Zadar.
Linda Ivić Bijuklić graduated in violin in 1983 from the Music Academy in Zagreb in the class of Prof Josip Klima. She returned to her native Zadar the same year and started teaching violin at the Blagoja Bersa Music School, where she still works today. She has been playing in the Zadar Chamber Orchestra since 1980, as well as participates in their work organization, and serves as the president of the Zadar Chamber Orchestra Association. Together with Drago Novak, Petar Vrbančić, and Vladimir Lukas, she founded the string quartet of the Zadar Chamber Orchestra. Since 1985, she has played in the early music ensemble Zadar Madrigalists, where she served as one of the artistic directors until 2004.
Melita Ivković (Zadar, 1976) has been the director of the Zadar Concert Office since December 2018. She graduated in guitar at the Music Academy in Zagreb. As a professional musician, she performed with the Zagreb Guitar Quartet and other chamber and guitar ensembles in hundreds of concerts in 30 countries around the world.
She taught guitar at the Elly Bašić Music School in Zagreb (1998-2010), as well, upon her return to her hometown, at the Blagoje Bersa Music School in Zadar (2010-2018). She held courses in the US, the South African Republic and Belgium, and has published papers in journals Gitara (Croatia) and Classical Guitar Magazine (Great Britain).
Jelka Milošević (Zadar, 1954) - after graduating from the Faculty of Economics in Zagreb, she worked at Tankerkomerc (1982-1991), as purchasing manager at Folijaplast (today's Aluflexpack), eventually becoming commercial director and board member of the company (1991-2007). From 2007 until her retirement in 2018, she was employed at Tehno Holding d.o.o. as director of several companies.
By purchasing a subscription in the amount of 500 kuna, you get discounted ticket prices.
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Benefits and ticket discounts for all concerts are offered to retirees, students, kids under the age of 12 and people with disabilities.
Discounted tickets can only be bought in advance (at the Rector’s Palace info-desk).
Tickets purchased at the venues before the concerts are subject to 10 kuna additional charge compared to tickets bought in advance at the info desk of the Rector's Palace.
Zadarski komorni orkestar
Pavle Dešpalj, dirigent, Maja Dešpalj, violina, glasovir, Marijan Jerbić, violončelo, Vedrana Golubović, glasovir
Š. Dešpalj, J.S. Bach, A. Stradella, A. Corelli, P. I. Čajkovski
Maja Dešpalj, violina, glasovir, Pavle Dešpalj, violina i glasovir, Valter Dešpalj, violončelo i glasovir, Majda Radić, mezzosopran, Željko Veršić, oboa
G. Ph. Telemann, Ch. W. Gluck, J. B. Loeillet, J. Brahms, M. Bruch
Maja Dešpalj, glasovir
J. S. Bach, L. van Beethoven, F. Chopin, J. Brahms, M. Ravel
Marijan Jerbić, violončelo, Pavle Dešpalj, glasovir
J. S. Bach, J. Brahms, P. I. Čajkovski, D. Šostakovič