Svadba – Wedding

SVADBA WEDDING by Ana Sokolovic, directed by Michael Cavanagh, music directors Dairine Ni Mheadhra and John Hess (Queen of Puddings). At Berkeley Street Theatre (26 Berkeley). Runs to July 2. $49. 416-368-3110. See listing Rating: NNN

Prenuptial celebrations are rarely as hauntingly musical as they are in Svadba – Wedding, Ana Sokolovic’s a cappella opera that begins in the ordinary world and ends in a magical realm.

Sung in Serbian, the text is filled with touches of folk stories and myth, but Sokolovic has at times so deconstructed the words that the tales told aren’t as important as the sounds.

Sometimes guttural, sometimes onomatopoetic, sometimes just nonsense syllables, the text is only one of the means by which we follow the relationships among the six women: the bride, Milica (Jacqueline Woodley), and her five friends (Laura Albino, Carla Huhtanen, Andrea Ludwig, Shannon Mercer and Krisztina Szabo).

Amid such actions as hair-colouring, competitive games and communal bathing, the sextet performs the complex music with ease, occasionally blending their voices into one and occasionally offering a rich wash of sound that covers a multi-toned, harmonic spectrum.

Dressed in variations of red and black by Michael Gianfrancesco and lit by Kimberly Purtell, the singers capture the characters’ affection on this last night before one of them begins a new life in a new home.

Director Michael Cavanagh emphasizes the ritual nature of the evening, one that is both toast and roast for Milica. It’s also a playful time, with schoolyard hand-clapping games used as a way of bonding as well as showing off. There’s comedy, too, in a boys-versus-girls standoff.

The piece captures the wistful aspect of the upcoming event, especially in the final number, a solo for Milica, which Woodley sings with a touch of eroticism as well as seductive simplicity. As Milica’s friends supply a background sound cushion for her melody, she bids farewell to the past and welcomes the future the music shimmers, while the elegant final visual will take your breath away.

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