The Magic of Amadeo

 

This story was produced by our community for the Music Moves Europe Talent Awards. Read the Croatian translation here.

 
Illustration by  Simon Bournel

Illustration by Simon Bournel

 

It’s summertime in Zagreb. The temperature is in its low thirties and people are trying to hide from the heat while getting home from work. But as night approaches, the city springs to life once again.

Zagreb is a city which is known for its outdoor festivals and exhibitions during the summer. In the city’s Upper Town, the Natural History Museum transforms into a stage for music, hosting Amadeo⁠—an independent outdoor summer stage, displaying the history and culture of Croatia.

 
 

The Amadeo Summer Stage was founded in 2000, and this year marks its 20th anniversary. Its name originates from Count Anton Amade de Varkony, Zagreb’s County Prefect, who ran the first Croatian public theatre from 1797 until 1834, and promoted theatre and improved the performing arts sector in the country.

A stroll through the narrow, winding streets of Upper Town, leads you to the Natural History Museum where Amadeo takes place. Upper Town, is the oldest part of Zagreb, famous for its 17th and 18th century buildings. Upon entering the museum through the huge wooden door, one is instantly greeted by the busts and plaques of the founders of the museum. A peek through the opening of a heavy, red-velvet curtain gives you a spectacular view of the atrium. The entire space displays an interpolation of culture with the Summer Stage set up for the night, and natural science artefacts reflected on a Rock Map of Croatia on the floor.

As the clock ticks away to 9 P.M., the night transforms into a musical wonder. Sitting under an open sky, one can listen to Lado⁠—the National Folk Dance Ensemble of Croatia, Mariachi Los Caballeros⁠—the first Croatian Mariachi band, or Petrit Çeku⁠—a classical guitarist from Kosovo. Whatever is on the programme, the guests are sure to be gifted with an extraordinary musical experience.

Over the years, Amadeo has hosted over 700 events, from theatrical performances and classical concerts, to alternative theatre productions. Today, it focuses solely on music showcasing artists from classical, jazz, world, ethno and popular music circles, creating a niche for itself, which fits perfectly with the queer-shaped atrium of the Natural History Museum. The atrium is more of a trapezoid, which works particularly well with acoustic concerts. The sound is so clear that during one of the concerts of a string quartet, an unusual fifth performer joined in. This performer was a swallow bird, singing from its nest, replying to the tunes generated from one of the violinists. This conversation between the violinist and the swallow went on for several minutes, with the violin player playing a tune and the swallow replying through its own song.

Besides giving people a venue to enjoy music, the Amadeo Summer Stage tries to promote the Croatian music scene all around Europe. In 2015, Amadeo collaborated with partner organizations from Italy, Greece and Serbia as a part of an EU-funded project called EU.T.ER.PE, which celebrated the diversity of traditional European musical instruments. The collaboration resulted in various workshops for children, masterclasses for music students, and acted as a vital avenue to connect different countries, cultures, and traditions. The stage also supports upcoming artists by organizing smaller festivals like The Flamenco Festival, Little Amadeo, Amadeoff, and the Festival of Croatian Female Singer-Songwriters, to promote talented artists.

The Amadeo Summer Stage has evolved with the citizens of Zagreb, to cater to the dynamic nature of the city. The cultural heritage created by the Stage every year, has increased Zagreb’s visibility on the musical map of Europe, making it one of the main cultural hubs in Croatia. It is an inevitable stop for anyone who wants to escape the crowded bars, loud clubs and the busy pavements of Zagreb, and instead enjoy the sublime experience of music—the magic of Amadeo.