Nina Čalopek : Lisinski – synonymous with quality and tradition

I think a lot and often about the much broader context in which music takes place, i.e. I always try to remind myself that concert events are part of the socio-economic-political environment and culture of living, director of Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall Nina Čalopek tells Diplomacy&Commerce, Ms. Čalopek also talks about plans but also about her personal view of the work she does and the way she looks at culture and the synergy of management and art.



  1. Vatroslav Lisinski Concert Hall is named after the composer of the first Croatian opera, “Love and Evil”. The opening ceremony took place over the course of three days. Half a century of existence and operation of the most important music, and not only music, hall in Zagreb and Croatia carries with it a great responsibility. We believe that you are also planning special programs to mark this jubilee. Can you reveal to our readers at least a part of your plans?

Half a century of concerts and programs of all types, half a century of making music, half a century of memories and intimate experiences, are reflected and recognized in the outlines of the cultural map of the city of Zagreb until this day. It was very important for me to use the celebration program itself, which stretched over as much as three days, to point to that half-century of wealth, to the layering and networking of musical genres, artists, institutions, ensembles, but also to the role of the audience itself and the employees of the Hall in this multi-layered and very important dance that actually makes the Lisinski Hall. About 5,000 people passed through the Hall in those three days, around 400 artists performed, including the best Zagreb ensembles such as Cantus Ensemble, Zagreb Soloists, Zagreb Saxophone Quartet, Croatian Baroque Ensemble and many others. But, we also sang Oliver, Matija Dedić played Arsen, we saw performances of the best students of the Music Academy in Zagreb, young stars of Croatia Records record company performed, we walked around the hidden nooks and crannies of our Hall; we started every morning with children’s program and ended with a song. The climax of the celebration was certainly the performance of L. van Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9, performed by members of the Zagreb Philharmonic, the Symphony Orchestra and Choir of HRT, the Choir of the Croatian National Theater in Zagreb and the Ivan Goran Kovačić Choir under the direction of Chief Conductor of the Zagreb Philharmonic, Maestro Dawid Runtz, with young but brilliant soloists Daria Auguštan , Emilija Rukavina, Roko Radovan and Matija Meić.


  1. There is an impressive list of ensembles and soloists through whose performances Lisinski enriched the cultural offer of Zagreb and Croatia. Just so we wouldn’t list all those who have already visited, can you tell us some of the names we expect this year and when? What would you personally like to draw attention to?

It is a great responsibility, but also a challenge and a pleasure to inherit such a cycle as “Saturday at Lisinski”, one of the most prestigious, and also the oldest cycle of classical music that brings the brightest of the brightest to the stage of our Hall. The first part of the season brought to Zagreb the Vienna Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Jaap van Zweden, the current Chief Conductor of the NY Philharmonic, the mandolinist Avi Avital with Il Giardino Armonico, and the NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchestra and their current Chief Conductor Alan Gilbert performed with the violinist superstar Joshua Bell, to name just a few. Concerts of great pianists are ahead of us. Alice Sara Ott is coming first with the Symphony Orchestra of the City of Birmingham; the almost sold-out Ivo Pogorelić Recital is also planned, as well as the guest appearance by pianist and organ virtuoso Wayne Marshall, who is coming to Zagreb with a cheerful repertoire and in the role of conductor with the Slovenian Philharmonic.

I am proud to be able to announce some novelties as well. The first one is the Zagrebačko glazbeno proljeće Festival, which we are organizing in cooperation with the Zagreb Philharmonic. Preservation of Croatian musical heritage and its better understanding in the domestic and international context is the primary goal of this festival, which will be dedicated to certain musical phenomena, composers, performers and other elements from the history and modernity of Croatian music. This year’s edition of the festival is called “The Organ – Queen of Instruments” and it will last from April 25 to 28. Another novelty is a new project for music aficionados with vivid taste in music. It is an exciting and diverse program on Lisinski Wednesdays, which will offer different musical genres to its visitors, such as jazz, blues, world music, alternative rock, crossover, historically informed performance of early music, even electronics, improvised music, etc. And this autumn, we will spice up the new concert season with more news, as well as with guest appearances by brilliant musicians, but let their names remain a secret for a while.


  1. How much do you listen to the audience and what they want when preparing the program, choosing guests, topics or content?

I think about not only what our current or loyal audience would like to hear at Lisinski, but also how, why and for what purpose to win over a new one, but also how to eventually influence some trends, how to respond to the challenges that culture and art face in this post-digital, post-pandemic, post-earthquake (for Zagreb), and post-post-modernist society (in global and cultural terms). I will not prepare any program without listening to what the audience actually needs, but also what are the needs of the wider artistic community, therefore the artists themselves, and on the other hand, without thinking about the cultural imprint that my program selection will make.


  1. What are the problems that you most often encounter in your work and when implementing the program, and how do you solve them? Is the City of Zagreb an interlocutor on that topic? What is the contribution of the Ministry of Culture and the State?

The City of Zagreb, as the founder of the Lisinski Hall, is currently a great partner and interlocutor of the Hall. In fact, the City of Zagreb clearly recognizes the position of the Hall as the central place not only of the musical culture of the city of Zagreb, but in general in all directions of cultural policy and the creation of a better society of all generations of its fellow citizens. On the other hand, I would like to achieve better synergy with the Ministry of Culture, or at least common points in the values we share. In fact, we have yet to start this conversation, and I believe that all the quality programs that we are already conducting in the Hall, i.e., all the programs that we are yet to realize and develop, will be a sufficient mark for strengthening cooperation with the Ministry of Culture.


  1. You have obtained a lot of professional experience during the course of an enviable career. How much does this help you as a manager, producer at the head of an important institution, in the organization of work, and how much as an artist in creating programs and ideas?

It’s interesting how you called me an artist in the creation of programs and ideas, because in a way, that’s exactly how I see it. It takes a lot of talent and a good dose of healthy intuition to create concepts, ideas and programs. I do a lot of things by instinct, although in constant synergy, as a reaction, a reflex to a social need – of the professional community, my fellow composers, performers or partner institutions and organizations, as well as the audience itself. Over the course of my almost twenty years of professional experience, I have worked in almost all positions – from the field to the desk. I love working on stage, I love talking to musicians, I was in communication with them both as a scientist and as a music critic and as an author of music documentaries. I have always had great respect for all stakeholders of a large and complex chain of production and organization. I would dare to say that I know at least basically all aspects of this job, and that certainly does not work against me in this extremely responsible position, but rather makes me learn even more every day, cooperate even better and try to create the best possible working conditions for others, so that they would be even more motivated and satisfied in their work place.


  1. As a musicologist, how do you see the current cultural scene in all segments and the general offer in Zagreb and Croatia? What is missing and what would you like to praise?

This is a complex question, that would require much more space – especially through an answer from the position of a musicologist, but if we are talking only about classical music, then the biggest problem of all is the audience attrition. Solutions are rare or not always positive because this problem is not accompanied by sufficient knowledge, flexibility or dexterity of the organizers to develop new formats, to dare, to go beyond conventions or to use new tools to open themselves towards or approach a wide audience. Here at Lisinski, we are still very shy about this. The offer is rich, the scene is booming, it dissolves in all directions. There are perhaps even too many concerts in some periods of the year. Currently, there may be too few concert spaces, which currently work as a double-edged sword for the Lisinski Hall because we are always full, but also overloaded. Certainly by emphasizing some new narrative in the world of classical music, it can only reap the benefits.