"Koštana" by Divna Radić Đoković (1964)

Incidental music for a famous theatre play by Borislav Stanković, this was a very popular rendition of traditional folk music from Serbian district of Vranje and deservedly so, as music is genuinely beautiful. To my knowledge, "Koštana" is one of those plays that never left the stage since the days of its first performance and always attract the most magnificent actors as it gives them chance to really sink their teeth into dramatic roles. If I remember correctly, the title role is actually not the main focus of the play - other characters are far more prominent as this is about traditional village where order and rules are disturbed with potential scandal and people are eventually forced to conform and accept their caged lives as inevitability. Gypsy girl Koštana with her seductive song and dance is just a catalyst that cause all this unravelling, sort of local femme fatale who is unhappy in her own way, as her beauty is a curse. 

Operatic star Divna Radić Đoković played this role for twenty seven years and became forever associated with it, although she actually had pretty respectable background in classical music and apparently was schooled in Vienna conservatory. Despite successful roles in operas by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Charles Gounod and Christoph Willibald Gluck audiences adored her turn as gypsy siren and on this 1964. recording we could hear some part of her appeal. I purposely use words "some part" as prima donna was already fifty years old at this point and hers is not a voice of a young girl - my initial reaction was that she sound matronly indeed but with repeated listening I grew to love the music so much that now I'm over that small objection. Since the singer comes from a completely different environment and hers is a classical background, this is quite far from sexy and seductive gypsy girl but I understand that cultural atmosphere at the times preferred this kind of refined depiction than something authentic and raw. To her defence, Radić Đoković carefully avoids operatic thrills and coloratura swoops, her approach is best described as genteel variation on traditional folk music and as such this recording is perfectly acceptable, although perhaps more as historical document than genuine artifact - where music is truly sizzling with passion and fire is in instrumentals ("Čočečka igra", "Tema") that are fortunately not encumbered with socially acceptable notions of the times. Under all this cellophane it is still a beautiful, haunting music but listener has to deal with decidedly kabuki performance. 

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