[vc_row][vc_column][vc_single_image image=”1372″ img_size=”full” alignment=”center”][ultimate_heading main_heading=”Bojan Knezevic Brings a Classic to the Future” spacer=”line_with_icon” line_height=”1″ line_color=”#be2e1a” icon=”Defaults-music” icon_size=”32″ icon_color=”#be2e1a”][/ultimate_heading][/vc_column][/vc_row][vc_row][vc_column width=”1/4″][vc_single_image image=”1458″ img_size=”large”][/vc_column][vc_column width=”3/4″][vc_column_text]by Claire Mathieson
“I believe in the future, definitely,” says Serbian-native Bojan Knezevic from his long-time home in San Francisco, not far from the opera house. On the brink of playing Don Pasquale, it’s no wonder he has faith in the future of opera considering his past in it. From performing in Japan and Hussein’s Iraq to leaving his own warring homeland for San Francisco Opera’s Merola Program, Knezevic’s life would have been someone else’s without opera. The most beautiful example of this is the moment he considers his favorite of his career, singing in a 1995 live broadcast of the SF Opera United Nations 50th Anniversary Concert with his pregnant wife, American Kristin Clayton. Although President Bill Clinton was in attendance, Knezevic was most moved to know his parents were watching from Serbia, seeing their son’s new wife for the first time.
This is not Knezevic’s first time playing the title role in Don Pasquale; in 2002, he sang the part at Walnut Creek’s Festival Opera with Clayton as Norina and Il Divo’s David Miller as Ernesto. Although he definitely enjoyed the role then, he says it is “much more real now” as he approaches the true age of his character. Of Don Pasquale, he thinks “today it would be completely politically incorrect to write that kind of opera.” Its roles come from a stereotypical line-up of characters in the Italian tradition of commedia dell’arte. However, “we don’t have to look at it with a modern eye.” Although some elements are dated, Knezevic knows the opera is highly entertaining. His favorite part is his fast-paced duet with Doctor Malatesta, and he knows that others will delight in the moment when – during Pasquale’s duet with Norina – she hits him across the face. Children love it – he hears many exclamations of “that girl slaps the old man!” from young voices. Along with the humor comes the music, which Knezevic believes to be the cradle of opera’s future. “Music is the life of the opera,” he asserts, “music and good singing, that’s something which will keep opera for a long time.”
Despite opera’s great effect on Knezevic, it certainly hasn’t been his whole life. He loves cooking for his family and is an amateur photographer. He originally wanted to pursue a career in photography and did not have much interest in opera before getting involved with it. Once he did, he fell in love with the process. His only favorite opera is the one he’s working on at a given moment, and he has the most fun when he comes to a new production with an open mind and only a few of his own ideas. “I love to develop them along with others,” he explains, “you never know what you’re going to get.” He believes opera is so interesting because it’s “a collective act,” its participants bringing a variety of experiences to the stage. Though Knezevic’s own experience includes working all over the world, he loves Island City Opera – with which he also played the title role in Il Signor Bruschino – for the “dedication,” “positive atmosphere,” and “room to explore” it offers. “I believe in that,” he shares, “when you feel such enthusiasm, you really try to do your maximum, and you feel good.” Aside from the process, Knezevic’s favorite part of opera is that “great moment when you bring it to the people.” He loves feeling the “smooth, fluid connection” between himself, his colleagues, the audience, and the orchestra. “You really, truly feel like you’re breathing like one.”
Knezevic is playing an integral part in heralding the future of opera by working with a budding company to bring experience and innovation to Don Pasquale. We, however, can sit back and relax with the faith that all we will need to bring to the theater is ourselves and an open mind – he’ll bring the music, humor, and passion to us, and the connection will be inevitable.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]