About the Opera


The opera “Lennon” is an extraordinary piece of music by composer Ivo Josipović based on the life and musical legacy of the legendary musician John Lennon. This opera, which premiered in 2010, is an extremely inspiring interpretation of Lennon’s life and his influence on the world.

It takes us through key moments in Lennon’s life, starting with his early youth, his rise with The Beatles, his controversial marriage to Yoko Ono, and all the way to his philosophy of peace and social activism. The opera deals with the internal struggle that Lennon was going through, expressing his emotions, fears, and artistic visions.

The opera “Lennon” not only delivers a musical extravaganza, but also touches on important themes that were important to Lennon as an artist and activist. Josipović’s opera explores the issues of war, political turmoil, the struggle for peace, as well as the power of art in changing the world. Through deep emotions and powerful moments, the opera reminds us of Lennon as an icon who believed in the power of love and music as a means to achieve positive social change.

The opera in five acts is divided into two parts of about 40 minutes each, with a break in between. Interestingly, everything happens in a short time after Lennon’s murder, when in a series of pictures/acts, Lennon recalls the people and relationships from his life that defined him. And there are a lot of these people, so many people who you would expect appear in the play: mother’s sister Mimi, with whom John Lennon grew up after the death of his mother Julie – and experienced his first emotional shipwreck – first wife Cinthya, their son Julian, Yoko Ono, May Fang – a Japanese assistant with whom Lennon had an important relationship, with the presence and consent of Yoko – Beatles manager Brian Epstain – another tragic figure, died too soon, at a time when it was not publicly known that he was gay – and members of the Beatles, of whom only Paul McCartney, pathetically, singled out as the best friend and support.


Any attempt to interpret the Croatian compositional horizon with some unifying stylistic features would end in complete failure because for about thirty years, and perhaps even more, we have been following how authors build their own stylistic worlds in which there is no room for commonality when sharing stylistic and aesthetic criteria. There are no schools that would imprint their visible traces on an individual opus. The last school that left behind several valuable authors was that of Stanko Horvat, however, they are completely different in style and ideas, so the question of the school remains only at the level of data. One of those “Horvats” is Ivo Josipović (Zagreb, 28th August 1957), who is already now a member of the older generation of Croatian composers, and whose work spans almost five decades. Someone once said how
paradigmatic Ivo Josipović’s orchestral composition Epikurov vrt from 1984 is for his work as a composer so far. The conceptual world of that piece somehow permeates his entire work – and not only in music. The title is taken from the German philosopher Eugen Fink, who speaks of Epicurus’ garden as a “garden of spiritual pleasures and refinement”.1 Of course, there is some truth in that, but from today’s standpoint and analysis of Josipović’s creativity, it is not the only possible paradigm. A complete openness to the world of music and the creative possibilities that this world offers is the permanent starting point of Josipović’s creativity, from which the author’s imagination expands, the need to experience everything that music is or can be, and to find strongholds in which one’s own audio image will coincide with the means by which it can be achieved.

Ivo Josipović is an author who does not think that music has to express something other than itself. Dealing with his creativity for many years, I once wrote that music is Josipović’s alter ego, the hiding place of his imagination, and a musical piece is the place within which he releases a hidden part of his own creative energy. In that hidden part, one can always look for Josipović’s reason for the work, as well as the meaning of the creative act.

In that hiding place of the author’s imagination, the music is always equated with joy and a feeling of freedom. Josipović composes the way he likes, not worrying about styles and trends.

It is indisputable that Josipović has maintained some standards over the years – a tendency to repeat rhythmic patterns, the use of clusters, and a pronounced virtuosity that, varyingly integrated and contextualised, appear in most of his compositions. Although important as recognisable components, they mainly play the role of auxiliary means; the author rarely gives them the importance of structural elements and they are more like the links and supports of individual parts of the composition.

Therefore, it seems more important to first of all recognise the author’s need for some kind of, conditionally speaking, melodisation of a part of the musical structure, which seems to cover the moving sound mass by extracting from it series of tones that within the whole could contain the meaning of the theme, yet sometimes are just a vocal decoration above the densely strung cluster-accumulated tonal units. This is especially evident in the composer’s most popular piano compositions Igra staklenih perli from 1986 and the somewhat later Jubilus from 1992, as well as very noticeably in Kurosavin nemir svijeta, a piece for strings from 2016, in which the composer moves along the margins of tonality without shying away from the clearly profiled thematic construct of the supporting idea.

It is worth saying something about the titles of Josipović’s compositions. They frequently seem to be inspired by some literary work or non-musical idea. However, it is usually just a kind of association, which is more of an homage to a certain thought or person that would find no reflection in the music other than the author’s independent ideas.

In the accompanying text to Ivo Josipović’s CD album, way back in 1994, I wrote that “it is interesting to follow the path of Josipović’s creativity, watching how the degree of playfulness grows in parallel with the achieved level of freedom upon mastering the art, upon harmonising the composer’s craft with the artist’s idea, which is brought to life with that craft. On this path, the patterns of the musical material are multiplied because the basic starting points are also expanded. Nevertheless, some constants can be traced back as being the enduring origins of Josipović’s creative vocation. Amongst them, the rhythmic or melodic formula of folklore provenance, the choice of musical instruments or the narrative aspect of the whole will also interpret Josipović’s search for a specific atmosphere. That sometimes peculiar atmosphere (…) is not important in Josipović’s creativity as a possible sign of the national identity of this music, although it is shown as such, but as a suitable starting point for the desired curve of movement on the one hand and for achieving vivid and diverse atmospheric situations on the other. The choice of a folklore pattern, therefore, as a template for the sound, as an incentive for the composer’s task, places Josipović in the ranks of the Croatian composers who, before him, dealt with such patterns in this way, sometimes also achieving anthological results, without ever questioning the direction, style or composer’s ideology. There is pure joy in their music and all of its causes and consequences are in line with that joy, which is an extreme characteristic of Josipović’s creativity, even when a kind of melancholic cantilena balances the arrangement of the musical material.”

These compositions really are amongst the author’s most successful. They are for example Drmeš za Pendereckog for tamburitza orchestra (1986), Dernek, for two harpsichords or two pianos, strings and percussion (1988), or Zelena naranča, songs from Dalmatia for strings (2019), and perhaps it is most interesting how this national code emerges from the lively motivic playfulness of the piano composition Jubilus (1992).

Jubilus is built of a fine, in the characterization, modestly shaped structure. The piano is employed with all its properties, the sound ranges from barely audible to powerful, the lines of movement encompass all levels of intensity, and their expressiveness is atmospherically richly nuanced, whilst the playing sometimes takes place on the edge of audibility, forming a fragile, airy tissue. And suddenly, as if from the silence, the Croatian Christmas song Narodil nam se kraj nebeski will vibrate from the edge of audibility, like a coda, as a final instruction about the origin of the notion “jubilus”, almost touchingly so to point out one of the corners of the composer’s imagination.

This flicker of special warmth appears in several compositions – it is especially heard in the composition Žalobni pjev for violin and piano (1994) – revealing the emotional world of the composer Ivo Josipović, perhaps more than he would like to reveal, but it is an essential component of his musical poetry, which greatly enriches his compositional expression.


Opera acts