Josipa Lisac is a very recognizable name, and not just to Croats. A singer whose passionate voice and uncompromised talent echoes through more than four running decades, she has contributed to Croatian music with immortal songs such as “O jednoj mladosti” (About one youth), “Danas sam luda” (Today, I fell crazy) “Magla” (The fog) and many more. In the first ever Croatian rock opera “Gubec Beg,” she took on the demanding role of Jana, and her interpretation of the aria “Ave Maria” awed audiences so much that it became the permanent part of Josipa’s always crowded concerts.
Equally charismatic while interpreting the works of classical music as when showing her more rebellious side in rock-hits, Josipa Lisac is loved by generations old and new. This August, visitors of Pula will have the opportunity to enjoy her performance in the town’s famed Roman amphitheatre. on August 10th. Between rehearsals, she managed to find some time for Like Croatia’s questions about her career, art and life in general.
What can people expect from your upcoming concert in Pula Arena?
I watched the opening of the Dubrovnik Summer Festival the other day, and was really impressed with the looks of it. It had a good measure of everything. Especially when you take into account that Croats are not very eager to show emotion. We are a passionate and emotional nation, but we aren’t quick to show how we actually feel. We lack the urge to yell, we are always thinking about what other people will say about us.
I remember how Karlo Metikos (known as Matt Collins to western audiences) once watched a performance of mine in Croatia. Once it finished, he stood up and started to applaud and yell “Bravo.” People were turning their heads in disapproval, as if he did something inappropriate. Several days later, we had the same performance in Italy, and the whole hall stood up, yelling “Bravo.” Metikos didn’t know what to think at that moment (laugh).
So to answer your question, the audience can expect a lot of emotion. Not that euphoric “hands-in-the-air” emotion that certain commercial musicians are often encouraging. In my live performances, there is always a unique level of concentration. Every tone must be heard and bring the feeling to the people in the audience. Even silence and the sound of taking a breath are important. Everything has its own dramaturgy, and a meaning in the whole.
What does it feel like to sing in such an important site as Arena?
Pula’ s amphitheater has hosted my performances before, but I always came with a troop, as in the case of Gubec-Beg, or in the company of my dear fellow musicians. This is actually the first time that I am performing on my own.
You need to know something about me. Each and every time I come in front of my audience, I am shaking beforehand. I do not have stage fright. Thankfully, I never had problems with that. But I am shaking with excitement and the realization of the huge responsibility I am about to take on. The responsibility to myself, to the audience, to many things… And I still don’t know whether it is more difficult to have a concert in a small hall, where everything is so close and intimate, or in large spaces such as Arena, where you actually have to work on getting closer to your audience.
Some people use all kinds of stage gadgets, like light shows and smokescreens, but it can actually create a barrier between the performer and the audience. A devoted fan can be only half a meter away from his dearest musician, yet this barricade exists, and creates a rift between the two.
I will do everything in my might not to allow that to happen in Arena. I wish to give the best of me, and for the audience to see it.
What can we expect after the show? Are you working on any new projects?
Yes, I will be working on more concerts (laughs). I have several of them until the end of the year. Some are even abroad, for example in Zürich on November 11th. But that’s not all. This year is very important for me, as we are celebrating the 40th anniversary of the album “Dnevnik jedne ljubavi”(The diary of a love). It was an important record not just for me, but for the country’s music in general. It is still much loved by the public, probably because it features that kind of music that always seems different every time one listens to it.
I am also happy to work with younger generations of musicians. A couple of months ago, I was asked by a band from Rijeka called Quasarr to work on their song entitled “Ljubav” (Love). I was very pleased that they did so, even more when I discovered just how great the song was. After we recorded it, there was this strange situation where they were thanking me for being part of their music, while I had the feeling I should be thankful to them for allowing me to contribute.
“Quasarr” is currently in London working on technicalities in the studio, but I’m sure “Ljubav” will soon go public and become a hit. It is so impressive to see how music connects people. My world is their world, no matter our differences in age. Because of their love for music, they are more similar to me than certain individuals from my own generation.
Is there something you have not done in your career, but would like to?
Yes. I would like to make an album with Croatian ethno music. It is a world largely undiscovered, even to local musicians. Only Dalmatia manages to promote its klapa singing, but the sounds of Medimurje or Slavonia remain unknown. And that is a shame. I’m actually sad that I didn’t do it earlier.
On the other hand, I go through life with the philosophy that everything bound to happen will happen. If I were born in the west, maybe I would have a bigger career. But that didn’t happen. And it didn’t have to happen. What has to occur, will occur. There are no coincidences in life.
So instead of thinking about what I didn’t do, I like to think about the things I’ve done. Since my eleventh year, I’ve been singing on stage and not for a single moment did I allow it to become a habit, a routine, a job… I succeeded in not becoming a raw worker in music industry, a workaholic who has more interest in quantity than quality of his works. I think that is my biggest accomplishment as an artist. And I am glad because of it.
With each year, interest in Croatia as a tourist destination rises. What can you say to our foreign readers about Croatia?
I can tell them what city the patrons of Dubrovnik always say to actors during Dubrovnik Summer Festival’s opening ceremonies… “Neka udu” (“Let them come in”). Without boasting or snobbism, I can say with much joy and optimism, “neka udu.” Croats are a nation which they will love to meet. Our cultural inheritance, our artists, poets, thinkers… they are much more world-scale than one would think at first. We have our culture, we have our pride, and an open heart for everyone knocking at the door.
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