Serbian Prime Minister Ana Brnabić Visits the National Theatre in Belgrade

Serbian Prime Minister, Ana Brnabić, visited the National Theatre in Belgrade on Tuesday 22nd January. During the visit, the Prime Minister and Ivana Vujić, General Manager, walked around the building and observed the conditions in which artists and staff work.

When addressing the press, Mrs Vujić said that she was very content that a Prime Minister had visited the theatre for the first time and walked around all the floors of the building, “starting from the second underground floor to the top of the building”, in order to observe the situation and enable better, more efficient and joyous work conditions to the staff of the National Theatre.

“When art is concerned, one has to be joyous and possess love. I am grateful for this sign of love, for this helping hand and I believe that this is a very important moment. Cultural institutions should cooperate and remain in constant contact with the Government of the Republic of Serbia, and of course, with the Ministry of Culture. I am certain that this is the way to accomplish higher and better goals. We appreciate the presence of Mrs Ana Brnabić here today. This is the first time a Prime Minister came to observe all ‘weak points’ in this theatre that were often overlooked before”, Ivana Vujić reiterated.

The Prime Minister said that she came to visit the National Theatre in order to see for herself the circumstances in, as she called it, one of the most important cultural institutions in our country.

“My job is to deal with problems and solve them in order to enable all of us to find ourselves in better situation tomorrow than it is today, in all aspects of life. I believe in change, and the building across the street (National Museum) is one of proofs that changes in sphere of culture are possible”, said Ana Brnabić and emphasized that it is necessary to invest more in the National Theatre in order to have the working conditions “corresponding to the importance of this cultural institution”.

Brnabić promised that the Government would continue to work on that in the future and said that culture, together with economy, is “necessary element if one wants to have modern and strong country”.

“My personal priorities, as well as of the Government’s, are, first of all, culture and education, and this is the reason I am here today. I did not come to oversee or monitor the situation, I came here to offer my support to Ivana and her team and all other individuals who work in the National Theatre. I am not going to interfere with the artistic aspect of the Theatre, because I am not knowledgeable enough about that aspect, but as a Prime Minister I find it very important that people who work here have the best conditions to work in”, said the Prime Minister.  

She mentioned that some of the priorities that need to be taken care of are outdated equipment, some appliances are more than 30 years old, like washing machines for instance, and the problems with water and moisture in store rooms, wardrobe rooms and rehearsal halls.

“In addition, we have been working, in cooperation with the Creative Industries, on solving the problem that ballet artists have with retiring and change of generations, and I hope to find the solution within the next several weeks. It is a problem that has been known for decades, but it has not been resolved until now”, Brnabić reiterated.

The Prime Minister added that 20 million Euros have been allocated for infrastructure in sphere of culture for the first time, in cooperation with the Public Investment Office, and said that her idea is to use some of these funds to support the National Theatre in Belgrade.

Answering a reporter’s question regarding the National Theatre’s budget for this calendar year, Ivana Vujić said that the budget is 978 million dinars.

“This sum covers salaries for 648 employees, as well as fees for part-time associates, while 104 million dinars has been allocated for the programmes. The novelty is that we are giving an effort to find support through some European Funds to improve lightning, heating and ventilation in the theatre”, said the National Theatre’s General Manager.

The General Manager spoke about programme activities at international level and mentioned that the National Theatre, in cooperation with the Ministry and European and other partners worldwide, works on planning numerous tours to other countries and expects to have visiting performances of many conductors, stage directors, solo singers, ballet dancers participating in the National Theatre’s performances.

The General Manager said that the National Theatre started a project “Young Experts” in cooperation with a group of young doctoral students of the Faculty of Dramatic Arts in Belgrade. The project’s goal is to approach secondary school students and introduce them to Drama, Ballet and Opera Companies and all theatre genres.

“We will work on educating our audiences. We need audience that is able to think, not the one able only to clap their hands thoughtlessly. We would like to have an audience capable of deep contemplation, the one that can be our partner. Audience is our main partner, because there cannot be a performance if there is no exchange of energy between performers and observers”, said Ivana Vujić.

Vujić said that all three companies work on new productions that would premiere in the coming period.

“Rehearsals of opera Koštana are well on their way; the opera is being directed by Jug Radivojević and conducted by Ana Zorana Brajović. Bora Stanković is a very inspiring and exciting writer. Music from Koštana may become a world brand, especially the melodies called chocheks. In parallel, rehearsals for Bora’s play Impure Blood are in preparation; the play is being directed by Milan Nešković. The Ballet Company has been working on Swan Lake; costumes and set are being designed by Renato Balestra and the ballet is being choreographed by Konstantin Kostjukov”, said Ivana Vujić.

She added that the National Theatre has been negotiating with the Serbian Broadcasting Corporation to renew agreements for recording drama, opera and ballet performances in the National Theatre.

“We would like to see development of this cooperation and we would like to open a shop which would sell DVDs of our performances. The plan is to establish an online-shop as well, which would serve for procuring wonderful artefacts inspired by the National Theatre made by young designers”, Ivana Vujić announced.