Missives from my friends at Opera Circus and the charity War Child have brought desperately sad news that the National Theatre in Mostar is being forced to close down. I went there in 2007 to see Opera Circus’s production of the Anglo-Bosnian ‘Sevdah opera’ Differences in Demolition by composer Nigel Osborne and poet Goran Simic and it was one of the most moving experiences I can remember (article here).
It’s often assumed that Bosnia is ‘all right’, so many years after the official end of hostilities there. I found that that was anything but true. Mostar, with the exception of the tourist-focused centre, is still largely in ruins; landmines litter the fairy-tale beauty of the hills; an atmosphere of enervated despair pervades it.
Now things are even worse. Mostar has been operating without so much as a mayor for nine months. Its pioneering Pavarotti Music Centre, where Osborne helped to develop the clinical treatment of war-traumatised children using music as therapy, is now virtually dormant through lack of funds. And the theatre’s imminent closure shows, as one friend puts it, that ‘politics has achieved what the war did not’ – the theatre continued to operate throughout the conflict of the early 90s. With the Republica Srpska apparently threatening to go independent and the likelihood that that could reawaken the landgrab attempts of Serbia and Croatia, the future seems bleak.