The stone column, carved in the form of an ancient knight Orlando, stands proudly on the eastern end of Stradun street, right in front of the City Bell Tower. During the St. Blaise fest, Orlando’s statue adorns the flag with his symbol, and during the time of Dubrovnik Summer Festival there’s a Libertas flag that symbolizes freedom. But who is this Orlando guy actually? Well, you can find out more here, or you can visit Island of Lokrum during this weekend and actually enjoy Mr. Orlando’s opera performance. Well, he’s not the actual Orlando, of course, but it doesn’t get any closer that this. Meet Owen Willets, an English opera singer. Owen plays the role of Orlando at the same name opera, that premiered on the Island of Lokrum yesterday and it will be performed again today and tomorrow as a part of Dubrovnik Summer festival program.
Owen has performed all around the world, and now we got an opportunity to enjoy his art right here in Dubrovnik. We caught him during a rehearsal, and we asked him about his work, music and his experiences here in Dubrovnik.

owen willets dubrovnik orlando

Is this the first time that you’re in Dubrovnik?
Yes it is, actually first time in Croatia.

You performed during the opening of music program for Dubrovnik summer festival this year, how was it?
It was wonderful, it was really exciting. It’s the first time I sang this piece as well, so that was also quite exciting for me. The quire did a great job! They were wonderful and it was a great evening.

owen willets dubrovnik orlando
This week you’re performing Opera Orlando, and you’re playing the main role – Orlando himself. How does it feel like ?
I love the Opera Orlando, it is amazing. Part of Orlando himself is so exciting because it’s all about finding yourself. On the beginning he is in love and he would give his heart for love, but at the same time he also feels his need for victory. So it’s wonderful role to play, because he is mentally very confused and that makes it a very interesting journey to take as a performer.

owen willets dubrovnik orlando
Would you like to come back to Dubrovnik and perhaps sing in some other opera as well?
Yes, it’s been a lot of fun. I would love to come back and see the Lokrum Island again, it’s very beautiful. The journeys from the town to the Island have been magical as well. I hope that one day I’ll get a chance to sing here again.

Did you ever perform at the open space?
No, this is the first time actually. I think that my other performances have been pretty much always in the theatres, the concert halls. So it’s a little bit strange for me because of the acoustics that are different from the acoustic that we have in the theatres. You have adjust the way you listen when you’re singing. It is a bit tricky but at the same time it’s wonderful.

owen willets dubrovnik orlando
Do you think local people will like this modern version of Opera Orlando?
Yes, I hope so. I think that there are enough references that the director has brought which have connection to every day in modern life but also the connection to the past, the old story of Orlando which has relevance here in Dubrovnik. So I think that audience of every age could understand the story, because it’s quite simple – about love and finding yourself.

How does your typical day in Dubrovnik look like?
Well, I get up about 8.30 AM, usually go for a swim on the small Šulić beach because my apartment is located near the Pile gate. Then, I have some breakfast, I go for a walk around the Old town before it gets to busy. Then I come home, I do some work and eat lunch. Then I read my book because it’s too hot to do anything else. I get ready and go to the rehearsal in the evening… We are having the rehearsals usually from 6PM until midnight.

owen willets dubrovnik orlando

Did you try any of Dubrovnik traditional dishes?
Yes I had ! I had mussels.… I think it was called buzara! I had the lots of sea bass, calamari and other seafood. It’s delicious!

What are your planes after Dubrovnik?
I’m going home to London for about two weeks, and I will spend some time with my friends and family. After that I will be working again.

dubrovnik island lokrum

Story & Photo by: Petra Japunčić