CROWN - Croatian World Network -
The New York Times: Ms. Livljanic has assembled a work so magnificent and moving
By Nenad N. Bach
Published on 02/19/2007

Ms. Livljanic has assembled a work so magnificent and moving that its resemblance to what medieval listeners might have heard is beside the point. Included are sections of the Mass (the Kyrie, Agnus Dei and Sanctus) in Croatian, using Glagolitic chant, as well as Latin sacred texts, among them a striking Salve Regina setting.



Great start of the North American Tour 2007

A scene from Tondal's Vision 
photo by Corinne Silva

Music Review | Dialogos
A Journey Through Hell and Heaven, via Medieval Croatia
Published: February 20, 2007
When Dialogos last performed in New York, in 2005, it was in "Chant Wars," a joint program with Sequentia in which these two medieval music ensembles explored competing regional approaches to liturgical chant. On Sunday Dialogos turned up on its own in the Music Before 1800 series at Corpus Christi Church to present "Tondal's Vision," a medieval Croatian church drama about what would today be called an out-of-body experience. In a way, the group's interests are unchanged: like "Chant Wars," "Tondal's Vision" offers a glimpse of distinct chant traditions juxtaposed, although here they interact rather than conflict. But the piece, as Dialogos performed it, is about modernity as well as antiquity. The reconstruction, by Katarina Livljanic, Dialogos's resident musicologist, inevitably has as much (or more) to do with her sensibilities as with how the piece might have sounded at the time.

"Tondal's Vision" is a 12th-century play about a disembodied soul, led by an angel on a journey through hell and heaven before returning (reluctantly) to Tondal's body. No music composed specifically for the story survives, but the text is full of biblical quotations, so Ms. Livljanic sought Croatian and Italian works with settings of those passages. To this she added Glagolitic (Slavonic) chant, still used in parts of Croatia, which gives the piece a decidedly exotic accent to ears more attuned to Gregorian chant. Ms. Livljanic has assembled a work so magnificent and moving that its resemblance to what medieval listeners might have heard is beside the point. Included are sections of the Mass (the Kyrie, Agnus Dei and Sanctus) in Croatian, using Glagolitic chant, as well as Latin sacred texts, among them a striking Salve Regina setting, offered to soften Tondal's opposition to returning to the corporeal world after having seen the sublime. The Croatian settings, in particular, were freely dissonant at times, and had consonant but decidedly modern-sounding harmonizations elsewhere. But with both Gregorian and Glagolitic chant, at times sung by soloists and at times by the full all-female sextet, a sense of temporal distance was maintained. The work's dual existence as theater and ritual was reflected in Sanda Herzic's staging, essentially a matter of deploying the six black-clad singers in different (and sometimes mysterious) configurations as each piece unfolded. Dialogos performs "Tondal's Vision" at the Houghton Memorial Chapel, Wellesley College, Wellesley, Mass., today; at the University of British Columbia, in Vancouver, on Thursday; and at Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral, Kansas City, Mo., on Saturday.

A Vision of Heaven and Hell: Ensemble Dialogos Sings Medieval Croatian Music on North American Tour
By Matthew Westphal
17 Feb 2007
A scene from Tondal's Vision 
photo by Corinne Silva

Hypnotic, meditative, by turns serenely simple and exotically strange - a collection of chants from medieval Croatia gets it North American debut performances over the next 10 days as Ensemble Dialogos, a Paris-based vocal group led by singer and scholar Katarina Livljanic, tours the U.S. and Canada with a program titled Tondal's Vision. The story of Tondal's Vision dates back at least to the 12th century, when it was written down in Latin by an Irish monk; in subsequent centuries it was transmitted over much of Catholic Europe in several languages. (Livljanic uses a version in medieval Croatian from a manuscript compiled for a convent on the Dalmatian coast.) The plot prefigures that of Dante's Divine Comedy (and, for that matter, Dickens's A Christmas Carol): A knight named Tondal has a dream in which an angel leads him on a journey in which he sees both the damned souls in hell and the blessed in paradise. Tondal's Vision is a prose tale, not a liturgical drama like the 13th-century Play of Daniel and Play of Herod, or an allegorical morality play like Hildegard von Bingen's Ordo Virtutum. What Ensemble Dialogos performs is, for all its medieval materials (and mysticism), a piece of contemporary music-theater.

For her performing version, Livljanic has set the text of the story (as preserved in the Croatian manuscript) to music using chant melodies and formulas (as transmitted in manuscripts and orally) from the Croatian coast. Inserted into the narrative at key points are pieces of liturgical music from medieval Dalmatia - often pieces referred to directly in the story's text - some in Latin, some in the old Croatian dialect of Church Slavonic. The result offers a striking variety of idioms: single-voice plainchant in a rhythmically free style that any fan of Hildegard's music will recognize; part-singing with crunching dissonances and surprising chromatic turns that come from a Balkan tradition unfamiliar to Western ears; smoothly flowing melodies with sweet parallel thirds not unlike what one might hear in a Russian Orthodox church today. Sandra Hrzic has provided a simple staging with slow-moving stylized gestures and costumes that seem to allude to (rather than mimicking) nuns' habits. The effect puts a viewer in mind of a small group of nuns enacting a ritual together, though the performance never presents itself as a historical reconstruction or reenactment. Dialogos gives four performances of Tondal's Vision on this North American tour:

New York City - Sunday, February 18 - Corpus Christi Church (Music Before 1800,
Wellesley, MA - Tuesday, February 20 - Houghton Chapel (Wellesley College,
Vancouver, BC - Thursday, February 22 - University of British Columbia Recital Hall (Early Music Vancouver,
Kansas City - Saturday, February 24 - Grace and Holy Trinity Cathedral (Friends of Chamber Music,
For more information about Dialogos, visit

Tondal's Vision



Gospodin, smiluj se (Kyrie eleison)

Glagolitic chant from Mune, Istria


Zač noge tvoje sada u tanci ne igraju ? (Why do your legs not dance?)

The Vision of Tondal, Vartal, Zagreb, Archive HAZU, ms. IV a 31, 16th c.


Venite, benedicti patris mei (Gregorian introit)

Benevento, Bibl. capitolare, ms. 34, 12th c.


A duša reče (And the soul said)

Qui habitat in adiutorio altissimi (Gregorian tractus)

Missale from Dubrovnik, Oxford, Bodleian Lib. Canon. lit. 342, 12th c.


I pridoše na dolac strašan (They arrived in the frightful valley)

Viruju u jedinoga boga (Credo)

Glagolitic chant from Mune, Istria


I onde bi duša grebena (The soul was seized)

Gospodine, pomiluj (Kyrie eleison)

Glagolitic chant from Poljica, Split


I pridoše k drugomu dolcu (They approached another valley)

Gospin plač (Lamentation of the Virgin)

Glagolitic chant from Vrbanj, Hvar


Evo tudje strah (Fear)

I toj rekši grediše prid Tondalom (Saying that, he walked ahead of Tondal)

O janjče božji (Agnus Dei)

Glagolitic chant from Mune, Istria


Obrativ se Tondal za angelom (Tondal turned towards the angel)

Čitanje knjige Otkrivenja (Reading of the Apocalypse)

Glagolitic chant from Poljica, Split


A na jednoj katidri (And on one of the thrones)

Dodji, duše presveti (Veni, sancte spiritus)

Glagolitic chant from Poljica, Split


Čuvši to (Hearing that)

Salve regina

Zadar, Monastery of St. Francis, Cantuale of Frane Divnic, 17th c.


I toj rekši vaze ga za ruku (He took him by his hand)

Svet (Sanctus)

Glagolitic chant from Mune, Istria


I otvorivši oči (He opened his eyes)

Laudes regiae (Acclamations)

Zadar, Bibl. capitulaire, fragment, 12th c.

To download a printable PDF file with complete programme notes, texts and translations, see the attachment below.

Formated for CROWN by Nenad Bach
Distributed by This message is intended for Croatian Associations / Institutions and their Friends in Croatia and in the World. The opinions / articles expressed on this list do not reflect personal opinions of the moderator. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient, please delete or destroy all copies of this communication and please, let us know! Or simply...enjoy and spread the word and good vibrations