LOS ANGELES — With a lineup combining a Serbian gypsy brass band, a classical string ensemble, Orthodox male choir, two Bulgarian female vocalists and an electric guitar, Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra’s two-night UCLA Live spectacle June 19 and 20 will be like nothing that’s been on the Royce Hall stage before. [...]
LOS ANGELES — With a lineup combining a Serbian gypsy brass band, a classical string ensemble, Orthodox male choir, two Bulgarian female vocalists and an electric guitar, Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra’s two-night UCLA Live spectacle June 19 and 20 will be like nothing that’s been on the Royce Hall stage before.
Making their West Coast debut, the colorful composer/bandleader and his wide-reaching ensemble present a musical and visual feast that has had critics grasping for words to capture the full scope of the show. “A Balkan free-for-all” is how the Jerusalem Post described one five-encore performance. “Crammed to the brim with catharsis and joy,” raved Time Out Chicago. And Madrid’s El Pais raved that Bregovic creates “the most breathtaking music on the continent . . . . His art is exciting tight-rope walking . . . intense, vigorous, colorful, passionate, exotic, fascinating.”
Born in Sarajevo to a Serbian mother and Croatian father, Bregovic has been a musical cross-pollinator and creative iconoclast since forming his first rock band, White Buttons, during the Communist era of the former Yugoslavia. His first international splash came when he scored the 1989 Cannes award-winning film “Time of the Gypsies.” Based in Paris since 1992, he’s continued to strike a distinctly original path with film scores, concerts and recordings.
His “Tales from Weddings and Funerals” album, the core of the Royce Hall programs, expands on ideas developed for the 2002 film “Music for Weddings and Funerals,” in which he also starred. With Bregovic leading the way on guitar and vocals, the music first finds a way to blend seemingly at-odds Balkan traditions, and then reaches out to other, arguably kin traditions including reggae and tango. It’s a result of Bregovic’s deep embrace of Gypsy culture.
“Deep down, most of us would like to be a Gypsy,” he once told the Times of London. “It’s a metaphor for the part of the soul that wants to defy gravity.” In another interview, he explained, “All composers, from Bartok to Bono, draw from their own tradition. The difference is that I’m from a smaller tradition, which is why I sound so different.”
But Bregovic’s musical traditions are elevated by his immense artistic ambition. Courting controversy, in 2004 he took on a classic in “Karmen With a Happy End,” a Balkan revision of Bizet’s fiery opera “Carmen.” Incorporating both musical themes and story elements of the original into the sorrows-and-joys stew of his own native culture, he turned the tone — as the title indicates — from tragedy to celebration.
The title of his latest album is self-explanatory: “Alkohol” is a boisterous toast to romance, sensuality, friendship and community on one hand, and a lament of the alcoholism that tore apart his own family on the other. Subtitled “Slivovica & Champagne,” this collection is a, literally, spirited pan-European romp. Songs from “Alkohol,” which will be released May 19 on Wrasse Records, also will figure heavily in his concerts.
In live performance, the Wedding and Funeral Orchestra “had the audience eating out of their hands,” wrote the Daily Star of a concert in Lebanon. “Bregovic makes a music that runs the spectrum from ecstatic, robustly earthy dance music, to naughty pop tunes, to vocal and string arrangements ripe with sentimentality, to quiet, contemplative pieces that can approach a spiritual intensity…a lyrical, beautifully paced evening.”
The concert is expected to be 2 hours and 30 minutes with no intermission.
Tickets for Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra on June 19 and 20 are available for $70, $54, $42 and $28. They can be purchased online at www.UCLALive.org, via phone at 310-825-2101, in person at the UCLA Central Ticket Office at the southwest corner of the James West Alumni Center, and at all Ticketmaster outlets. UCLA students may purchase tickets in advance for $15. Student rush tickets, subject to availability, are offered at the same price to all students with a valid ID one hour prior to show time.
Goran Bregovic and his Wedding and Funeral Orchestra
June 19 and 20 at 8 p.m.
$70, $54, $42 and $28 ($15 UCLA students and student rush)
Composer-rock star-iconoclast Goran Bregovic brings his orchestra — with a lineup combining a Serbian gypsy brass band, a classical string ensemble, Orthodox male choir, two Bulgarian female vocalists and an electric guitar — to Royce Hall for two concerts of charismatic gypsy dance music.