Isidora Žebeljan (September 27, 1967 - September 29, 2020) studied composition at the Belgrade Music Academy with Vlastimir Trajković (a student of Olivier Messiaen) and since 2002 she has held the position of Professor of Composition at the Belgrade Music Academy. She has been highly acclaimed for her music and has won several significant national awards, among them the “Stevan Mokranjac” National Music Award in 2004. In 2006, she was elected a member of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts. Isidora Žebeljan was granted by the Civitella Ranieri Foundation fellowship for 2005.
She drew international attention with her opera Zora D. which was commissioned by the Genesis Foundation from London. It was premiered in Amsterdam in 2003, directed by David Pountney and Nicola Raab. The same production opened the 50th season of the Vienna Chamber Opera in the same year.
After the success of the opera Zora D. (which had 22 performances in five European countries in just four years), Isidora Žebeljan wrote The Song of a Traveller in the Night, for clarinet and string quartet as a commission of the Genesis Foundation for the opening of Bill Viola’s exhibition The Passions at the National Gallery in London in 2003 (performed by the members of The Academy of Saint Martin in the Fields). From the Venice Biennale she received a commission in 2004 and wrote The Horses of Saint Mark, an illumination for orchestra, premiered in Venice in the same year. The Genesis Foundation also commissioned her to write the chamber orchestra composition The Minstrel’s Dance, which Isidora Žebeljan composed for The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields and this music was premiered at the Wigmore Hall in London in 2005, and it was conducted by the composer herself. As a commission of the London Brass she wrote The Ghost from the Pumpkin, which was premiered in London in 2006. Than followed the commissions from the Bregenz Festival, for the opera The Marathon, which was performed during this festival in 2008, as well in Vienna and Belgrade, and the one from The International Horn Players Society, for composition for horn and string orchestra, Dance of Wooden Sticks. Commissioned by Dutch Chamber Choir, Isidora Žebeljan wrote in 2008 the composition Latum lalo, for 12 singers. As a commission from University of Kent in 2009 she wrote Polomka quartet for Brodsky Quartet. The most recent commission for 2009 is the one from Theater im Revier in Gelsenkirchen for a new opera.
The artistic comity of ISCM World New Music Days selected her composition The Horses of Saint Mark in the official program for 2009. Her composition Il Circo is the obligatory piece for the international piano competition Jeunesses Musicales in Belgrade in 2009.
Describing Isidora Žebeljan’s music, David Pountney wrote: “When I was trawling through the entries for the Genesis Opera Prizes 1, amidst an absolute welter of indistinguishable representatives of what one might call ‘academic modernism’, Isidora Žebeljan’s music struck me immediately as something original, fresh, and above all emotionally expressive: a rare commodity, but an essential one for interesting theatrical story telling.” (From the booklet for the opening of the 50th season of the Vienna Chamber Opera.)
John Manger, Managing Director of the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields orchestra at that time, said that Isidora Žebeljan has “a genuinely original voice and truly impressive talent. The musicians of the Academy who have worked with her cannot praise her highly enough. Her professionalism and craft are amazing, and her original talent is of the first order” (from Genesis Foundation).
Her compositions were performed in the UK, Italy, France, the Netherlands, Austria, Germany, Sweden, Finland, Spain, Ireland, the Czech Republic, Estonia, Croatia, Serbia and the United States as well as at music festivals like the Venice Biennale, Bregenzer Festpiele, the Festival RAI Nuova Musica (Torino), Settembre musica (Milano), WDR Music Festival, the Galway Arts Festival, Festival Nous Sons (Barcelona), Festival L'Est (Milano), Crossing Border Festival (Netherlands), Music Biennale Zagreb and Belgrade Music Festival. Among the ensembles and artists who have performed music by Isidora Žebeljan are the Symphony Orchestra of RAI Torino, The Academy of St Martin in the Fields, the Janáček Philharmonic Orchestra, Belgrade Philharmonic Orchestra, Brodsky Quartet, London Brass, Nieuw Ensemble, Zagros Ensemble, Ensemble Sentieri selvaggi, the conductors Christoph Poppen, Lorrain Vaillancourt, David Porcelijn, the pianists Kyoko Hashimoto and Aleksandar Madzar, the clarinetist Joan Enric Lluna, etc. The exclusive publisher of her music is Ricordi-Universal.
Isidora Žebeljan is also one of the most outstanding Serbian contemporary authors of music for theatre and film. She composed the music for around 40 theatre productions in all the prominent theatres in Serbia, Croatia and Montenegro. To acknowledge her artistic achievements, Ms Žebeljan had been honored three times with the “Sterija” Award, the most prestigious Serbian annual prize for theatre. The Yustat Biennale of Theatre Design also awarded her four times as best composer of theatre music. She worked on several film scores, including the orchestration of Goran Bregović’s music from The Time of the Gypsies, Arizona Dream, Underground (all directed by E. Kusturica), Queen Margot (directed by P. Chéreau) and The Serpent’s Kiss (directed by P. Rousselot).