A musician and set designer, he attended regular and music schools in his hometown. At the same time, he studied to be an organ builder at the Heferer organ workshop in Zagreb and a builder and restorer of string instruments in the workshop of Slavko Domitrović at the Music Centre Vatroslav Lisinski in Zagreb. For further training, he went to Ludmansdorf near Klagenfurt, where he studied for two years in the Orgelbau Ottitch workshop, making and repairing organs throughout Austria (1984–1986). Upon his return to Zagreb, he continued his interrupted education and successfully completed his high school music education, majoring in double bass, and graduated from the department for construction and restoration of string instruments. After graduation he enrolled in the Zagreb Music Academy to study double bass with Josip Novosel. During that time, he performed with many chamber ensembles and, in 1992, became a member of the Croatian National Theatre Orchestra in Zagreb. He completed his studies at the Music Academy in 1993, receiving the Rector’s Award for participation in a project dedicated to W. A. Mozart. In 1994, he became leader of the double bass section of the Croatian National Theatre Opera Orchestra in Zagreb.
While extremely agile and ambitious in a wide array of subjects (music, concerts, restoration), Draušnik’s love for the fine arts led to a more serious acquaintance with contemporary painting, which induced him to edit and design, in 1995, the first monograph of painter Tihomir Lončar. With his friend Mimi Marjanović Gonski, Draušnik founded the Zagreb Double Bass Duo, with which he aimed for a “higher” goal than just performing a small number of classical music pieces for double bass solo. In addition to arrangements of classical pieces, the duo wanted to play original music by Croatian contemporary composers as well as enrich their musical production with fine arts. Already in 1996, with the critic Vladimir Bužančić and painters Želimir Borić and Tihomir Lončar, Draušnik conceived and edited a music and art book, The Dream of Silence, which, along with Borić’s and Lončar’s etchings, also contained a cassette with different musical pieces, dating from the Renaissance to modern times, arranged for the double bass. In the six years of its existence, the Zagreb Double Bass Duo held about seventy public performances, playing, among other things, the music of nine contemporary Croatian composers who dedicated their works to this truly special chamber ensemble.
Since the mid-1990s Draušnik has been friends with painters, especially former students from the class of Vasilije Jordan – Blažanović, Lončar, Petrač, Rački and Radić – who were infected by classical music by this esteemed professor of painting and passionate violinist. Emboldened by the experience gained in the field of art, Draušnik presented to his friends the idea of working together to unite music and painting with projects that would maximize the artistic potential of both branches of art and revitalize the importance of easel painting in contemporary Croatian art. The idea was willingly accepted, so in 1998 Draušnik conceived the music and art book called Hommage to Double Bass. He invited composers Miroslav Miletić, Dubravko Detoni, Stanko Horvat, Igor Kuljerić, Marko Ruždjak, Zoran Juranić, Mladen Tarbuk, Berislav Šipuš, and Alan Bjelinski to write original pieces specifically for the Zagreb Double Bass Duo. Inspired by their music, the painters then painted six oil paintings of sonorous colors and symbolic themes, with the aim of bringing to the forefront the classical painting technique on canvas and pointing out its importance for the integrity of painting in general. Also, their special guest – whose artwork was represented with a sheet in the book and also featured at the exhibition – was Professor Vasilije Jordan. When the book was printed and the music recorded, the project was presented at the Mimara Museum on October 21, 1998, with an exhibition and a concert performed by the Draušnik–Marjanović duo. The informal Contra Group was thus inaugurated with an exhibition of sketches, originals, and silk-screen prints, and the compositions recorded on the soundtrack attached to the book were performed for the first time. The music and art book was accompanied by a stimulating foreword by Josip Depolo in the book and exhibition catalogue, and with forewords by Borislav Vujčić, Milko Šparemblek, and Josip Novosel, and a song by Dubravko Detoni, in the CD booklet.1 Thanks to the agile Draušnik and his exceptional efforts in the field of art, the interdisciplinary nature of the project was a novel feature with which the Contra Group entered the Croatian art scene. Since then the musician Draušnik, in addition to leading the double bass section in the Croatian National Theatre Orchestra, has organized a number of Contra’s exhibitions, edited catalogs and monographs of painters within the Contra book series,2 and conceived bibliophilic editions, art and music books, and other books for a number of different authors.3 He first exhibited alongside other members of Contra in 2013 at the exhibition Fifteen years of the Contra Group – A Decade and a Half of Contra’s Duration and Creative Resistance to the Pauperization of Art, which was held at the Home of Croatian Fine Artists.
Draušnik revealed his interest in set design in 2001, when he collaborated with the architect Nenad Fabijanić on the creation of the decor for the ballet Johannes Faust Passion by Milko Šparemblek. Following this experience, he collaborated with many prominent set designers such as Dinka Jeričević, Gerd Friedrich, Hans Georg Schäfer, Thomas Schulte-Michels, and Günther Schneider-Siemssen. Always inclined to learn and discover both his own and other people’s creative potentials, he researched, collaborated, volunteered, and finally, in 2003, as an executive
set designer, realized Vasilije Jordan’s idea for Verdi’s opera Simon Boccanegra at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, directed by Petar Selem. However, he focused more seriously on set design only after his collaboration with the German director Thomas Shulte-Michels, when he designed the set for Shostakovich’s Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in 2004, for which he created a unique mobile stepped rotating structure for orchestra and choir on the stage of the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb. The initiation was more than successful and in the same year Draušnik independently designed the set for Šulek’s opera Coriolanus, again at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, and for the ballet Who Sings There by Vojislav Kostić at the Belgrade National Theatre. The following year, in his home theatre, he designed the set for Puccini’s opera La Boheme and Løvenskjold’s ballet La Sylphide, while at the Ivan pl. Zajc theatre in Rijeka he designed the set for the premiere of Staša Zurovac’s ballet Marquezomania.4 Draušnik and Zurovac established an excellent collaboration, and in 2006 Draušnik went to Novi Sad to work on the set for the premiere of Zurovac’s ballet Divine Comedy. They collaborated again in 2007 on Prokofiev’s ballet Romeo and Juliet, then in 2008 at the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb on Zurovac’s dance piece, Danse macabre, and at the Rijeka theatre on the premiere of Zurovac’s ballet Song of Songs. In the same year, Draušnik visited Albania for the first time and staged Delibes’s ballet Coppelia at the National Opera and Ballet Theatre (Teatri Kombetar, Operas dhe Baletit). In the next few years, Draušnik had a very fruitful collaboration with the theatre in Tirana, designing sets for Tchaikovsky’s ballet The Nutcracker in 2009 and Løvenskjold’s ballet La Sylphide in 2015. During the past decade, he has created a whole series of set designs, among which special mention goes to Büchner and Zurovac’s Wozzeck in the Maribor National Theatre in 2009, Šipuš’s Process co-produced by Music Biennale Zagreb and the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka in 2009, Mozart’s Magic Flute at the Croatian National Theatre in Osijek in 2010, Ravel’s Daphnis and Chloe at the Croatian National Theatre Ivan pl. Zajc in Rijeka in 2010, Juranić’s Last Flower of Summer, co-produced by the Serbian National Theatre in Novi Sad and Music Biennale Zagreb in 2013, Sophocles’s Philoctetes at the Croatian National Theatre in Varaždin in 2018, and Smareglia’s Caccia lontana at the Istrian National Theatre in Pula.5 In 2018, he defended his master’s thesis with the highest grades at the Faculty of Construction Management of the Union – Nikola Tesla University in Belgrade, with the topic “Components in the Realization of Theatre Production – Opera / Ballet” and then enrolled in doctoral studies at the same faculty. In the following year he successfully defended the proposal for his doctoral dissertation entitled “Cultural, Musicological, and Production Relations of Genre Art through the Historical Perspective of the Popularity of Ball and Ball Music” at the Dance Institute of the Union – Nikola Tesla University in Belgrade. As of school year 2019/2020 he is a guest professor at the same university.
The meaning and field of Draušnik’s creative work is to make a contemporary version of Gesamtkunstwerk through music, fine arts, and theatre. Drawing on the artistic sphere, during his fifteen years in set design he has achieved a series of brilliant “luminoplastic” productions of extremely contemporary modernity and artistically refined stage sets for classical and contemporary opera, ballet, and drama repertoires for Croatian and foreign theatres (in Serbia, Hungary, Slovenia, and Portugal). It is not surprising, then, that his set designs have connected him more effectively with the art of the Contra group than has his twenty-year-long engagement in the exhibiting and publishing activities of the Contra Group.
Biserka Rauter Plančić
1 In addition to the mentioned compact disc Contra, Zagreb, 1998, the Zagreb Double Bass Duo has released three more recordings: The Dream of Silence, cassette and compact disc, Zagreb, 1996; Offenbach Op. 50, Zagreb, 2000; and Zagreb Double Bass Duo, Zagreb, 2001.
2 In 2000, Žorž Draušnik founded the Contra book series, which has issued, with Draušnik as editor and designer, two monographs on T. Lončar (2000 and 2006), five on D. Radić (from 2002 to 2016) as well as monographs on the painters V. Blažanović and V. Meglić (both in 2006), V. Rački (2007), P. Ujević (2013), and Ž. Mucko (2015).
3 For example, the bibliophilic book Libitina with poetry by Sibila Petlevski, linocuts by Tihomir Lončar, and foreword by Tonko Maroević (2002); the photomonograph Dominik Kunkera – Cartoons by Damir Fabijanić and Josip Škunca (2006); the book Eros and Pornos by Đuro Vanđura (2008); the music, poetry, and art book Les Nuits by Berislav Šipuš with silk-screen prints by the painters of the Contra Group and featuring poems by C. Pavese, J. Kaštelan, М. Fermine, J. Pupačić, V. Popa, Ch. Baudelaire, and A. B. Šimić, in their original languages; and the monograph The Art Treasures of Strossmayer’s Cathedral in Đakovo by Dragan Damjanović (2017).
4 For the set design of the play Marquezomania Draušnik was nominated for the Croatian Actor Award in the category of Best Theatre Set Design.
5 [...] theatrical ballet and drama productions connect him much more strongly with the art of the Contra Group. The exceptional inventiveness and distinct modernity of his set designs are manifested in the construction of luminous and artistically refined decors that provide a surreal vision of stage space. Ivanka Reberski (from the foreword to the catalog titled The Contra Group – The Antithesis of Non-Painting on the occasion of the fifteenth anniversary of the Contra Group, 3rd Art Colony Štrigova, Šajer building, Čakovec, June 28, 2013)