Janissary, A Balkan Rock Opera

by Paul Shapera

Taken 05:48
Brija: this tale not all will attend for some here the story ends in a spot no one else knows the spot their heart just broke and not all heals again the sun late in the day in soft light the bedroom paints for hours now she's been beside this empty bed and tears and tears cascade this tale not all will attend for some right here the story ends Danijela: Lay my body down, lay me in the cold dark ground cover me with dirt and stone and spread some roses round if years and years it takes there's no need for us to wait since the day the lights inside went out Lay my body down, lay me in the cold dark ground kiss me once and tell me sweet goodnight just like i've always done for my baby who is gone taken so so far now from my sight Lay my body down lay me in the cold dark ground too many days to wake and walk about a ghost lost in the grind, just marking out my time since the day the light inside went out lay, lay my body down i cannot bear this, my heart is ripped on out my baby, my baby she is gone today's the day the light inside went out
Brija: two gods, siblings, black and white they play their games of day and night but one fair day their bubble split two other gods, they burst on in order and chaos, siblings too upset the peace, bring contests new the board is cleared a new game set and all 4 gods, they place their bets There’s a land east of New Albion and some years ago they say That the gods from round these parts they fell into some disarray But theology and such lies quite beyond our small forte It is just a simple folk tale that we bring to you today It’s a tale one named Bogdan and his child has been snatched From the bed where she had slept and his wife weeps now alas The land where Bogdan lives has both a white god and a black But some years ago were conquered by their neighbors to the south Occupied and ruled by a Vizier they’re kept in line But in the hills the Hajduks roam and keep insurgency alive Just a few short hours in the past the vizier’s men Took young Bogdan’s baby girl straight from our her bed His wife and he were crying, screaming, fighting then he left Now he sits at the kafana and swears he’ll drink himself to death
Bogdan: dirt in your fingernails holes in your clothes the smell of fresh alcohol the fathers we know no bridge for the distance this children will learn we judge and we wonder until it’s our turn so pour us here one more round we've not yet fallen down i can still lay down without holding onto the ground heres to knowing our place and boots on our face try to ground us on down so right now one more round all the days lurching forward while the liquor pours forth and why not, what've you got to stop it for all the good times will fade to a future that's laced with a tedium that drives any man here insane brave our fathers fought then but returned broken men my old man slogged and scraped his wild fire tamed he drank a strong brew he made of sad bitter rage to his grave and i know that that's me soon one day all our days set in place from our cribs to our graves sure you kick for a minute before you settlein your cage you're flat broke and you're heeled. you just work your field get too loud they'll come round and your little girl steal our masters one and all hold us all by the balls and like beaten dogs they think we'll just lay and take it all be their battered whore come crawl and grovel one and all but out there in the hills are rebels, blood to spill so one more round, i'm not yet broken down the vizier's death or my last breath is all i care for now one day soon he'll say my girl's name in pain on my soul this i vow so right now one more round
Brija: thus bogdan that night to the graveyard goes to ask his forefathers laid there to show to show the lost road to where southern mountains wind and hajduks make camp and plan their fight The Spirits: Fate, her lines run about where they may you'll follow them down the mouse in the maze and the chase to the grave comes about ask for moonlight to show you the path you'll walk to the last for the fool finds the road where the angels won't go on past one day, we'll see you back here and we wait to hear you come say of the task you ran toward of which you were so sure that day go the path that you seek is shown your choice is your own the fruits of mens' dream angels and laugh and then weep alone
The Hajduk 07:09
Bogdan: On the ourskirts of the occupation of a beaten, bitter nation where retaliation's dreamed by everyone desperados plan salvation from their dire situation by the karma of the gun that’s how fate gets done when tides of trouble come in the hills high elevation camps of desperadors stationed loading guns in expectation every one drinks a bit too much libation for some old wound or some damnation and waits for what will come scores to be restrung thats how fate gets done the karma of the gun you may ask what agitation led them to the abdication of the life and social station they had once well, patriotic inclination with a grudge induced fixation towards the karma of the gun how fate gets done when tides of trouble comes the karma of the gun
Brija 04:08
Brija: So bogdan has now found the hajduk home We leave him there now and to elsewhere go Along the far lands and the mountains wide To find what became of the stolen child little girl lost and so far gone little girl come sing a faraway song through the hills and winding roads that roam so long little girl lost all dressed in red in a line of girls the miles you'll tread to a far off, foreign land you'll all be led cry mama cry cry mama cry no i wont your lost girl wants you here with her tonight little girl lost to the barracks arrives in a row of cots you will sleep tonight you'll lve your life here, tucked away inside and day by day you’ll all be trained told to what gods you will pray a jannisary harem you will be one day cry mama cry cry mama cry no i wont come back home in this life halls of stone where no voice sounds silent caves on hallowed grounds years of lonely, echoes deep with keepers black who don't speak and i mama i i cry, mama, cry your lost girl wants you here with me tonight the icons that the girl once knew she lays at night and whispers to imaginary friends she thinks are true she sees them smile and hears them speak they talk to her and teach her things they sit at night beside her while she weeps
Danijela: in a land far away the girl's mother she prays and each night in the dark she can hear as she lays her child calling out her mother's name all those in her life think she's losing her mind but this voice she can hear she swears that it's real she cannot rest until she finds her child finally a priest that she meets he believes says her daughter perceives things that no one else sees from the White God it's a gift that she's received this gift he then says she sees saints who are dead since you're neither well then she wont see you again you'll only hear her voice inside your head Danijela she fasts til three months have then passed she has prayed and is clean as pure as she can be and she walks into the hospital at last there's a room tucked away where the sick children lay to each one she goes round with a kiss on the mouth and the sickness deep inside she sucks away in the room there are ten children dying in beds she cannot save them all for by seven she falls and she dies there in the lonely, empty hall little girl leads a lonely life except for one strange autumn night she sees her mother standing by her side and though her mother's not alive neither of them seems to mind and they sit beside each other every night Cry mama cry Cy mama cry all i want is you here with me tonight
The Vizier 05:58
Vizier: im the game master genius sultan gave me little edict keep this gaggle of egregious in line cause i pimp this country send it out to make me money like a working girl who lookin' so fine im the medieval big brother i'm a band mother ****** i'm the ottomanic dervish divine cause if you see me coming better get my money pumpin' pay a pimp some respect every time oh yeah we came we saw we conquered your whole country and your mama i'm your daddy now, i keep you in line son you think you're all something i got dungeon after dungeon full of slugs that outrank you every time i got a taste for winnin' over sexy local women who just bending over for me to try i'm a dervish dance of trouble im a master class of hustle you the shisha i'm a heat ya tonight well i'm stuck here sulking cause that sultan's stupid monkey just some years was passing on by when some damn fool peasants with some guns and plans unpleasant gave ol' caravan robbing a try well they were shot through their heads but that monkey wound up dead and i was chewed a new hole in my backside as a punishment real clever i am posted here forever and i'll never see my homeland alive so i'm a rule this prison with a backhand that means business since this sad hillbilly hovel is mine i'm a pimp this country send it out to make me money like a working girl i'm keeping in line
The Battle 05:14
Brija: thus it comes that one dark day the Vizier leads a fierce cadre of men to ambush bogdan's band and kill them all to the last man Bogdan: when the bodies hit the ground embers falling all around and until now you thought you've seen the worst that it could be but that's all over now when the bodies hit the ground when your friends are going down the dream you fought and shared is fading as you stare and it's all over now when the bodies hit the ground
Crazy Girl 04:55
Brija: the girl is trained day after day what things to do what things to say the way to fight, the way to pray the other girls they eye her with disdain believe her broken and insane they plot to kill her soon one day they girls are trained with sharpened sword so when they're grown they all can serve in a janissary harem corp their lives will now have purpose great to serve the vizier, serve the state, elite, young, bodyguards one day all the saints i say all the saint come out and play the saints and dead dance here today girl little girl you've gone too far do you still know who you are little girl you're so far gone girl crazy girl the things she says crazy girl inside her head crazy girl says crazy men the other girls they scheme and plot and try to kill young brija off but all their plots go oddly wrong as weird and strange as it might seem her secret friends no one believes they whisper, warn her constantly girl little girl you've gone too far do you still know who you are little girl you're so far gone girl crazy girl the things she says crazy girl inside her head crazy girl says crazy men
Brija: in the night as smoke still rises on the field of fallen men Bogdan wakes to find his mates are to the last man dead A figure dark and hooded comes and carries him away to a monastery bathed in candlelight and midnight haze Monk: Covered in the crack of night, this monastery stands and hides you're welcome here to heal and stay, we'll get you to your date with fate yes, peasants, superstitious lot, talk of vampires, point to us but we're not monsters creatures foul, we're black gods monks who've taken vows the call has come and thus begins the midnight mass the hooded, single file and the hushed return at last what sweet epiphanies, and liturgies are cast come attend once again the call to midnight mass We're holy men, and we see you too have purpose, the black god has chosen you there's games afoot in heaven's seat, each god have picked their mortal piece our black god, he's misunderstood, he just wants justice for this world wicked punished, order set, balance held and karma kept the call has come and thus begins the midnight mass the hooded, single file and the hushed return at last what sweet epiphanies, and liturgies are cast come attend once again the call to midnight mass You must continue with your plan, for vengeance makes a holy man you're picked to be sweet karma's hand, to serve the gods as best you can the black gods speaks, vizier must die, and there's a girl who'll be by his side slay her too, this you must, then return here become one of us Brija: thus does bogdan stay with the monks for several days til he's well enough to leave and journey on his way to the viziers palace, to bring the kiss of death but when he leaves the grounds he's found that 1o long years have passed
Brija: a test is declared to decide and determine which of the girls may be worthless or worthy wild child, watch from the shadows as the other girls plot your demise a trial by combat, the girls all inside, and they make a pact that first birja will die wild child, no one in the world who loves you and who's still alive the trial begins, all alone brija stands, and the girls all come at her with blades in their hands wild child, tears in your eyes as your sisters betray you once more brija, she dances, her dead mother whispers, a feral ballerina with fierce blood red kisses wild child, in a ballet of blood as the bodies pile up on the floor Chorus: what secrets now have they said the strange sounds in your head do they tell you it over and over again the voices that speak that ones no one else sees for hours you just sit a nd you stare absently Brija: and when the test was done, no one moved or spoke a word until a single person, the vizier slowly rose a slow and lonely clap echoed from his hands until at last the hall was filled with applause and cheering men he took young Brija by the shoulders and they walked and he told her of the glory of the janissary guard and so he offered her a post, a life and more she left with him, beside him as his private body guard
Ruin's Road 08:05
Bogdan: Ruin’s road, through lowlands grim and wild winds beneath a sky of ash and trials the greens of leaves remembered from your youth are faded now all the colors mute and subdued i saw the ghosts along the road to hell's bordello i saw the shades that line the way to desolation's ghetto they said look back on the trail that you have sown i saw the the ghosts on ruins road Ruin’s road won't get you what you lost the toll is steep, it's you who are the cost but with some luck, it leads to just one place where blood will lick along your hungry blade one day i saw the ghosts along the road to hell's bordello i saw the shades that line the way to desolation's ghetto they said look back on the trail that you have sown i saw the the ghosts on ruins road Brija: It's weeks that Bogdan walk as his color slowly fades he see the dead around him one day at last he nears the gates specters pass before him but one it lingers, stays the wife he left so long ago the woman he forsake Danijela: where was my angel in my time of need where was the man who swore he'd be there for me i lost my baby, my heart then you left, walked out the door you'd swore that you would make it right but who'd you make it right then for? where was my angel right by my side who could i lean on when i broke down and cried where was my angel when i was in grief where was my husband who swore he truly loved me you talked a lot of justice what the people they deserved i didn't know you didn't mean the wife, no help for her you surely meant your mates down at the hole where you would drink the girls you leered and flirted with whose perfume trails left such a stink and the memory of your father, and the country you believed each and every person that was that was in it, cept for me where was my angel when i hit my low who tried to hold me on the day my heart broke who tried to help me as i went mad so slow who tried to mourn me when i died all alone Bogdan: i am sorry my love i was fiery and young so swept up and in love with my own bleeding hearts blood all that drama i craved well it roared through and came and left nothing else but this last road to hell ruins road leads to just one place when all that's sweet has long since gone away nothing came of anything you did except this one last score to fix this one last sin i saw the ghosts along the road to hell's bordello i saw the shades that line the way to desolation's ghetto they said look back on the trail that you have sown i saw the the ghosts on ruins road
Vizier: i extend to you my greeting it's a long time since i've seen someone wear that uniform round these parts so you're the last of the hajduk sixteen years ago i wiped out your whole group, but now just look, here you are as a token of respect i will give you land to tend maybe settle down and pick out a wife you should think about a child they make all of life worthwhile like this sweet girl i have here by my side take the money now and go it's the only deal you'll know you can still walk out of here with a life if you don't then take my word i will have this little girl gut you head to toe and left side to right Bogdan: this tale not all will attend for some here the story ends in this palace grand and sweet the finest place that i have seen some will not leave this room again a baby girl from long ago you took away from me and so i chose a path both dark and doomed and by the black god was consumed yet i am here to see this through i never chose the path of love the kinder things i should have done i failed all i should have saved the only legacy i made the one i bring now made in blood Brija: thus the room lies bathed in blood and butchery only three remain the vizier, bogdan and me I there poised between them sword drawn, in silence, thus the moment the gods have wagered on is here and they watch us and this is how i met my dad the one i never knew i had i didn't even know it then i only saw a crazy man a weapon in his hand and this is how he met me too the daughter that he never knew he only saw a girl and blade between him and what he craved one he'd cut his way right through you can ask me why why he dropped his sword and looked into my eyes you could say he knew there's many now who do but i don't know if that's true you can ask me why i did what i did that night i put my sword through bogdan's chest i turned around and then i put it through the vizier's neck it was a bloodbath on that day i was all that walked away i don't know from right and wrong the wagers of the gods but i will not be a pawn and this was how i killed my dad the one i never knew i had the one i wish i'd known but that love died long ago the day they took me from my home


Janissary is a 3 act rock opera. It features 5 characters: Brija, the Daughter, Danijela, the Mother, Bogdan, the Father, The Vizier and a small appearance by the Black Monk. There are numerous Balkan themes and allusions woven into the story.

The practice of the Ottomans randomly taking Balkan children from their homes and raising them far away to become Janissary soldiers was called Devshirme, the blood tax. I have taken a few liberties with historical details, so do not take this opera as being completely historically accurate.

The Acts divide up as follows:
Act 1: Tracks 1-5
Act 2: Tracks 6-10
Act 3: Tracks 11-14


released October 1, 2018

Lauren Osborn as Brija

Liel Bar-Z as Danijela, the Mother

with Tomislav M. Čeleketić as the Black Monk

P.H. Michael as Bogdan
David Adams as The Vizier

Featuring Ivan Vukadinovic on guitar


all rights reserved



Paul Shapera Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

These days the teddy bear picnic is a rather somber affair. They mostly just sit together in silence. The beings who had taken these guises had over time lost all recollection of their origins, purpose, or selves. They only know they are someplace foreign, cut off from whatever homeland they once had, utterly alone in an incomprehensible world. Some picnics they listen to Paul Shapera. ... more

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