Štúrovo, Slovakia – Next time your neighbour is listening to his music a bit too loud, remember this story: some people have known worse. Much, much worse.
For 16 years, the inhabitants of the small town of Štúrovo, in southern Slovakia, have had to live at the pace of Verdi’s arias: for 16 years, Éva N., a resident of Kossuthova street in this not-so-peaceful city on the banks of the Danube, has been playing on a loop, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and on loudspeakers, the Italian composer’s famous opera La Traviata. If we look on the bright side of things, anyone born there after 2002 might already be fluent in Italian. Arrested on August 7, the woman has been taken into custody and could face up to 3 years in prison.
As the story goes, she started playing her music at full volume to cover up the constant barking of her neighbour’s dog (or take revenge). The dog eventually died.
But the music didn’t stop.
Entrenched in her house, protected by cameras, spotlights and rolled-down blinds, the woman imposed her musical rhythm to the whole neighbourhood. Regardless of the incredible day-to-day nuisance, this had other, unsavoury consequences: those who planned to move away soon found out that the prices of their houses went down because of their rather uncivil neighbour, thus making it more difficult for them to leave. Over the years, this story has often made the news, like in this video below (in Slovak language).
Finally, in June 2015, the town’s mayor took action and issued a preliminary injunction to crack down on such public nuisance.
The music stopped.
But Éva N. was just getting started: after two years of silence, she fought back and appealed the decision, again and again, until the case reached the Supreme Court. During all that time, Spanish tenor Plácido Domingo’s interpretation of La Traviata’s famous aria kept on echoing through the streets, followed – to make matters worse – by whistling and catcalls from the audience recorded on the disc. Last March, the Supreme Court upheld the mayor’s decree, thus putting an end to this long judicial battle.
The music still didn’t stop.
“Listening to music is not a crime, especially if I listen to it in my own house”, a defiant Éva N. claimed on social media. Last week, the Slovak police finally arrested her. No date of trial has been announced as of yet. The 11.000 inhabitants of Štúrovo can now breathe again and enjoy a well-deserved silence.
Based on the book La Dame aux Camélias (more commonly known as Camille in English) by Alexandre Dumas, La Traviata (1852) is one of Verdi’s most famous and delightful operas. Residents of Štúrovo might, however, have a different opinion…