The first performance was conducted by Gotovac himself, and he felt that opera was nicely received by the audience. But, in Jutarnji list, a Croatian newspaper, Lujo Šafranek Kavić wrote that one Croatian composer wrote another opera in vain. Contrary to this, in Novosti Milan Katić described the opera in superlatives, and in Belgrade Pravda paper Stražičić shared the positive sentiment.
Ero the Joker saw its first performance outside Yugoslavia in Brno, Czechoslovakia, translated into Czech in 1936, and after that it came back to the National Theater (Narodno pozorište) in Belgrade, Yugoslavia on April 17 1937. It was next put on stage more than ten years later, on February 27 1948 in the Serbian National Theatre (Srpsko narodno pozorište) in Novi Sad where it was put on five times since. All totaled, Ero the Joker found its way to the stages of more than 80 world theaters, and was translated to 9 languages.
Gotovac and Begović found the basics for the opera's music and text in the folklore of many South Slavic groups, ranging from Dalmatian folklore (Opera Finale) to songs from Kosovo (opening chorus Duni mi, duni, lađane).
At the threshing floor of a rich peasant Marko, young women are singing while crumbling corns. Only master Marko’s daughter Djula is sad: her mother died and her stepmother, Doma, does not care for her at all. Djula’s voice awakes Mica, a young man whom nobody knows. While women are comforting Djula and start singing again, he slides down from a big haystack on which he has been lying unnoticed – as if he fell from the sky. Superstitious women believe him when he says: “I am Ero from another world!” He starts dragging out a story about the life up there, delivering messages from their deceased ones. Djula’s stepmother comes out and grumbles about their laziness. However, Mica sends her back into the kitchen by deceit, and thus, being left alone with Djula, tells her that her late mother has chosen him for her husband. While they are discussing how to make her father Marko give his consent to their marriage, father himself comes and drives Mica off, refusing to give shelter to a scoundrel. However, there is Doma, who has also heard about a young man from another world, so, after Marko leaves, she makes inquiries after her late husband Matija. Having heard that he is angry about her new marriage, her lack of respect for him and that his pockets are empty, she, under a pang of conscience, gives Mica a sock full of golden coins to give to Matija when he sees him. Ero joyfully leaves. However, when Marko finds out about the money, he gathers men to go after him.
In the mill. Sima, the miller, mills and sings joyfully until women crowd: each one is in a rush and he does not know how to please them. When Doma arrives with Djula insisting to be served at once, a quarrel bursts out. Djula tries to calm her stepmother down, but she turns against her and leaves furiously. Djula laments after her ill fate; Sima is comforting her and she leaves with women. But, here is Mica, running away. He disguises himself into a miller’s apprentice and meets the pursuit crying: yes, he has seen the swindler running towards the mountains! They leave their horses and continue the chase on foot. Djula comes back and he assures her that he took the coins just to make a joke out of it, and he persuades her to run away with him. When Marko and men return, a young shepherd comes informing them that he saw Mica and Djula running away riding Marko’s horse.
At the fair. Throng, howls and cheerfulness. Marko and Doma arrive quarrelling since he does not want to give her money for shopping. She leaves furiously. Sima, the miller, approaches Marko, telling him that Djula, in fact, married a rich boy from the neighbouring village and that they live a happy life. She is longing after her father, but Mica does not want to come unless Marko invites him. Marko agrees to send for him, and when Mica and Djula arrive dressed up, people give them a warm reception. And everything becomes clearer: following mother’s advice, Mica, pretending to be a poor boy, went to find a girl who will love him for what he is. Now, he is ready to give back the horse and money and he only asks for Marko’s blessing. Marko is happy for them and a big celebration begins, with a great round-dance in its finale.
Taken from the web-page of Serbian national theatre, Novi Sad