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Review of the Opera "Madame Curie" in "Ruch Muzyczny"
2012-01-17We would like to present fragments of the review in the last edition of last year’s “Ruch Muzyczny” of Elżbieta Sikora’s opera „Madame Curie, written by Anna Pęcherzewska–Hadrych. Contemporary operas appear rarely in Poland today, and so we should welcome the Gedanensis Opera project with even greater joy, under which the Baltic Opera will present new works every two years, which they will comission. Plans include operas: about Schopenhauer (born in Gdańsk) with music by Piotr Moss and a libretto by Antoni Libera, about Hans Memling (his Last Judgement is the greatest treasure belonging to the National Museum in Gdańsk) and a further musicalisation of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. The project is ambitious and - there is nothing to hide - expensive, and it remains to be hoped that the organizers will acquire adequate financial resources. For now, they have managed it - November 25, the first of the planned operas, "Madame Curie" by Elżbieta Sikora, was presented in Gdańsk.
The presentation happily coincided with the time of the Polish presidency of the European Union (and its promotion was brought under the program I, Culture) and announced by the UNESCO International Year of Chemistry, which was under the patronage of Maria Skłodowska-Curie. Hence the idea to release a double premiere: before it went to the Baltic Opera, it was given on 15 November in the UNESCO Hall in Paris, although it is not very suitable for stage works with the orchestra. This order of presentation determined the staging concept, as it was prepared with a view to the challenging the conditions of this hall.
The mosaical system of scenes works in the staging – the whole has an expressive drama (despite the unconvincing beginning), with a strong, emotional culmination in the scene of the massive attack on the main character and a beautiful, muted finale. The well-constructed libretto, however, disappoints in the details, one could say it even arouses embarrassment, because it operates with language on the level of school readers or an honour academy, alternating with questions straight from Venezuelan soap operas (the pinnacle of kitsch is the scene of anti-prayer to the Virgin Mary). It only remains to rely on the singers’ poor diction, but unfortunately - at the premiere, it was excellent and the text simply could not be listened to.
The music - on the contrary: it is fascinating, and - as usual with Elżbieta Sikora - highly energetic. The sounds, like atoms scattered in an accelerator, colliding with each other, generating a cascade of new sounds flitting in all directions at once. Dissonances, the ghostly hue, the illuminated (spectral?) chords, whispers and screams, and subtly used electronics - so it looks at the micro level; from a distance one can see a well laid out, dynamic form. Sikora, the author of two operas, at any rate, has proven once again that she has a great feeling for the stage with, among other things, daring use of the choir, almost continually accompanying the heroine - as a commentator, and above all, as a participant in events, usually ruthless, like a horde in passion.
The theatrical narrative owes thanks for the good tempo of the direction by Marek Weiss, who made maximum use of the limited space. Many ideas are really great: the scene depicting the growing Irene and Eve, Maria’s daughters (behind their backs adult women appear, the girls leave, led away by an apparation – Lod’e Fuller), the entrance of the choir, like a ghostly zombie, the view of Paul and Mary motionless, bent over the table in the press attack scene, or the excellent sequence with the newspapers, which become a tool for lynching. There are also less persuasive passages: Maria fumbling on stage at the beginning of the show, or intrusive video projections of the atomic bomb and flashes from the First World War; although despite these, it must be emphasized that overall it leaves a very good impression.
Huge thanks for this are due to Anna Mikołajczyk in the title role, who created something – and I say this without any hesitation - outstanding. Endowed with a magnificent, powerful soprano voice (known - ironically – particularly by lovers of early music) with flawless intonation, she coped with the breakneck, highly dissonance part, simply phenomenally, singing with great expression; she was also excellent from the acting point of view. The other soloists also came out very well, even better than usual: because the orchestra sat in the back of the stage; the orchestral pit was built around them, the action taking place on the widened proscenium, and as a result (it is difficult to say whether this was intended) the singers’ voices were well heard - a solution to take into account in the future, because the voices in the Baltic Opera, unfortunately, usually disappear.
Following the premiere of Madame Curie, we look forward with optimism to the opera about the great pessimist, Schopenhauer, wishing the Baltic Opera management perseverence in raising funds. Sikora's work is certainly worth getting to know, though - if it was a possibility - I would suggest a Chinese (or Finnish) language version. Without translation.
PWM Edition and Warsaw Wind Music Association invite to take part in the International Composition Contest for Wind Orchestra - Warsaw Wind Ensemble Composition Contest 2020. This is the first edition of the international competition for composers, the subject of which is to write a premiere composition for a concert wind orchestra.
The winners of the 10th International Stanisław Moniuszko Vocal Competition have been announced. The first prize goes to Maria Motolygina from Russia, while Alina Adamski won the PWM Edition Prize for the best performance of a Polish 20th/21st-century song.
On May 5th, the bicentenary of Stanisław Moniuszko’s birth will be celebrated throughout Poland. PWM Edition has already begun its celebrations earlier, and announced Stanisław Moniuszko our May COMPOSER OF THE MONTH.
More than 20 new sheet music publications, books and CD albums; nearly 90 reissues; performance materials for orchestras and opera houses; more than a hundred digital publications available worldwide; 7,000 pages of free access digitalised materials; more than a thousand unique graphics and photos; nearly 30 events for adult and young audiences – all these are part of PWM Edition’s celebrations programme prepared for the bicentenary of Stanisław Moniuszko’s birth.
We are very happy to inform that Tomasz Knittel’s film Mieczysław Karłowicz. Samotna wędrówka [Mieczysław Karłowicz. A Lone Journey], co-produced by PWM Edition and TVP (Polish state television broadcaster), won the Silver Pegasus during the gala of the 22nd Zakopane Festival of Films about Art held on 14th April.
PWM Edition is not just about sheet music and books. We are also involved in all kinds of educational activities, aiming to promote and support music education in both general and music schools. In this way we fulfil Plato’s postulate that “children ought to be taught music, physics and philosophy; but music in particular, because it contains models and all the skills that are crucial to learning”.
Since the first quarter of 2019 is already behind us, let us sum up PWM Edition’s educational enterprises in that period.
The world premiere of the most recent work by the highly regarded Polish composer Agata Zubel is to take place on 9th April 2019 at the Auditorium Marcel Landowski in Paris. The nine members of Ensemble 2e2m – one of France’s oldest and most renowned groups of this kind – will perform 3x3 for 9 instruments. The conductor is Pierre Roulllier.
The concert is part of the cycle “It Is a Woman’s World (Too)”.
“A three-day festival of new music; seven concerts, two installations, nearly fifteen hours of music – only the most recent works. Thirty composers, more than half of whom are associated with PWM Edition – all this has made me happy, and I am leaving Katowice one hundred per cent satisfied,” said Daniel Cichy PhD, Director and Editor-in-Chief of PWM Edition, summing up the 8th Festival of Premieres in Katowice, which came to its close last Sunday.
In our gallery of COMPOSERS OF THE MONTH, we present today the figure of Sławomir Kupczak, our April Composer of the Month.
On 1st April 2019 the post of editor-in-chief of “Ruch Muzyczny” will be taken over by Piotr Matwiejczuk, who replaces Tomasz Cyz, head of the editorial board since 2013.