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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.
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The Polish Music Library is the youngest member of the top flight of Polish libraries, exceptional in terms of its collection and unrivalled for accessibility. It is maintained by PWM Edition, the biggest Polish publisher of sheet music and books about music, which thanks to its international prestige effectively promotes the output of Polish composers around the world. PWM sums up this project, which has been realised since 2017, with an attractive animation presenting the process through which its resources have been digitised.
Does music call for gender equality? It can surely defend itself. Nonetheless, the artistic advantages of excellent present-day women-composers and their eminent predecessors are worthy of being noticed and highlighted. Women have their separate and distinctive voice in Polish music. In recognition of the need to acknowledge that voice, on 29th January ANAKLASIS will release the CD POLISH HEROINES OF MUSIC, comprising orchestral works by Elżbieta Sikora, Hanna Kulenty, Grażyna Bacewicz, and Agata Zubel.
A panorama of compositional output combining Polish and Yiddish inter-war hits with sorrowful, despairing tangos from the Ghetto. The disc Bajgelman. Get to Tango represents a twenty-first-century take on the output of the outstanding musician Dawid Bajgelman, from Łódź. These arrangements and reworkings of selected works by one of the greatest composers of Jewish theatre music were produced by the outstanding musician and composer Jarosław Bester. The album comes out on 11 December.
The ANAKLASIS record label, created by PWM just one year ago (on 22 November 2019), already boasts sixteen albums, and it shows no signs of slowing down, with further releases announced.
PWM Edition has launched a campaign and an international educational project, which brings the works by Polish composers closer to the audiences worldwide. ‘Music from Chopin’s Land’ encompasses more than just pieces by Chopin – it also means Paderewski, Szymanowska, Moniuszko, Kilar, Kurpiński and many other composers.
On 7 November 2020, during a gala broadcast on TVP Kultura, the laureates of the 10th edition of the Coryphaeus of Polish Music awards were announced. The award for Event of the Year went to the premiere of Aleksander Nowak’s opera Drach. Dramma per musica, given at the AUKSODRONE festival. Aleksander Nowak’s work, to a libretto by Szczepan Twardoch based on his heralded novel, was rewarded for ‘emphasising local dimensions in universal processes, for the strength of its musical and cultural message’.
Paderewski was a great composer. Herdzin is a great improviser. The fusion of the worlds of these two musical giants has given rise to a new phenomenon, which we share with you today. On the 160th anniversary of the birth of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, it is time to prick up our ears to the most beautiful impressions on his music.
On 30 September, the call for applications for the International Composition Contest for Wind Orchestra Warsaw Wind Ensemble Composition Contest 2020 was closed. From almost 50 applications, the jury selected seven laureates and distinguished five compositions.
In the year of the exceptional jubilee, the composer's 90 birthday, a unique album is published in the ANAKLASIS catalogue, devoted to the chamber vocal and instrumental works of Twardowski. They are performed by the world-famous bass-baritone, Tomasz Konieczny, and an outstanding pianist, Lech Napierała.