A New Opera Entitled 'Unknown Szymanowski' Takes the Stage in Madrid

Michał Znaniecki

The Poznań Opera Theatre brings "Unknown Szymanowski", a project composed specially for the Polish Presidency of the EU Council, to Madrid. The performance serves to promote the acclaimed Polish composer abroad


The project is an intermezzo to Moliere's 'Le Bourgeois gentilhomme' ('The Bourgeois Gentleman' / 'The Middle-Class Aristocrat' / The Would-Be Noble'), and, besides Karol Szymanowski's pieces, works by Richard Strauss and Jean Baptiste Lull will be featured. The concert will explore the far-reaching influence Szymanowski's music has had on the wide cultural context of Europe.

"Unknown Szymanowski" is the tale of an everyman figure, who wanted to become someone else, someone better, more fashionable. It tells the tale of Monsieur Jourdain, the hero of Moliere's "Le Bourgeois gentilhomme". Jourdain is fascinated by everything that has its place in high culture. In an attempt to lead a more aristocratic lifestyle he has dance and music lessons and takes up fencing. He even hires a philosophy teacher in order to feel thoroughly at home in high society. This is the story of an Everyman within a commedia dell' arte setting.

The open-air nature of the performance allows for an interactive and participatory performance, whilst the touring nature of the play continually ensures that each performance is formed anew. Audience members, sitting in front of a building façade, can observe how the windows, balconies and galleries are complemented by light and movement. The aim is also to introduce listeners to the works of other composers, such as Lull and Strauss, who also refer to Moliere's play in their musical works.

The Stanisław Moniuszko Poznań Opera Theatre represents 100 years of Polish opera history. Built in the city centre at the beginning of the twentieth century, the opera has developed a rich tradition of musical life. Its multinational repertoire encompasses both classic operatic works to contemporary compositions. The opera also hosts its own series of festivals, with events such as the "Poznań Verdi Days" and the "Poznań Spring Ballet". From 2010 the "Beggar's Opera project" has presented theatre-musical chamber performances in the Wojciech Drabowicz concert hall. The Poznań Opera Theatre also collaborates with theatres and operas abroad. Among them is the Israeli Opera in Tel Awiw, ABAO in Bilbao, Teatro Argentino de La Plata in Buenos Aires. Due to 2011 being the International Year of Women, the opera programme for this year is specially dedicated to female figures in Opera (2012 will, in turn, be dedicated to male opera figures, whereas 2013 will show plays which that present a combination of both).

The Poznań opera group also participates in many Polish and international musical and theatre festivals, including Festival de Carcssonne, Sommerfestspiele Xanten, Festival International de Santander, Bydgoszcz Opera Festival and the Kraków Music Festival as well as showings in Luxembourg, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Italy, Spain, Switzerland, Argentine, Uruguay and Cuba.

Moliere's 'The Bourgeois Gentleman' is a comedie-ballet which intermingles song, dance and music . The original staging included Moliere in the starring role and a performance by the composer Lully, whilst a subsequent German adaptation featured works by Richard Strauss. It tells the tale of the social climbing Mr. Jourdain- a middleclass Frenchman with dreams of becoming an aristocrat. Although his social 'learning' is disagreeable to both his wife and daughter, there's much in the way of comic effect.
Jean-Baptiste Poquelin (stage name 'Moliere') was a prolific actor and comedic playwright. His talents earned him the patronage of the King's brother, Philippe I and permamnent theatrical residence. He died shortly after giving a theatrical performance in his own play, "The Imaginary Invalid".

Walter Plathe, Jaromir Trafankowski, Marek Szymański, Monika Mych, Jolanta Podlewska, Dymitr Fomenko, Paweł Myszkowski, Bartłomiej Szczeszek

Music direction: Krzysztof Słowiński

Text and direction: Michał Znaniecki

Costume: Tomasz Jacyków
Hair styling: Sylwia Kiliś
Choreography: Iwona Pasińska
Lighting design: Bogumił Palewicz
Directorial assistant: Zofia Dowjat

Date: 9-10th of September, 2011 (8pm)
Venue: La Plaza de Santa Ana, Madrid
Organised by: Teatr Wielki
Project cofinanced by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland.
Source: Adam Mickiewicz Institute
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