The gala awards, known as the Oscars of the opera, took place on 7th April, 2014, in London. The Merchant of Venice was not Polish opera's only success. Written more than a quarter of a century ago by forgotten pianist Andrzej Czajkowski, it competed with the famous "Qudsja Zaher " by Paweł Szymański in the category of world premiere. Piotr Beczała also fought for the audience award. In addition, Krzysztof Warlikowski was nominated in the best premiere category for his realization of “Kobieta bez cienia” (“Woman Without a Shadow”). Andrzej Dobber was also nominated in the category of CD release of an operatic recital. The album was released by the Polish label DUX.
"The Merchant of Venice"
July 18th, 2013 “The Merchant of Venice” had its premiere at Austria's Bregenzer Festival. Next season, the opera will be shown in Warsaw.
Czajkowski worked on it from 1968 until 1982. Before his death, he managed to complete almost the entire opera. The author of the libretto based on Shakespeare's text was written by the composer’s friend John O'Brien.
One of the main characters in “The Merchant of Venice” is Shylock – a Venetian moneylender whose character has entered permanently into the canon of anti-Semitic perceptions. Many commentators have wondered why Czajkowski – a Jew who survived the war in the Warsaw ghetto – finished the controversial art. In opera, Czajkowski's Shylock is primarily a tragic figure, which can safely be put next to Hamlet and King Lear.
'It was a presentation of certain anti-Jewish sentiment, but you can not equate it with anti-Semitism'' - said John O'Brien, author of the libretto.
The Bregenzer Festspiele organizers dedicated a three-day symposium to Andrzej Czajkowski featuring his other compositions, including: “The Inventions, op.2”, “Seven Sonnets on Shakespeare”, “String Quartet No. 2”, “Piano Concerto, op.4”, “Trio Notturno, Op. 6”, “Trio Notturno p 6” and others. Among the performers of these masterpieces was pianist Maciej Grzybowski – a great popularizer of Czajkowski’s work.
André Tchaikowsky/ Andrzej Czajkowski
The composer was born Robert Andrzej Krauthammer in an assimilated Jewish family. When the Second World War broke out, they were moved into the Warsaw Ghetto. Krauthammer remained here until 1942, when he was smuggled out and provided with forged identity papers that renamed him Andrzej Czajkowski; he then went into hiding with his grandmother, Celina. From the late 50s, when he began a distinguished international pianistic career, the pianist’s impresario forced him to use the French version of his name - André Tchaikowsky.
Tchaikowsky started playing the piano in 1945, under the direction of Emma Altberg and in 1951 he began to take lessons in composition with Prof. Kazimierz Sikorski. In 1955 he was awarded with VIIIth prize at the Chopin Competition (he was also honoured as the youngest participant), then went to Brussels, where Stefan Askenasy became his teacher. He took part in the Queen Elisabeth Competition.- one of the most important piano competitions during those years – and won third prize.
As a pianist, Tchaikowsky toured the world, and his recitals attracted wide interest. They were warmly received by critics - his work attracted even Arthur Rubinstein’s attention. He was blessed with a remarkable memory. Tchaikowsky had a genuine passion for composition - he left a lot of interesting pieces, written primarily for the piano.
Sources: http://www.bregenzerfestspiele.com, http://www.operanews.com/, rp.pl, own materials, translated: Katarzyna Maksimiuk, 10.04.2014