From avant-garde physical theatre at the Scottish Fringe to TR Warszawa’s grand opening of the Edinburgh Intenational Festival, opera productions on the world’s major stages, and a special presentation in Korea, Polish artists put bold marks on the world’s theatre map in 2012.
Culture.pl presents a pick of the top 5 global happenings on Poland's theatre and opera scene:
5. Jarzyna’s 2008: Macbeth opened the 2012 Edinburgh International Festival, setting the festival’s theatre programme off with a bang. According to The Guardian's Lyn Gardner, throwing in a few helicopters, flares and huge explosions for good effect, TR Warszawa's production took its cues, both visually and aurally, from Hollywood blockbuster war movies, albeit one in which there are no heroes. With spectacular pyrotechnics, immersive video effects and an extraordinary, layered soundscape, Shakespeare’s web of politics, ruthless ambition and the supernatural was transformed into a contemporary, highly physical theatrical film. Set during a brutal modern-day Middle Eastern conflict, 2008: Macbeth depicts a machine of violence that, once set in motion, works faster and ever more efficiently.
4. Krzysztof Garbaczewski and Radosław Rychcik in focus at the Performing Arts Market in Seoul; Warlikowski’s (A)pollonia and Teatr Dada von Bzdulow at the Seoul Performing Arts Festival. The rich programme of Projekt Azja in Korea brought a roster of distinct Polish theatre artists to one of the region’s major cultural events. The endeavour came on the heels of the Projekt Azja presentations in China and Japan, staging Poland's home-grown theatre productions at the Performing Arts Market in Seoul (PAMS) and the Seoul Perfoming Arts Festival (SPAF). PAMS put the focus on Central and Eastern Europe this year, with Poland's Rychcik staging In the Solitude of the Cotton Fields, based on the play by Bernard-Marie Koltes and produced by the Stefan Żeromski Theatre in Kielce. Krzysztof Warlikowski's (A)pollonia, performed by the Warsaw-based Nowy Teatr, opened the Seoul Performing Arts Festival. In this piece, the director uses characters from the tragedies of Euripides and Aeschylus, a previously unpublished play by Hanna Krall, and fragments of Jonathan Littell and J.M. Coetzee novels. Other theatrical highlights included Krzysztof Garbaczewski's Odyssey, a thoroughly contemporary existential staging produced by the Jan Kochanowki Theatre in Opole. Teatr Dada von Bzdülöw presented their piece Nonexistent Duets at SIDance, alongside a performance from the Teatr Zawirowania.
3. Szymanowski’s operas across the Americas, featured on the programme of the Santa Fe Opera and the Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Acclaimed baritone Mariusz Kwiecień delivered another acclaimed performance as King Roger (awarded earlier in 2012 with Spain's prestigious Premios Líricos Teatro Campoamor) on the stage of the Santa Fe Opera in July, while director Michał Znaniecki brought Szymanowski's other opera, Hagith, to Argentina's Teatro Colón, extending the international spotlight on the Polish composer to North and South America.
King Roger has been described as a "philosophical opera" that draws upon both Dionysian sensual debauchery and the Apollonian cult of beauty and light. Written at the time of the composer's immense interest in antiquity, the Orient and the culture of the Mediterranean, and inspired by his 1911 journey to Sicily, it is regarded as among the early 20th century's most modern operas.
Michał Znaniecki chose Hagith, the opera Szymanowski composed before King Roger, to celebrate two decades of his artistic career at one of South America's most important institutions for opera: Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires. Written between 1912-1913, the one-act work tells the story of a girl who sacrifice her virginity to restore power to the old King, who is gradually falling senile and decrepit.
2. Warlikowski’s opera productions presented at Europe’s major stages. One of Poland’s key figures in contemporary theatre, Krzysztof Warlikowski spent a very busy year during which - apart from productions of his theatre works - he staged three operas on major European stages in Madrid, Brussels and Paris. Each production stirred heated reactions of the audience and international art critics alike. The sequence started with Poppea and Nero, based on Monteverdi's piece and staged at the Spanish Teatro Real in Madrid.
Next was Alban Berg’s Lulu, staged at La Monnaie in Brussels in October. The reactions were unequivocably enthusiastic, with praise from Le Soir, La Libre Belgique and a four/five star review from the Financial Times.
Crowning Warlikowski’s operatic endevours of 2012 was the production of Medea, staged at the Theatre des Champs Elysees in Paris in mid December, as part of celebrations of the theatre’s 100th birthday. His contemporary reading of the Medea myth and of Cherubini’s opera sought realism, rewriting spoken dialogues that formed part of the opera-comique form and delivering a new Medea, both magnified and distorted.
1. The triumph of the Polish avant-garde in Edinburgh: Song of the Goat Theatre and Teatr ZAR received the Fringe First, Herald Archangel, Herald Angel and Total Theatre Awards. For over six weeks in summer 2012, the Polska Arts programme presented the widest range of Polish cultural events ever staged in Edinburgh. Two Wrocław-based theatre companies took four major awards at the Edinburgh Fringe. Song of the Goat theatre, led by Grzegorz Bral and Anna Zubrzycka, was honoured with the Fringe First and Herald Archangel Awards for their original Songs of Lear, a Shakesperian weft of music, words and gestures. Teatr ZAR received the Herald Angel Award for gripping performances of its Ceaserian Section. Essays on Suicide, and the production was annouced a winner of the Total Theatre Award.
Source: culture.pl, press release
Thumnnail credits: a scene from Krzysztof Garbaczewski's Odyssey