Where to Find Polish Concerts & Operas Online
default, Tomasz Konieczny in Das Rheingold, photo: Michael Pohn / Wiener Staatsoper, center, das_rheingold_wiener-staatsoper-michael_pohn.jpg
Wagner, Bacewicz or Trupa Trupa? Culture.pl presents a guide to streaming in times of quarantine – some streams are only available for a limited time, so be quick!
All around the world, concerts have been shifting over to the Internet for a long time. Broadcast techniques are constantly improving and easier to access, and they can give pretty decent results through a good-quality sound system. Nothing compares to being in real a concert hall, of course, although such an experience may become possible fairly soon, thanks to rapidly evolving VR technology. Streamed concerts sound different than live albums mastered and mixed by sound engineers.
What can you listen to in the upcoming weeks, now that real-life concerts are constrained by the epidemiological threat posed by the current pandemic?
Operas live from Vienna, New York & Warsaw
The renowned Vienna State Opera (which has hosted Tomasz Konieczny, Piotr Beczała and others) has decided to make a different recorded opera available free of charge every day until 13th April when they are currently scheduled to reopen. The recordings are streamed on the Wiener Staatsoper website at specified times, so it’s worth checking the full schedule. The organisers reserve the right to adjust the programme slightly.
You can hear and watch Tomasz Konieczny on 28th March, in Richard Wagner’s opera Twilight of the Gods, directed by Sven-Eric Bechtolf and conducted by Axel Kober. Piotr Beczała will be appearing in your homes on 26th March, in a streamed performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, directed by Margarethe Wallmann and conducted by Marco Armiliato. This is a rebroadcast of a concert from June 2019.
Polish Theatre on Demand
The New York Metropolitan Opera has come up with a similar solution. Despite ending its 2019-2020 season early due to the quarantine, it is streaming a different opera every evening at 19.30 EST (00.30 CET). Each performance is then available on the Met website until just before the next one, but the repertoire has only been currently announced up till 5th April.
What do the virtual halls of Poland’s national opera houses have on offer?
Thanks to the OperaVision platform, we can re-experience the Polish National Opera’s 2019 performance of Giacomo Puccini’s Tosca, directed by Barbara Wysocka. The title role was sung by Ewa Vesin, with Mickael Spadaccini as Cavaradossi, and Krzysztof Szumański as Scarpia. The PNO orchestra was conducted by Tadeusz Kozłowski, who skilfully brought out every detail in the score of this famous opera. Musically speaking, it was one of the Warsaw Opera’s finest shows of 2019 (alongside Britten’s Billy Budd). The director set her adaptation in the 1970s, so Cavaradossi wields a camera instead of a paintbrush, and the stage design contains a wealth of references to Italian cinema of the period. The opera is available to stream until 5th June.
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Over at the unparalleled (not only in times of quarantine) Ninateka, you can watch Karol Szymanowski’s King Roger. It was directed by Warsaw Opera’s artistic director, Mariusz Treliński, who was responsible for three different productions of Poland’s best-known 20th-Century opera – twice in Warsaw (2000, 2018), and once in Wrocław (2007). Ninateka will be streaming the Wrocław Opera’s less monumental, pared-down version. The director avoided setting it in a specific time or location, portraying authoritarian rule through mythological references instead. Michał Bristiger described Treliński’s staging as a ‘polyphony of symbolism’.
Concerts at Ninateka
The aforementioned Ninateka website hosts recordings of 317 concerts, so there ought to be something for everyone: selected concerts from Warsaw Summer Jazz Days and the Jewish Culture Festival in Kraków; Beethoven symphonies performed by Masecki; Penderecki’s works conducted by the maestro himself; Hemp Gru; Molesta; and Zbigniew Wodecki with Mitch & Mitch.
It’s hard to pick the best performances from such a rich assortment, so I would recommend two more recent concerts, recorded as part of the FINA na Ucho (‘FINA for your Ears’) series at the National Film Archive’s Audiovisual Institute on Wałbrzyska Street, Warsaw.
The joint concert by Hubert Zemler (that indefatigable seeker of new percussive sounds and original rhythmical solutions) and Szàbolcs Esztény (a doyen of Polish avant-garde and improvisation, and a pianist who has worked with Kazimierz Serocki, Tomasz Sikorski and Zygmunt Krauze) certainly makes for worthwhile (or even essential) listening. In 2018, they came together to record the album Kreatura.
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What stands out about the recorded concert of four-piece rock band Trupa Trupa playing songs from their Headache and Jolly New Songs albums? Grzegorz Kwiatkowski explained in an interview for Culture.pl:
Our concerts are forceful and aggressive, but also full of mistakes. We always get problems. The bigger the problems, the better (…) The fact is, every mistake opens up new avenues for us. I think we must have pretty good intuition to play around our mistakes.
Visit the Warsaw & Berlin Philharmonics
During pauses between successive movements at concerts, the orchestra is replaced by a choir of listeners clearing their throats, coughing, and blowing their noses into handkerchiefs. The most breathtaking pulmosymphonies can be heard in autumn, but can be quite impressive around the spring equinox too. Given the current fear of the pandemic, many would consider such noises a highly off-putting, unbearable experience. Fortunately, both philharmonics are also online, so we can listen to the music without dreading the intentions of the microbes circulating in the concert halls.
The Warsaw Philharmonic has uploaded several dozen recordings to its YouTube channel. Which ones should you watch? Definitely worth a listen is Bartłomiej Nizioł performing Grażyna Bacewicz’s Violin Concerto No. 6 on a Guarneri del Gesù instrument from 1727, together with the Warsaw Philharmonic, conducted by Christoph König. Bacewicz was famously critical of her own work. She composed the piece in 1957, but filed it away in a drawer, so its world premiere was only held last year – the 110th anniversary of her birth and 50th anniversary of her death. The work is bursting with fascinating colours evocative of the neoclassical movement, coupled with traditional oberek rhythms.
Trupa Trupa – Don't Panic! We're Live
The Berlin Philharmonic has responded to the needs of music lovers worldwide, who have been trying to stay at home for the past few weeks. All the recordings on their website will be available to you for free for 30 days – you simply need to register by 31st March using the code BERLINPHIL. Their archive contains plenty of interesting concerts of Polish music, with the Berliners performing works by Chopin, Lutosławski, Moniuszko, Penderecki and Wieniawski. They have also played with Polish conductors (e.g. Andrzej Boreyko and Antoni Wit), and soloists such as Piotr Anderszewski and Krystian Zimerman – to name but the pianists. These recordings are easy to find by searching under ‘Composers’, ‘Conductor’ and ‘Soloist’ in the ‘Concert Archive’.
Which concerts stand out most? I would recommend the Berliners’ performance with the late Stanisław Skrowaczewski (one of the foremost performers of Anton Bruckner), who died in 2017. The concert programme includes Karl Amadeus Hartmann’s declamatory Gesangsszene for baritone, based on a play by Jean Giraudoux (sung by Matthias Goerne), with allusions to Bruckner’s Symphony No. 3 (the ‘Wagner Symphony’).
It’s worth listening to any concerts conducted by Simon Rattle, the Berliner Philharmoniker’s chief conductor from 2002 to 2018. Rattle is a great populariser of Polish music – take his recordings of works by Lutosławski, for example. I would encourage you to listen to the concert to mark the 25th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall, when Karol Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater was performed alongside Beethoven’s world-famous Ninth Symphony. In 2020, the musical world celebrates the 250th anniversary of the Bonn-born composer’s birth but, sadly, many concerts have been cancelled due to the pandemic. This will be the first time the Ludwig van Beethoven Easter Festival has not been held in spring, as its organisers have decided to postpone it until September.
Also of note is the National Forum of Music’s Facebook page, where the Wrocław institution announces its activities online: album release presentations; recordings of concerts; and performances by instrumentalists.
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Some artists have decided to broadcast from their homes. The aforementioned Piotr Beczała, with mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato and friends, are performing excerpts from Jules Massenet’s Werther in a home studio, due to the cancellation of its Met premiere. This is a stroke of luck for aficionados of the New York singers, as well as an opportunity to experience opera with a degree of detachment – no costumes, orchestra, large auditorium or strained voices. All the more so since Werther, directed by Willy Decker, is due to premiere at the Polish National Opera at the end of May. Even without Beczała and DiDonato, the production still looks extremely promising.
ehh hahah, a creator from the new Polish electronic scene, has released music on the Audile Snow and Magia labels. Since early March, he has been running a stream from his computer desktop, but not to broadcast concerts or DJ sets. It is more of a diary of him learning how to use some new music-production software. ehh hahah writes:
Szczęśniak, Orliński, Przybylski & Moniuszko Nominated for the ‘Oscars of Opera’
I’d started working in Bitwig Studio, but my comp broke. I also have no samples or presets, so I’m starting over from scratch, and you can observe my learning process in real time as I discover the program.
polish classical music
Most sporting events have been cancelled, and sports fans have to make do with repeats. The situation is similar with musical competitions – auditions for the Chopin Piano Competition have been rescheduled from April to September. Those yearning for the ruthless emotional struggles of young artists can access recordings from previous editions of the musical olympics, with archives of the Chopin, Wieniawski and Moniuszko Competitions all available on YouTube.
Repeats on TV
Finally, something slightly more offline. Sometimes we get an overwhelming urge to watch TV. There isn’t much material about music on Polish TV, but TVP Kultura is a godsend. Its Antyfonia (‘Antiphony’) programme covers a wide spectrum of Polish experimental music. So far, over 20 broadcasts have delved into electronic, dance, composed, improvised, industrial and noise music, sound art, etc. The show is produced by Jacek Staniszewski and Andrzej Załęski. Dzika Muzyka (‘Wild Music’) is a programme featuring Polish traditional and roots music, and artists striving to give Polish rural music a chance to be heard. The programme was conceived by Janusz Prusinowski. This violinist, lyrist, accordionist, and director of the Mazurkas of the World Festival is one of the artists behind the Polish folk music revival. All the episodes of both shows mentioned here are also available via TVP’s online services.
Originally written in Polish, translated by Mark Bence, March 2020
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