Theatre and film actor, director and educator. Born on November 17, 1913 in Łódź; died on July 30, 1995 in Warsaw. He is buried at the Old Powązki Cemetery...
Aleksander Bardini (as doctor Kazimierz Czerwiński) in the film "Dotknięci" / "Touched", dir. Wiesław Saniewski, Karol Irzykowski Film Studio, 1988, photo courtesy of Polfilm/East News
Bardini was an institution in himself, a teacher who raised several generations of actors.
Krzysztof Zanussi wrote, "Hardly ever do academic titles suit artists. They usually seem hilarious, or serve as a nickname. However, not in Aleksander Bardini's case. He was first of all a professor, then an artist". (Tygodnik Powszechny, August 13, 1995)
In his youth Bardini was a violinist at the Jewish Music Association Hazomir. Then, he pursued his career at the theatre. From 1932 to 1935 he studied acting at the Theatre Academy in Warsaw, and then directing under the guidance of Leon Schiller and Aleksander Zelwerowicz (1936 – 1939). He made his debut as a director with Faleński's Althea staged during the directing workshops held at the Theatre Academy. This tragedy drawing upon classical ideals provided Bardini with the first chance to combine elements of drama theatre with musical. In the following years he produced many operas. Before the outbreak of the Second World War, he played a few supporting parts such as in Shakespeare's Hamlet directed by Aleksander Węgierka at the Polski Theatre in Warsaw (1939). During the war Bardini worked as an actor and director at the Polish Drama Theatre in Lviv. After the war he moved with the Lviv ensemble to Katowice where he established an acting studio. There the director produced his greatest performances which followed the poetic tradition of the pre-war theatre such as Michał Bałucki's Dom otwarty / Open House at the Śląski Theatre in Katowice (1946). Following the pogrom of Jewish community in Kielce in 1946, Bardini left Poland. In the United States he cooperated with Erwin Piscator. He acted and directed in Canada and Germany (as well as at the Jewish Theatre in Munich).
In 1950 Bardini returned to Poland and started his cooperation with the Polski Theatre in Warsaw which lasted until 1957. He performed as Grandet in Honoré Balzac's Eugenie Grandet directed by Bronisław Dąbrowski (1952). However, he devoted himself mostly to directing and produced mainly contemporary plays and agitating anti-imperialist dramas such as Jerzy Lutowski's Próba sił / The Test of Strength (1951) and Leon Kruczkowski's Juliusz i Ethel / Julius and Ethel (1954), as well as classical dramas: the first post-war production of Friedrich Schiller's Intrygi i miłości / Intrigue and Love (1951) and Juliusz Słowacki's Balladyna (Nowy Theatre in Warsaw, 1954). His staging of Dziady / The Forefathers at the Polski Theatre (1955) was one of the first post-war productions of Adam Mickiewicz's works. As a sign of the approaching thaw, it became a major artistic and political event. Barbara Osterloff wrote,
His production of Dziady / The Forefathers was received as a performance about the young generation. Probably inspired by the performance of Stanisław Jasiukiewicz and Ignacy Gogolewski who took turns playing Gustaw-Konrad … Mariusz Dmochowski gave a distinguished performance in the prison scenes. In his review of Bardini's Dziady / The Forefathers Jan Kott used the word contemporary numerous times, however other critics described it as following the opera and realist convention. (Teatr 1995, no. 11)
As early as in the mid 1950s Bardini showed his talent for guiding the actors. Such young actors as Halina Mikołajska, Ignacy Gogolewski and Mariusz Dmochowski performed exceptionally well in his productions. Until 1978 Bardini was a lecturer at the Theatre Academy in Warsaw, mostly in the acting department. In the 1970s he also worked as a host on television programs for amateur performers. Bardini lectured at the University of Georgia in the United States and in Statens Musik Dramatiska Skola in Stockholm. Andrzej Szczepkowski recalled, "He was one of the wisest educators. He taught us how to speak, sing, behave on stage, as well as think"(Gazeta Wyborcza, 1995, no. 177). Brandini said,
Do I have any method? There are three things I keep in mind. Firstly, a man playing on stage is both an instrument and a performer. Secondly, a student is a partner to me. Yet, he has a grade transcript, not me. But I cannot lie to him. I try to tell the truth without hurting or boasting off. I also believe that a teacher should be able to admit that he is not omniscient. And the last point is never try to win the students' favours, that usually ends up as a disaster for both sides. (Polityka, April 17, 1976)
The most renowned theatre production directed by Bardini with participation of students was Ćwiczenia z Szekspira / Exercises in Shakespeare (1971). This performance was widely staged abroad including the United States.
Leonia Jabłonkówna in her review of the show wrote,
These are rather individual interpretations of specific motifs... The performance is a collection of acting etudes and a representation of various archetypal emotions and experiences. Beginning with the simplest elements… and finishing off with refined psychological structures and complex interpersonal relations.(Teatr, 1971, no. 16)
After leaving the Polski Theatre Bardini worked as the Artistic Director at the Stefan Jaracz Theatre in Łódź, the General and Artistic Director at the Ateneum Theatre in Warsaw, as well as at the Współczesny Theatre in Warsaw and again at the Polski Theatre. Since the mid 1960s he staged his guest productions at the Stary Theatre in Krakow and on the Warsaw theatre scene. Bardini's interest lied in the old or more recent classics. At the Ateneum Theatre in Warsaw he produced Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream (1959), Henry IV (1960), Measure for Measure (1965) and Henrik Ibsen's Jan Gabriel Borkman at the Współczesny Theatre in Warsaw (1975). Bardini also directed contemporary dramas, in particular written by American playwrights: Tennessee Williams's A Streetcar Named Desire (Ateneum Theatre in Warsaw, 1959) and The Night of the Iguana (Polski Theatre in Warsaw, 1966) , as well as Thorton Wilder's Our Town (Theatre Academy, Warsaw, 1966). The director showed a similar repertoire at the Television Theatre. Aside the renowned television production of Anton Chekhov's Three Sisters (1974), Bardini directed Harold Pinter's The Dumb Waiter (1973) and Pavel Landovsky's Pokój na godziny / The Hour Hotel (1989). Bardini's theatre productions focused specifically on the acting side. Many famous actors gave excellent performances in his productions: Andrzej Łapicki and Elżbieta Barszczewska (The Night of the Iguana), Jan Świderski (Sean Ocasey's Red Roses for Me, Dramatyczny Theatre in Warsaw, 1964), and Henryk Borowski (Pokój Na Godziny / The Hour Hotel). One of Bardini's most outstanding theatre productions in terms of cast was Three Sisters with the participation of: Bronisław Pawlik, Marek Walczewski, Jerzy Kamas, Piotr Fronczewski, Władysław Kowalski and students of the Theatre Academy in Warsaw: Ewa Ziętek, Krystyna Janda, Joanna Szczepkowska and Anna Szczepaniak.
Andrzej Wanat wrote, "Bardini had a talent for casting. Sometimes his choices were surprising, unconventional and definitely not stereotypical. For example, Walczewski cast as Vershinin".
As Wanat wrote about the direction of this performance,
The narrative qualities of this drama require a specific directing style. Bardini understood it well. In his production of Three Sisters the director avoided hierarchy of events, climaxes, turns, twists or increasing the pace of action.(...) There are no characters in this production who receive more attention than the others. We watch a group of characters and none of them is privileged. All characters stay together and, at the same time, separate. They are united in a voluntary community but their individuality is not endangered. Like three angels from Roblov's famous icon Trinity. (in Andrzej Wanat's Pochwała teatru / In Praise of the Theatre, Warsaw 1997)
Bardini directed his productions mostly in a realist manner. He conveyed multiple meanings and overtones through actors' performances. His faultless productions were distinguished by the cast's belief in a sense of team work over the performance.
"Bardini's productions were professional and mature but also academic, which meant that they won acclaim but were forgotten quickly, too quickly", wrote Jacek Sieradzki (Rzeczpospolita, 1995, no. 187).
Whereas Bardini followed a totally different direction convention in his opera productions beginning with Gaetano Donizetti's Don Pasquale (The Warsaw Opera, 1961), and finishing off with Dmitri Shostakovich's Katarina Ismailova (The Royal Opera in Amsterdam, 1977).
Barbara Osterloff wrote,
While directing dramas Bardini was in favour of a hidden direction that focuses on the actor and the author. While in opera the director has built a rich and diverse theatre of multiple conventions, beginning with the classical works (Mozart's Cosi fan tutte) and finishing off with the contemporary ones (Dallapiccola's The Prisoner composed in a dodecaphonic style). He makes intriguing attempts to refresh the tradition of opera production in well-known masterpieces. (Teatr, 1995, no.11.)
Bardini directed such opera productions as Modest Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov (The Warsaw Opera, 1960); Stanisław Moniuszko's Straszny dwór / The Haunted Manor (The Warsaw Opera, 1963), Giuseppe Verdi's Othello (Wielki Theatre in Warsaw, 1969), Richard Strauss's Elektra (Wielki Theatre in Warsaw, 1971). Bardini's operas were famous for exceptional direction of crowd scenes and acting of singers who gave up the manners characteristic of musical drama performers. For Bardini, however, the starting point for the stage adaptation of any opera were always the music sheets. Bardini said, "(...) non-semantic music provides a director with endless possibilities. It gives producers an inspiration for taking a certain course of direction. The key is to listen to this music and understand it." (Teatr, 1976, no. 3)
In the end of the 1970s Bardini resigned from directing and teaching. He remained still active in the theatre circles. He was a member of the Polish Centre of International Theatre Institute ITI and a jury member of the Review of Stage Songs in Wrocław. He rarely performed. In Television Theatre, he was Goldberg in Harold Pinter's The Birthday Party directed by Zbigniew Zapasiewicz (1986) and Doctor Marquet in Simone de Beauvoir's Kobieta zawiedziona / The Woman Destroyed directed by Andrzej Barański (1995). In films he played Axer, the Lawyer in Janusz Majewski's Sprawa Gorgonowej / The Gorgon Case (1977), Head of a Ward in Spirala / The Spiral (1978) and Professor Kern in Dotknięcie ręki / The Silent Touch (1992) directed by Krzysztof Zanussi; Labrador, the Lawyer in Bez końca / No End (1985) and the Conductor in Podwójne życie Weroniki / The Double Life of Veronique (1991) directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. Jacek Sieradzki wrote,
Watching him performing, in particular the later roles, one gains the impression that the actor does not as much create the role as dedicates a part of himself. In other words, Bardini's individuality and his fascinating personality in a sense absorbed the characters he played and embodied them – no matter what role he was to play. (Rzeczpospolita, 1995, no.187)
Awards and distinctions:
- 1951 – The 3rd award for direction of Jerzy Lutowski's Próba Sił / The Test of Strength at the Polski Theatre in Warsaw at the Festival of Polish Contemporary Plays in Wrocław;
- 1953 – The 3rd Degree State Award for direction of Kazimierz Brandys's Sprawiedliwi ludzie / Just People at the Polski Theatre in Warsaw;
- 1955 – The 2nd Degree State Award for direction of Leon Kruczkowski's Juliusz i Ethel / Julius and Ethel at the Polski Theatre in Warsaw;
- 1959 – The Commander's Cross of the Rebirth of Poland;
- 1963 – The Polish Radio and Television Committee Award for achievements in the field of radio direction;
- 1973 – The Minister of Culture and Art Award – The Meritorious Teacher of the People's Republic of Poland;
- 1976 – The Minister of Culture and Art Award on the occasion of Teacher's Day; the Golden Screen in the category of Television Personality; the Przyjaźń weekly prize for direction of Maxim Gorky's Barbarzyńcy / Barbarians at the Powszechny Theatre in Warsaw;
- 1977 – The Golden Pike at the Television Festival in Olsztyn; 1st Degree Award of the Polish Radio and Television Committee;
- 1982 – The President of the City of Warsaw Award;
- 1993 – The Commander's Cross with Star of the Order of Rebirth of Poland;
- 1994 – The Grand Splendour – the Polish Radio Theatre Award.
Author: Monika Mokrzycka-Pokora, December 2004.