Cezary Tomaszewski is a choreographer, director, and performer. He creates the renowned music performances of Capella Cracoviensis. He brought Monteverdi to a milk bar, practised Gluck in a sports hall, and Moniuszko in a parlour in Kraków. He realised his newest autobiographical play, Cezary Goes to War, in Komuna Warszawska.
Born in 1976, he finished theatre studies in the National Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw and studied choreography in the Brucknerkonservatorium Linz in Austria. He also graduated from music school and for 15 years honed his vocal skills in Teatr Wielki – the Polish National Opera in Warsaw. He creates both theatre and opera and experiments with classical pieces. Tomaszewski has overtly stated that what interests him in art is banality.
Theatre and Western classical music are still sacred cows in Poland – we are either supposed to become ‘more cultured’ or receive an oration, as if from a pulpit. The scene is a place from which grand truths about the world are delivered. What I’m looking for is this point of intersection.
In 2009 he realised a show in Vienna – The Merry Widow – an original version of Franz Lehar’s operetta starring four Polish cleaning ladies in which the musical parts were interwoven with the heroines’ personal monologues. How did they end up in Austria? Why are they doing housekeeping? ‘The Austrians approached us after the play and said that it made them believe in the importance of standing up for women’s rights’, Tomaszewski recounts. The show brought him international fame and prestigious commendations for the best director and the best indie production in Austria, awarded by magazines such as Theater Heute and Falter.
A different approach to music
Cezary Tomaszewski emphasises that creating a field for discussion is also important to him. Bar.oque Feast, the stage version of Claudio Monteverdi’s madrigal, presented in the unusual setting of a Kraków milk bar, was undoubtedly a pretext for many talks. ‘It was important to me to show the music in a different context. […] This stage version is a voice against putting music on a pedestal’, he explained.
The young director also embarked on other unconventional ventures together with Capella Cracoviensis, for example, he brought Mendelssohn’s songs from concert halls out into the open air in Wolski Forest, and Christopher Gluck’s Orpheus and Eurydice into a sports hall.
His rendition of Stanisław Moniuszko’s Vilnius version of Halka, premiered at the Opera Rara Festival in Kraków, travelled widely as well.
The music was performed by Capella Cracoviensis and conducted by Jan Tomasz Adamus. However, new motifs, dialogues and characters were introduced. One of them was Maria Fołtyn, a singer who lost her voice, dedicating the mute period of her life to promulgating Moniuszko’s music all around the world. The character of Cezary Tomaszewski, the 11-year-old disciple of Fołtyn, was introduced as well.
Culture.pl’s review says:
Thus Moniuszko’s piece becomes not only a story about betrayal, but also a treatise about the voice and the role of women in the opera. The conventions do apply and there is no shock directed at the contemporary viewer, who has already seen many things in the musical theatre. It is a bit too dense, some details seem to be like banging one’s head against an open door (for example the scene in which Halka is dressed in t-shirts with optimistic memes and trendy slogans, propagating the idea not to treat yourself too seriously). However, it is worthwhile to engage with Tomaszewski’s show, which presents a certain paradox of art in a thought-provoking way: making something more contemporary could be a way of going back to its roots.
Although the show was highly controversial and divided the critics, it also – according to Filip Lech – returned to the roots of opera and music theatre.
Wedding and War
In the theatre, the artist has taken on Stanisław Wyspiański among others. His surrealistic Wedding Based on Wedding, using a hit song from The Lion King in the final scene, was created in Jan Kochanowski’s Theatre in Opole. Tomaszewski has also worked with Teatr Nowy in Łódź (All is Well That Ends Pretty) and Bogusławski’s Theatre in Kalisz (Julian Tuwim’s The Soldier of the Queen of Madagascar).
The most recent spectacle realised in Komuna Warszawska, based on the artist’s biography – Cezary Goes to War – was dubbed one of the most interesting shows in the Autumn 2017 season by the critics.
As for his next play, Aneta Kyzioł wrote in a review for Polityka:
Before the War/The War/After The War, the second opening of the Komuna//Warszawa project, inspired by the resurfacing war and military rhetoric in Poland, brings a camp revue, which is amusing and touching at the same time (…).
As a choreographer, he worked with Monika Strzępka, Wiktor Rubin, Maja Kleczewska, Eva Rysova and Bartosz Szydłowski among others. His projects, such as Last Temptation of Saint Bernadette and Dance Tetralogy, have been presented at festivals in Austria and Switzerland.
Sources: cezarytomaszewski.com, polityka, wysokie obcasy, dwutygodnik.com, Culture.pl, taniecpolska.com.
Originally compiled by AL, translated by Patryk Grabowski, October 2017.