Director, playwright, and stage designer; born 28th June, 1969, in Warsaw.
After graduating from high school Znaniecki chose to study at the Faculty of Theatre Studies at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Warsaw, but his dream was to be a director. In 1989 he decided to move to Italy, where his artistic idol, Giorgio Strehler, worked. He first did cultural studies at the University of Bologna under Umberto Eco, and only later studied film direction at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano managed by Giorgio Strehler. His debut was a musical performance by Monteverdi completed in 1993 for La Scala in Milan. He was the youngest director working in this famous opera house.
This successful debut led to further offers from Italian drama and opera stages. Following this success, in 1995 Znaniecki founded his own theatre group in Milan called Ape. It works with the Opera in Bologna and performs at many festivals (Rossini Opera Festival in Pesaro, Pergolesi Spontini Festival in Jesi, Festival di Due Mondi in Spoleto, Luglio Musicale Trapanese in Sicily). Michał Znaniecki uses the group for large-scale outdoor projects. He is also the artistic director of the Teatro-CON association based in Turin, which in turn collaborates with Italian theatres and festivals, organises theatre workshops as well as artistic and educational projects.
Znaniecki’s activities in this field include Italian projects from the years 2002-2008, such as the outdoor Midsummer Night’s Dream by Shakespeare with music by Felix Mendelssohn, Sade/Marat 2002, Lucrezia B., Metastasian, and Briciole di re Lear based on Shakespeare’s King Lear. The director has also been engaged in musical and dramatic performances. He has written scripts for various projects, often using themes and topics from famous works: Doctor Faustus (Como, 1997), Ninne Nanne with texts from Juliusz Słowacki (Rome, 2000), and Sorelle according to Federico García Lorca and Anton Chekhov (Turin, 2003).
Michał Znaniecki has already done over a hundred musical and dramatic performances, and yet he is primarily an opera director. He became well-known in Poland in 1997 for Chopin, a forgotten work by Giacomo Orefice, staged at the National Theatre. Since then he has done a staging of La Juive by Fromental Halévy at the Grand Theatre in Poznań in 2000. He is constantly involved with Polish projects. The most important of them include Otello by Giuseppe Verdi (Grand Theatre, Poznań, 2004), Cosi Fan Tutte by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Wrocław Opera, 2006), Hagith by Karol Szymanowski, and Esther by Tomasz Praszczałka (Wrocław Opera, 2006), Verdi’s Rigoletto (Wrocław Opera, 2007), Lucia di Lammermoor by Donizetti Gaetano (Opera, 2008), L’Italiana in Algeri by Gioachino Rossini (Grand Theatre, Łódź, 2008), Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Kraków Opera, 2009), and Lucrezia Borgia by Donizetti (National Opera, 2009).
At the same time, Michał Znaniecki continues to work on opera projects abroad, such as Mozart’s Don Giovanni (Como, Pavia, Cremona, Paris, 2006) and rarely staged operas such as Lelio by Hector Berlioz (Rome 1998), Marriage by Modest Mussorgsky (Rome and La Scala in Milan, 1999), Magdalena by Sergei Prokofiev (Rome 1998), La Bella Dormente Nel Bosco by Ottorino Respighi, and Master Peter’s Puppet Show by Manuel de Falla (Lugo Festival, 2004).
One of Znaniecki’s great successes was the staging of Cyrano de Bergerac by Luigi Albani in Valencia in 2007 with Placido Domingo in the leading role. This performance was the beginning of intense cooperation with Spanish theatres, which led to the recent presentation of Béla Bartók's Bluebeard’s Castle in Bilbao and The Diary of One Who Disappeared by Leoš Janáček in Madrid, among others.
Znaniecki’s many international contacts allowed Polish theatres to get involved in co-productions in other countries. The Wrocław Opera together with theatres in Bologna and Liège and the Santander Festival in Spain staged Samson and Delilah by Camille Saint-Saëns (2008-2009) and Verdi’s Ernani, which Michał Znaniecki had presented in the autumn of 2009 at the Grand Theatre in Poznań. The production toured in Bilbao in the spring of 2010 and will go to Tel Aviv.
Znaniecki’s staging style defies easy classification. The director, who often designs his own performances, likes to set the action in closed, clearly defined spaces but without alluding to original stage directions. He likes to play with historical costumes and avoids direct references to the present day, while his erudition and vast knowledge of the history of theatre and art urges him to have fun with different conventions. His performances are full of allusions and even quotes from films, books, paintings, and, of course, plays.
Michał Znaniecki also specialises in large-scale outdoor opera performances. In Wrocław he staged Donizetti’s The Elixir of Love (2007) and Verdi’s Otello (2008). Before that he had presented Carmen by Georges Bizet (Cagliari, 2000), Simon Boccanegra, and A Masked Ball by Verdi (Trapani, 2002 and 2005). Other important works include Stanisław Moniuszko’s The Haunted Manor staged at the Wexford Opera Festival in Ireland in 1999 and musicals in the Entertainment Theatre in Chorzów such as Jekyll & Hyde by Frank Wildhorn (2007) and The Producers by Mel Brooks (2009), both of which received the Golden Mask for best production of the season in Silesia.
In 2008, Michał Znaniecki was deputy artistic director of the National Opera in Warsaw, and since July 2009 he has been the managing director of the Grand Theatre in Poznań. He also teaches in Italy at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano School, among others.
Author: Jacek Marczyński, April 2010, transl. Bozhana Nikolova