From 28th November to 6th December 2018, American audiences will have the opportunity to enjoy seven musical projects inspired by the life and legacy of Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
The Paderewski Cycle competition for a musical treatment inspired by the legacy and the enduring spirit of Ignacy Jan Paderewski is entering its final stage, featuring a variety of themes and multiplicity of genres.
In celebration of the 100th anniversary of Poland regaining its independence, the Adam Mickiewicz Institute announced a competition for a treatment of a musical play inspired by the life of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, an outstanding Polish pianist, composer, but also a politician and statesman; the first prime minister of the Second Polish Republic. The aim of the contest was to raise the profile and increase interest in the figure of Paderewski among the circles of American artists. His personal relationship with American President Woodrow Wilson gave Wilson the incentive to include the 13th point in his Fourteen Points principles for peace, calling for the creation of an independent Polish state after the end of the World War I.
Can Paderewski be the Hero of a Musical?
In the second stage of the competition, which took place in June 2017, the jury selected nine musical playwrights, who were then invited to prepare 15-20 minute live pitches of their projects on stage. The showcases took place in November 2017 in Los Angeles and New York and were very well received by audiences.
The third and final stage of the competition will feature the seven remaining theatre groups. They all show Paderewski in ingenious but very different ways, using various elements of his biography and drawing from the eclectic tradition of the American musical. The one-act plays will be staged in major centers of culture and performative arts, such as the Contemporary Arts Center in New Orleans, the Los Angeles Theater Center (LATC) and Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles, the Tricklock Theater in Albuquerque, New Mexico and the New York University Institute of Performing Arts. Representatives of academia, producers of Broadway performances and potential investors will be among the audience invited to view the performances.
The first show, in New Orleans, is Virtuoso which tells the story of Paderewski’s relationships with three women: Helena Górska-Paderewska, the artist’s second wife, Helena Modrzejewska, the great Polish actress and a star of the American stage, as well as Paderewski's mentor, and Helena Bebisco, a patron, friend and one of the pianist’s lovers from his youth.
Emerging from this nostalgic story, comes the figure of an ambitious artist and visionary embroiled in complicated relationships with women. This is a portrait of an extraordinary artist, who becomes entangled in the problems of ordinary people, such as an absence of time and lack of rest. The show, created by Matthew Hardy and directed by Laura Hope, is a rock musical, with a pinch of R&B and soul.
Paderewski, Modjeska & Curie: Shaping Independent Poland from the Outside
The next four performances will be held in Los Angeles. Thanks to the music of Nathan Wang, an outstanding composer of classical, film and television music, Golden, written by Paula Cizmar, resembles an operetta. Wang has enlisted classical musicians as well as trained opera and choral singers to perform.
The concept of the next musical, Oliver Jai'Sen Mayer's Three Paderewskis, depicts Paderewski's three imaginary incarnations: the composer as a young virtuoso, a mature statesman and a woman conducting an internal dialogue with both the young and the mature Paderewski.
The three incarnations are sung in three different registers – alto, tenor and baritone. The music written by Jenni Brandon is key to the performance, as it employs the conventions of an oratorio.
This project was also presented during this year's Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles, California on November 2nd.
Paderewski in America
Also presented in Los Angeles, the musical Paderewski in America by Katharine Noon and Marek Seldis with music by David O., is based on a fictional meeting of the young composer with the famous singer Mama Lou, an African-American pop songwriter and the owner of a lupanar in St. Louis. The musical setting of the spectacle is rooted in the tradition of the American vaudevillian tradition, music that Mama Lou wrote and sang, as well as characteristic motifs of Paderewski's music.
Friggin’ Awesome! Tracing Notes from Paderewski to The Doors
13th Point by Jeremie Kamps, with music by Chopper Jacobs, tells the story of a meeting that took place during World War I between Paderewski and the 28th president of the United States, Woodrow Wilson. As a result of the meeting, the thirteenth point of Wilson’s peace programme was created – it called for the creation of an independent Polish state.
The musical focuses on the internal transformation of the famous artist, who abandoned music, fame and fortune to devote himself to the Polish cause. The show adopts a progressive-rock opera convention (known from such musicals as Jesus Christ Superstar).
Paderewski! Paderewski! Paderewski!
The audience in Albuquerque will have the opportunity to see Paderewski! Paderewski! Paderewski! written by Rachel Jendrzejewski, with music by Chris Hepoli and Jenny Wyse, and directed by Emily Mendelsohn. The performance is a meditative journey in both time and space, focused on those biographical aspects of the composer's life that shaped him as a great artist, politician and philanthropist.
The musical stars three women, which symbolize the key role of women in Paderewski’s life: ‘his mother, two wives, many lovers, a mentor, patrons, allies, and adores’ – all of them devoted to him and probably knew him best. Stylistically, the musical looks to experimental opera and minimalist music reminiscent of Philip Glass and John Adams.
Blacksmith will be performed in New York. It was written by James Fluhr (lyrics and songs), composed by Zoe Sarnak and directed by Ellie Heyman. It’s starting point is an anecdote: ‘a blacksmith’ was how a young Paderewski was referred to by a critic of one of the London newspapers, who compared his powerful manner of striking the keys to the smith hammering an anvil.
The creators of the musical treat this metaphor more broadly, presenting Paderewski as a master of his own destiny. Ambitious, creative, hardworking and devoted entirely to the passions in his life: he was an extraordinary young man living in a wild historical era, when anything seemed possible. The performance draws from the rock musical convention, featuring a group of musicians with a distinct, hard-rock sound.
Virtuoso: 28th November 2018, Contemporary Arts Center, New Orleans, Louisiana
Golden: 1st December 2018, USC Kaufman Performance Studio, Los Angeles, California
Three Paderewskis: 1st December 2018, USC Kaufman Performance Studio, Los Angeles, California
13th Point: 3rd December 2018, Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles, California
Paderewski in America: 3rd December 2018, Geffen Playhouse, Los Angeles, California
Paderewski! Paderewski! Paderewski!: 4th December 2018, Tricklock Laboratory Theatre, Albuquerque, New Mexico
Blacksmith: 6th December 2018, The Public Space in coordination with the Philadelphia Theatre Company, New York
Contemporary Arts Centre
ignacy jan paderewski
contemporary polish theatre
The project is organised by the Adam Mickiewicz Institute operating under the Culture.pl brand as part of POLSKA 100, the international cultural programme accompanying the centenary of Poland regaining independence.
Financed by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of the Republic of Poland as part of the multi-annual programme NIEPODLEGŁA 2017-2022.
Source: press materials, compiled by NR, Nov 2018