Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole
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A professional theatre was established in Opole in 1945, under the name Juliusz Slowacki Municipal Theatre. Three years later the theatre was renamed the Opole Stage and incorporated into the huge conglomerate called the Silesia-Dabrowa Regional State Theatres in Katowice. The theatre was nationalized in 1950 and named the Opole Region State Theatre. It continued operating under this name until 1975, when the authorities provided a new theatre building in the city centre, in what was Lenina Square (today: Teatralny Square). This was also when its name was changed to Jan Kochanowski Theatre in Opole.
The first manager was Stanislaw Stasko, who had previously been involved with the amateur theatre movement. The inaugural performance was Gabriela Zapolska's MORALNOSC PANI DULSKIEJ / THE MORALITY OF MADAME DULSKA directed by Waclaw Zdanowicz (1945). At this time, however, a light comedy repertoire dominated, and the standard of acting and staging was often reminiscent of amateur theatrics or youth club productions. In addition, this was a travelling theatre, preparing a new premiere almost every week and then presenting it in surrounding towns, including Kedzierzyn, Strzelce Opolskie, and Kluczbork.
Wladyslaw Krasnowiecki was appointed the new manager in 1948, for one season, and the literary manager was Tadeusz Byrski, a pre-war actor of the Reduta theatre and a radio theatre manager. During his one season in Opole, Byrski and his wife Irena staged many poetical programmes. For the Byrski, theatre was mainly about words and giving prominence to the literary text.
The Byrskis soon left Opole, and the new general and artistic manager was Lech Zarzycki, who was unsuccessful in reforming the theatre or developing a rational repertoire policy. Socialist realism had come to Opole, as it had to many theatres across Poland.
"Unfortunate hiring policies and very frequent changes of management did not allow the theatre to maintain at least a basic technical standard," Czeslawa Mykita-Glensk wrote about the 1950's at the Opole theatre. "The plays were infected with conventional thinking, psychological simplification, half-heartedness, crude didacticism, coupled with even more primitive propaganda. ... [The theatre] became a performance factory, a service outlet rather than an artistic institution." (in: "40 lat teatru w Opolu 1945-1985" / "40 Years of the Theatre in Opole 1945-1985", Opole)
The theatre still did a lot of travelling, even having to fulfil a tour "quota".
One interesting episode in the 1950's was the presence of Krystyna Skuszanka at the theatre, beginning with her graduation project, Vladimir Bill-Belotserkovsky's STORM with stage design by Wojciech Krakowski and Tadeusz Kantor (1952). Later, for just under three years, Skuszanka was the theatre's artistic manager. Jozef Szajna debuted in Opole in 1953, designing the sets for Alexander Fadeyev's THE YOUNG GUARD directed by Andrzej Dobrowolski. This was also the time of some interesting productions: Shakespeare's MEASURE FOR MEASURE directed by Skuszanka with stage design by Kantor (1953), and Leon Kruczkowski's NIEMCY / THE GERMANS directed by Jan Kochanowicz with sets by Krakowski (1953).
Marian Godlewski was appointed manager in 1956. The October 1956 political thaw also encompassed Opole. Productions of this time included Jerzy Lutowski's OSTRY DYZUR / EMERGENCY ROOM directed by Romana Bohdanowicz (1956). However, it would be far from the truth to say the theatre became innovative. On the contrary, it was accused of stagnation, the style of its performances was said to be reminiscent of early 20th-century shows. In 1958 Stanislawa Lopuszanska and Eugeniusz Lawski left the acting ensemble to set up their own theatre - Teatr 13 Rzedow / The Theatre of 13 Rows, managed by Jerzy Grotowski from 1959. In the early 1960's the Opole theatre began to stage contemporary plays more often, including Arthur Miller, Jean-Paul Sartre, Bertolt Brecht.
The management changed again in 1963, with Artur Gadzinski taking over as general manager and Stanislaw Wieszczycki as artistic manager. Wieszczycki, who had been with the theatre since 1959, was a successful director of many productions. He introduced ancient tragedies to the Opole theatre, staging the triptych PRZECIW TEBOM / AGAINST THEBES by Aeschylos/Sophocles, based on OEDIPUS THE KING, ANTIGONE, and THE SEVEN WHO FOUGHT AGAINST THEBES (1959). His staging of the minstrel comedy JAK MATYASZ WOJACZKI KOSZTOWAL / HOW MATTHIAS TASTED WAR, with elements of Silesian reminiscences (1962), was a success, as was Friedrich Dürrenmatt's ROMULUS THE GREAT (1965). Another of his adaptation and directing projects was the world premiere of Tadeusz Konwicki's SENNIK WSPOLCZESNY / A DREAMBOOK FOR OUR TIME (1967). At this time the Opole theatre produced mainly Polish contemporary plays, including those of Leon Kruczkowski and Jaroslaw Abramow. Slawomir Mrozek was also produced for the first time. His one-act plays CZAROWNA NOC / THE MAGICAL NIGHT and KAROL (1966), and later also INDYK / THE TURKEY (1967), were staged by Franciszek Michalik.
In 1971 Wieszczycki was replaced as artistic manager by Miroslaw Wawrzyniak, who also promoted new Polish drama. His own projects included Ireneusz Iredynski's ZEGNAJ JUDASZU / FAREWELL JUDAS (1972) and Jaroslaw Marek Rymkiewicz's KROL MIESOPUST / THE KING OF MEAT (1972). In 1973 Bogdan Hussakowski produced his first project in Opole - Stanislaw Ignacy Witkiewicz's SONATA BELZEBUBA / THE BEELZEBUB SONATA which received very good reviews.
In 1975 Bogdan Hussakowski was appointed the general manager of Opole's theatre, now renamed the Jan Kochanowski Theatre. The theatre moved to new premises, and the first production in the new building was Stefan Zeromski's PRZEDWIOSNIE / EARLY SPRING directed by Stanislaw Brejdygant (1975). The Mala Scena / Small Stage was inaugurated not long after, and presented Stanislaw Wyspianski's PROTESILAS I LAODAMIA / PROTESILAS AND LAODAMIA directed by Wojciech Jesionka. 1975 saw the launch of the "POLISH CLASSICS" OPOLE THEATRE CONFRONTATIONS, an annual festival that is held to this day (with one gap in 1992). Upon taking over as the theatre's general manager, Bogdan Hussakowski declared:
"As a stage director I have already been put in the pigeonhole marked 'philosophising theatre'. There's some truth in this, but at present I am interested in the functioning of popular theatre streaked with reflection, plebeian theatre - not avoiding lavishness and spectacular effects - married to intellectual theatre." ("Opole" 1975, No. 4)
Insofar as the first part of his plan was successful, the promised intellectual reflection was not always satisfactory. Plays from the "great laughter" trend were staged - Molière, Geoffrey Chaucer, Aleksander Fredro, Witold Gombrowicz, Slawomir Mrozek. The Opole theatre presented some very good projects - Gombrowicz's IWONA, KSIEZNICZKA BURGUNDA / YVONNE, PRINCESS OF BURGUNDY (1976) and Shakespeare's THE TEMPEST (1978) directed by Jerzy Golinski, and Stanislaw Przybyszewski's SNIEG / SNOW directed by Hussakowski (1977). Young directors had their debuts here - Zbigniew Mich with a production of Ulrich Plenzdorf's THE NEW SUFFERINGS OF YOUNG W. (1976), and Tomasz Zygadlo who staged Peter Handke's MY FOOT MY TUTOR (1977). Other directors who worked with the theatre included Valery Fokin, who staged Viktor Rozov's FOUR DROPS (1976) and Alexander Vampilov's THE ELDER SON (1978), and Giovanni Pampiglione, whose projects included WENECJANKI / VENETIAN WOMEN based on a text by a 16th-century anonymous author (1976). Stage designs were prepared by artists such as Lidia Skarzynska and Jerzy Skarzynski, Jan Polewka, Zofia de Ines, Marcin Jarnuszkiewicz, Joanna Braun. Music arrangements were provided by Andrzej Zarycki, Krzysztof Szwajgier, Jan Kanty Pawluskiewicz, Czeslaw Niemen. The Opole theatre also became an exhibition venue for poster artists, with presentations of works by Franciszek Starowieyski, Jerzy Skarzynski, Jerzy Czerniawski, Andrzej Klimowski, Jan Sawka, Eugeniusz Get-Stankiewicz, Andrzej Mleczko, and later also Tadeusz Trepkowski and Waldemar Swierzy.
Bogdan Hussakowski left the theatre in 1979. He was replaced as manager by Bogdan Cybulski, whose tenure lasted until 1982. During this time Opole's theatre staged both ancient tragedies (Sophocles' OEDIPUS THE KING directed by Cybulski, 1979) and contemporary Polish plays (LIS NA DRZEWIE / FOX UP A TREE based on one-act plays by Slawomir Mrozek, directed by Zbigniew Mich, 1980). Cybulski also directed Bertolt Brecht's THE THREEPENNY OPERA (1980), Mikolaj Grabowski staged Pierre Beaumarchais's THE MARRIAGE OF FIGARO (1980), while Janusz Nyczak presented a very good production of Stanislaw Wyspianski's SEDZIOWIE / THE JUDGES (1980). In the 1980's the theatre did not react directly to events in Poland, but some productions of this time attempted to incorporate the present into tradition. These were Jan Kochanowski's ODPRAWA POSLOW GRECKICH / THE DISMISSAL OF THE GREEK ENVOYS directed by the ensemble (1981), and Zygmunt Krasinski's NIE-BOSKA KOMEDIA / THE UN-DIVINE COMEDY staged by Cybulski (1982).
The Kochanowski Theatre's next manager, Wojciech Zeidler, introduced a very eclectic repertoire. Productions included Janusz Glowacki's KOPCIUCH / CINDERS (1982) and Witkacy's SZEWCY / THE SHOEMAKERS (1983) directed by Zeidler, and also Wojciech Boguslawski's CUD MNIEMANY, CZYLI KRAKOWIACY I GORALE / THE PRESUMED MIRACLE, OR CRACOVIANS AND HIGHLANDERS directed by Jan Skotnicki with stage design by Adam Kilian (1983). Projects which turned out to be important included Jerzy Andrzejewski's POPIOL I DIAMENT / ASHES AND DIAMONDS adapted for the stage by Jan Feusette and Jan Bleszynski, directed by Bleszynski (1984), and Karol Hubert Rostworowski's KAJUS CEZAR KALIGULA / CAIUS CAESAR CALIGULA staged by Zeidler (1985).
Frequent changes of management took place in the late 1980's and early 1990's. Maciej Korwin was the manager in 1987-1990. Next, Leszek Kodrzycki and Szczepan Szczykno briefly ran the theatre. Jan Feusette's term lasted from 1992 to 1996. He was soon replaced by Adam Sroka.
When Maciej Korwin was manager, the theatre failed to develop a distinctive repertoire. However, Korwin did introduce plays speaking about contemporary problems: the world premiere of Mykola Kulish's THE REFORMER directed by Korwin (1988) and Alexander Galin's STARS IN THE MORNING SKY staged by Gennady Kosyukov (1989). Korwin soon left following a conflict with the ensemble, mainly the theatre's Solidarity trade union section. He was replaced by Szczepan Szczykno, a stage director of the young generation who tried to turn the theatre into a living institution open to other fields of art. This idea failed, however, and was not helped by the fact that not the best or simply bad productions were staged at the time. Under the management of Jan Feusette, a native of Opole who had been the theatre's literary manager in the 1980's, the Kochanowski Theatre began to improve its standard. Successful shows included Pam Gems' PIAF directed by Jan Szurmiej (1993), and Albert Ramsdell Gurney's LOVE LETTERS staged by Wlodzimierz Nurkowski (1994).
Adam Sroka, the next manager, focused on ambitious repertoire. Many young directors started working with the theatre: Tomasz Obara, Iwona Kempa, Bartlomiej Wyszomirski, Wieslaw Holdys, and Krzysztof Galos. Contemporary plays were staged, including those of Lidia Amejko, Edward Albee, Egon Wolff as well as classics, Old Polish plays among them, to mention BAROK / BAROQUE based on different texts from the era staged by Holdys (1997), and Jan Chryzostom Pasek's PAMIETNIKI / MEMOIRS prepared by Galos (1998). This was also when Sroka staged his excellent interpretation of Adam Mickiewicz's DZIADY / FOREFATHERS' EVE, entitled DZIADY ALBO MLODZI CZARODZIEJE / FOREFATHERS' EVE OR THE YOUNG WIZARDS (1997). Sroka revived Opole's theatre, and he also succeeded in integrating the ensemble.
Bartosz Zaczykiewicz has been the theatre's general and artistic manager since 1999. During this time the repertoire has included serious works, but entertainment also has its place. Important productions of recent years include projects by Marek Fiedor - a world premiere adaptation of Hermann Broch's THE INNOCENTS (2000), Biljana Srbljanović's FAMILY STORIES (2001), and another great adaptation of Jaroslaw Iwaszkiewicz's MATKA JOANNA OD ANIOLOW / MOTHER JOANNA OF THE ANGELS (2002). Next to classics, the Opole theatre also stages new plays. The latter include Martin McDonagh's THE CRIPPLE OF INISHMAAN directed by Zaczykiewicz (2002), Werner Schwab's THE ROUND OF PLEASURE directed by Tomasz Hynek (2002), Nikolai Kolada's MARILYN MONGOL staged by Krzysztof Rekowski (2003), and David Harrower's KNIVES IN HENS directed by Bogdan Tosza (2004). Classics interestingly interpreted by young directors include Stanislaw Wyspianski's KLATWA / THE CURSE (2004) and Euripides' IPHIGENIA AT AULIS (2005) - productions directed by Pawel Passini, and Maja Kleczewska's controversial staging of Shakespeare's MACBETH (2004).
Teatr im. Jana Kochanowskiego w Opolu
pl. Teatralny 12
Phone: (+48 77) 45 45 942, 453 90 86, 45 45 941
plac Teatralny 12