Opera Rara Festival 2019


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  • Thursday, January 31, 2019 - Sunday, February 17, 2019

What’s opera oike? Constantly developing and multiplying interpretations, ceaselessly searching, always captivating… Let’s find out for ourselves during the Opera Rara Festival!

Opera is also full of contrasts. The plot waxes and wanes, accelerating rapidly during recitatives and slowing almost to a stop during virtuoso arias. The starting point is often a long libretto, but there are also operas entirely without words. The stories can be told literally through extensive stage sets, or metaphorically, for example by using lighting instead of actual sets. This game of opposites is the focus of this year’s Opera Rara Festival (31 January – 17 February). The event includes rarely performed works alongside more obvious ones (in brand-new adaptations), with the whole juxtaposing traditional and provocative facets of opera. We will see and hear world-famous stars and an amateur choir, with an 18th-century composition by Jean-Philippe Rameau resounding alongside minimalist 20th-century music by Philip Glass. “Opera Rara steps outside the usual boundaries: we present Baroque operas, experimental plays and vocal recitals,” summarises Jan Tomasz Adamus, Artistic Director of the festival.

On stage
Sjaron Minailo, specialising in visually uninhibited site-specific spectacles, directs Hippolyte et Aricie which premiered to great controversy in 18th-century Paris. Can you imagine a better start to the festival? Jean-Philippe Rameau’s music divided Parisian audiences: opponents claimed it lacked true feeling and contained an abundance of dissonances and exaggerated virtuosity. Fortunately there were also plenty of fans of the new aesthetic, which included a rich instrumentation (Rameau was one of the first composers to discover the resonance of horns and clarinets), and the opera ended up becoming a great success. The Israeli director promises that as in his other productions, his interpretation of the masterpiece of French Baroque focuses on universal questions. He is joined in his search for answers by an international ensemble of soloists (including Michaela Selinger as Phaedra – the opera’s femme fatale – familiar to the audience from the 2017 festival), the Capella Cracoviensis Choir and the Kraków Festival Orchestra under the baton of Marek Toporowski. What dangers do we face in our social lives? What are the rules which govern humankind and civilisation? How often are we tempted to break them? The answers (or perhaps other important questions) resound at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre on 31 January and 2 and 3 February.
Cassandra (1727) and Just (2014): although the works are separated by almost three centuries, director Tomasz Cyz manages to intertwine them into a coherent tale of war, conflict, death and mourning, and love, longing and community. We will discover the results for ourselves on 1, 3, 4 and 5 February at Cricoteka. The production combines Benedetto Marcello’s Baroque cantata based on excerpts from Homer’s Iliad and Euripides’ dramas with choral compositions by contemporary American composer David Lang who reaches for passages from the Biblical Song of Songs. According to the director, “Cassandra & Just is a sign of momentous times – after years of wars waged by men and for men’s causes, it is time for this damaged world to be put back together by women.”
The Latin phrase Non nova, sed nove is the perfect description of the festival interpretation of Così fan tutte – the sparkling opera buffa penned by Mozart, telling the story of two young men testing their lovers’ faithfulness. Widely seen as immoral in the 19th century and misogynist in the 20th, the classic opera is directed by Cezary Tomaszewski who previously worked with Capella Cracoviensis to serve up Monteverdi’s madrigals in a milk bar, practiced Gluck in a gym and brought Moniuszko to a Cracovian salon. The adaptation also confirms that opera is an artform meant for everyone: the stage of Łaźnia Nowa Theatre in Nowa Huta welcomes the Vox Populi amateur choir alongside professional singers and instrumentalists of Capella Cracoviensis (7, 9, 10 and 11 February).
Philip Glass’s A Madrigal Opera is the fourth stage production of this year’s festival. First staged at Opera Rara Festival two years ago, it is again directed by Krzysztof Garbaczewski, but the performance is certainly no repetition. Stripped of a libretto and stage directions, the opera (or perhaps anti-opera?) can be produced in any number of ways. The composer’s only suggestion is music, and the only limitation are set by the artists’ creative imaginations – and we certainly know plenty about Garbaczewski’s creativity… The spectacle for six voices, a modest instrumentarium and six dancing actors comes to MOCAK on 6, 8 and 10 February.

From the foundations
In an interview for “Karnet” (Feb 2017), Jan Tomasz Adamus stressed that the human voice is the very core of opera, and this is the reason the Opera Rara Festival includes recitals by famous singers as well as stage productions. This year’s star star-studded lineup is opened by Danielle de Niese. The soprano made her professional debut when she was just 15 years old; she took her first steps on the stage of the Metropolitan Opera in New York four years later, and she has been returning there regularly. She has appeared as Handel’s majestic Cleopatra (Glyndebourne) and Monteverdi’s cunning Poppea (Teatro Real), but her repertoire isn’t limited to Baroque or opera: de Niese has also performed alongside LL Cool J and sang in Ridley Scott’s Hannibal. We will hear her extraordinary musical range during the recital at the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre on 12 February, where she performs arias by operatic giants Handel, Mozart and Puccini alongside songs by George Gershwin and Cole Porter. We regret to inform you that the masterly recital of Danielle de Niese planned on 12 February has been cancelled due to illness.
On 13 February, the Juliusz Słowacki Theatre welcomes Jakub Józef Orliński who also brings a contrasting repertoire, including Baroque arias (Handel, Bononcini, Orlandini) and Polish songs (Szymanowski, Baird, Łukaszewski). The young counter-tenor has a charismatic and natural demeanour, but more than anything he has a beautiful voice which has won him countless awards. He has reached unprecedented audiences with a spontaneous YouTube recording from the festival in Aix-en-Provence. He has already performed at some of the finest stages around the world, including the Metropolitan Opera, Carnegie Hall, Wigmore Hall and the Barbican Centre. Last autumn Orliński recorded his debut solo album Anima Sacra released by Erato/Warner Classics. In his spare time and to warm up before concerts, the singer practices… breakdance. A perfect example of apparent contradictions, worthy of Opera Rara!
On the following three evenings of the festival, the Collegium Novum of the Jagiellonian University resounds with songs brought to Kraków by Evelina Dobračeva (14 February), Sophie Karthäuser (15 February) and Adriana Kučerová (16 February). Dobračeva, known to Opera Rara fans as the protagonist of Schönberg’s Erwartung, reaches for songs by Tchaikovsky, Rimsky-Korsakov and Rachmaninoff. Sophie Karthäuser recalls great names of German Romanticism: Mendelssohn and Schumann and takes on works by… Felix’s sister Fanny and Robert’s wife Clara – highly talented composers in their own right. Her recital, apart from the German Lieder, also includes Claude Debussy’s French mélodies. Adriana Kučerová, star of Glyndebourne, Salzburg, La Scala and the Vienna State Opera, proudly showcases songs by Mikuláš Schneider-Trnavski, Eugen Suchoň, Antonín Dvořák and Béla Bartók based on folklore music from her native Slovakia.
The festival closes on 17 February with the recital Nouveau Monde, celebrating diversity, curiosity in the world and breaking down boundaries – those between countries and those between musical genres. We are taken on a journey through traditional Peruvian songs, 18th-century Spanish zarzuelas, Baroque French opera, English masque by Patricia Petibon – one of the greatest stars of French (and international!) operatic stages, performing at the Gallery of 19th-century Polish Art in Sukiennice, accompanied by instrumentalists from La Cetra.

Around opera
But that’s still not all! “Let’s immerse ourselves in the festival atmosphere. We will meet incredible people and create frameworks to present spectacles and concerts with a broad cultural commentary,” says Robert Piaskowski, Deputy Director for Programming at the Krakow Festival Office about the wide range of accompanying events. We will talk to directors about the art of combining music and theatre, while the strand Books in Opera discusses ancient lovers who might have benefited from spending some time on Freud’s couch as well as presenting the first Polish erotic comics written by women. Finally, meetings under the banner Opera Rara with Taste centre around contemplation of our love of Italian food and music, chocolate and traditional Polish dishes and folk songs.

In 2017, the cycle of individual concerts known as Opera Rara evolved into a fully-fledged festival which has since become an indelible part of Kraków’s cultural calendar and captivated the hearts of music lovers. We are delighted to share the charms of opera during Carnival (and the charms of Carnival while listening to the opera) for the third time! (Barbara Skowrońska)

31 January, 2 February 2019, 7pm
3 February 2019, 3pm
ICE Kraków Congress Centre
Jean-Philippe Rameau
Hippolyte et Aricie
dir. Sjaron Minailo

1, 3, 4, 5 February 2019, 7pm
Cassandra & Just
Benedetto Marcello: Cassandra
David Lang: Just
dir. Tomasz Cyz

6, 8, 10 February 2019, 8pm
MOCAK Museum of Contemporary Art in Krakow
Philip Glass
A Madrigal Opera
dir. Krzysztof Garbaczewski

7, 11 February 2019, 5pm
9 February 2019, 11am
10 February 2019, 3pm

Łaźnia Nowa Theatre
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart
Così fan tutte
dir. Cezary Tomaszewski

12 February 2019, 7pm Cancelled due to illness!
Juliusz Słowacki Theatre
Danielle de Niese | soprano
Matthew Fletcher | piano

13 February 2019, 7pm
Juliusz Słowacki Theatre
Jakub Józef Orliński | countertenor
Michał Biel | piano
In programme: Giovanni Antonio Boretti | Giovanni Battista Bononcini | Johann Adolf Hasse | George Frideric Handel | Francesco Bartolomeo Conti | Luca Antonio Predieri | Karol Szymanowski | Tadeusz Baird | Paweł Łukaszewski

14 February 2019, 7pm
Collegium Novum UJ
Evelina Dobračeva | soprano
Semion Skigin | piano
In programme: Pyotr Tchaikovsky | Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov | Sergei Rachmaninoff

15 February 2019, 7pm
Collegium Novum UJ
Sophie Karthäuser | soprano
Eugene Asti | piano
In programme: Felix Mendelssohn | Fanny Mendelssohn | Clara Schumann | Claude Debussy | Un petit bestiaire

16 February 2019, 7pm
Collegium Novum UJ
Adriana Kučerová | soprano
Róbert Pechanec | piano
In programme: Mikuláš Schneider-Trnavský | Eugen Suchoň | Antonín Dvořák | Béla Bartók | Leonard Bernstein | Jevgenij Iršai

17 February 2019, 7pm
Gallery of 19th-century Polish Art in Sukiennice
Nouveau monde
Patricia Petibon | soprano
La Cetra Barockorchester Basel
In programme: Tarquinio Merula | Henri le Bailly | melodie tradycyjne z Codex Martínez Compañón | José de Nebra | Henry Purcell | Marc-Antoine Charpentier | Jean-Philippe Rameau | George Frideric Handel



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