Opera Rara Festival 2021


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We can and must seek common understanding in art, through singing and on the stage – and the Opera Rara Festival is the perfect opportunity!
This year we are faced with a number of questions we couldn’t have even imagined asking before the previous festival. Will we be able to meet all our goals? Will our plans be thwarted by new restrictions or lockdown measures? Will we be able to sit together as an audience, or will we be watching on the computer from the sofa at home? Forced by the circumstances, the completely restructured and reorganised festival doesn’t change its main idea: to tell stories about our world through opera, and to see other people and their emotions.
The motto of the Opera Rara Festival 2021 is a quote from Sappho, “Stand up and look at me, face to face, my friend”. So let us stand face to face – be it on the screen, wearing masks, in an operatic mirror reflecting our reality – and find that which brings us together.

Dido’s lament
The spectacle Dido & Aeneas (1, 2, 3 FebruaryPLAY KRAKÓW) tells the Roman myth through the language of contemporary dance. Henry Purcell’s opera, one of the first examples of the genre written in England, has been prepared by Natalia Iwaniec with Capella Cracoviensis. The director and choreographer seeks inspiration from Sicilian Baroque architecture and the GaGa dance vocabulary developed in the late 20th century. The performance resounds with interpersonal conflict and emotions described by Purcell through music.

Love and death
Solo theatre presents a major challenge for the singer who has to hold the audience’s attention for a whole hour with a tale of the final years of the Trojan war. The male alto William Towers throws down the gauntlet with his performance of Benedetto Marcello’s Cassandra. Director Tomasz Cyz combines the Baroque composition focusing on the ravages of war, death and mourning with a contemporary composition Just; its author David Lang reaches for excerpts from the Biblical Song of Songs to weave a subtle declaration of love. Originally presented at the 2019 festival, this year’s spectacle also features Salvatore Sciarrino’s Vanitas – a poetic meditation on evanescence and transience featuring mezzo-soprano part performed by Natalia Kawałek (7, 9, 10, 12 February, PLAY KRAKÓW).

Also on 7 February (6pm) on PLAY KRAKÓW, we will hear chamber compositions of the Second Viennese School: Alban Berg’s Lyric Suite and Anton Webern’s Langsamer Satz interpreted by the Airis String Quartet. Berg’s composition features the soprano Dorota Szczepańska, singing a “secret” part handwritten by the composer on a single copy of the score discovered in the 1970s.

Is Claudio Monteverdi’s opera Il ballo delle Ingrate really calling on women to become promiscuous and submit to men’s advances? Or is the message of this courtly semi-dramatic ballet more subtle than that? The 17th-century work is explored by two artists: young, bold director Magda Szpecht and Teoniki Rożynek whose contemporary compositions complement the Baroque score (18, 19, 20, 21 February, PLAY KRAKÓW).

Women are like that
This bittersweet statement closes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Così fan tutte*. In the seemingly carefree farce, two young officers try (not entirely unsuccessfully) to seduce their respective fiancées to show that women cannot be trusted. The opera filled with moral ambiguities, ambivalent emotions and absurd plot twists seems to be perfectly fit for the modern audience. This time, the delicious comedy is produced by Cezary Tomaszewski (director) and Jan Tomasz Adamus (musical director as well as the artistic director of the festival).

Human tragicomedy
The setting: a generic oriental restaurant, The Golden Dragon, in an anonymous European city. A Chinese cook suffers from terrible toothache but as an illegal immigrant he is reluctant to see a dentist. His colleagues step in to pull out the offending tooth. The man bleeds to death and the tooth lands in a bowl of soup destined for one of the customers… The tragicomic, absurd, grotesque and in places brutal opera The Golden Dragon is an important element in the contemporary discussion on immigration, as is its universal – and painful – message. It explores themes of chance, unfulfilled dreams and hopelessness. The opera by the Hungarian composer Péter Eötvös is directed by Karolina Sofulak and performed by the Spółdzielnia Muzyczna contemporary ensemble under the baton of Edo Frenkel (24, 25, 26 March, PLAY KRAKÓW).

All spectacles will be streamed on the PLAY KRAKÓW platform, and they’ll be available as VOD until the end of the year. Let’s meet at the Opera Rara Festival – whether face to face or online, but always as friends! (Barbara Skowrońska)

*The broadcast dates of Così fan tutte on the PLAY KRAKÓW platform to be announced at a later time.



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