Creativity, Ambition, Vitality

25 January 2017

At the halfway point of the Opera Rara festival, we talk to Jan Tomasz Adamus, the event’s artistic director, about entering the top league, searching for listeners and encouraging innovation.

Karnet: Opera Rara as a festival is a brand-new idea. What does the Opera Rara Festival mean to you?
Jan Tomasz Adamus: Opera Rara is becoming an original voice of Kraków on the international operatic stage. It’s a world which is at once exclusive and accessible to everyone, which is important from the perspective of promoting Kraków. Serious opera festivals bring together the most important people in the genre from all over the world. By doing something original in this sphere of high art – understood the world over – we are entering the top league.
On a more personal level, I see the arts as a key element of my identity. I’m drawn to classic arts: architecture, painting, sculpture, applied arts, and of course classical music, in particular opera. The certainty that art is a common language with many people from all corners of the globe brings me real joy.

This is the first time that a Polish opera – one of the most quintessentially Polish, in fact – is being shown under the Opera Rara banner. But this won’t be the Halka we all know…
It’s good to stay on topic, and since we are “rara”, we present the less well-known Vilnius version of Halka [two-act version from 1848 – ed.]. It’s also incredibly important that after many years, Opera Rara is producing its own stage projects – after all, opera isn’t just about music, but about everything else happening on stage. So we have a stage version of Halka, a stage version of A Madrigal Opera by Glass, and a semi-staged version of Purcell’s Dido and Aeneas. Let’s not forget that concert versions are a good addition to opera seasons and festival programmes, although in the world of great opera, stage versions have the highest prestige.

In January we heard song recitals by Michaela Selinger and Peter Harvey, and February brings the concert Fight for Songs by the vocalist Susanna Jara. What’s the place of songs in the festival programme?
The programme of Opera Rara 2017 includes almost all elements of a standard, good opera theatre, whose basis and raison d’être is the human voice and everything it entails. And so we have operas in staged, semi-staged and concert versions, operatic serenades, a concert with a quasi-operatic repertoire, vocal recitals, social projects – for example as part of the Purcell opera I mentioned earlier – and events in unusual locations. We could do with some dance, but maybe next time.

Since we are on the subject of unusual locations, why is the Opera Rara festival stepping beyond traditional concert halls?
Classical music should seek out people tactfully and respecting their identities; find people where they are. With tongue firmly in cheek, I could say that in Kraków people are either at church or in the pub. Additionally, the concert Fight for Songs at the BAL Bar in the Zabłocie district will have a specific atmosphere – an intimacy essential for this kind of music. We are also counting on our audience, who are familiar with the venue from several vocal recitals hosted there by Capella Cracoviensis as part of Theatrum Musicum 2015.

You also mentioned social projects: Halka features extras recruited from Kraków dwellers, while a choir of amateur singers performs in Dido and Aeneas. Where did this idea of involving Cracovians directly in the Opera Rara festival come from?
Any festival excluding local communities isn’t a great event but a vacuous nightmare not dissimilar to colonial-style cultural appropriation. It simply drives angry frustration of various groups, encouraging them to look for organisers to slip up. Social projects are important to stimulate innovation. All projects involving many people coming together to do something difficult are an investment in our innovative potential. Innovation, creativity, critical thinking, ambition and vitality are all incredibly important in today’s world.

Interviewed by Barbara Skowrońska

Jan Tomasz Adamus – conductor, organist, harpsichordist and animator of culture, executive and artistic director of Capella Cracoviensis and artistic director of the Opera Rara festival

See also: A Design for Life, an interview with Robert Piaskowski, programme director of the Opera Rara festival

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