It’s Hard to Get to Bródno
Based on motifs from Paria by Stanisław Moniuszko
As part of its performative programme, the Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art presents an exotic opera directed by Cezary Tomaszewski that fuses theatre, music and visual art. The opera has been inspired by motifs from the opera Paria by Stanisław Moniuszko.
- In Paria, Moniuszko departed from the national style, introducing such unusual instruments as the gong or tam-tam, and one can also discern a clear influence of Indian music, although critics charged the composer with an inability to create an ‘exotic’ atmosphere. The libretto, written by Jan Chęciński, and based on the drama by Casimir Delavigne, condemns India’s caste system, drawing parallels with many European countries. The protagonist, Idamor, is a valiant defender of his motherland, who conceals from the world the fact that he hails from the Paraiyar – the lowest social caste. When the truth comes out, Idamor is murdered by the archpriest. The theme of the oppression of the lower social orders was close to Moniuszko’s heart, and he deemed the exotic theme, fashionable in the romantic era, helpful in reaching opera houses in the west of Europe.
- In the opera It’s Hard to Get to Bródno, Cezary Tomaszewski again employs a modus operandi familiar from his earlier works, acclaimed for their daring style and novel interpretations of musical or dramatic pieces. The director humorously juggles different aesthetics and genres, from operetta to vaudeville. Throwing into the mix Moniuszko’s work, which represents the classical canon, he has set out to deconstruct and completely rework it, whilst at the same time demonstrating the topicality of the theme taken up by the 19th-century composer. He has been there before – with such artists as Claudio Monteverdi, Felix Mendelssohn, Johann Sebastian Bach, Leon Schiller and Stanisław Wyspiański.
- The performance has been constructed at the interface of the visual arts, music and theatre. This idiosyncratic opera is intended as a visual and musical installation that does away with the division between stage and audience.
- The project includes vocalists, opera singers and a chorus of voices, who will be performing their parts to the accompaniment of music by Stanisław Moniuszko and avant-garde Indian music, mixed live by a DJ.
- Tomaszewski sets the action of the opera in Warsaw’s Bródno district, where he lives, relating the theme of social inequalities taken up by Moniuszko to the contemporary reality of the Polish capital. Having taken on board the widely discussed issue of the orientalism in Moniuszko’s Paria, the director looks in this narrative about Bródno for traces of local identity. What is crucial for Tomaszewski in this project is the appropriation of the right to representation and the replacing of the ‘original’ voice with an external discourse that creates the specificity of Warsaw’s districts. The moment in which the Warsaw district of Bródno becomes a mythical land of the ‘Other’, close to the ‘oriental’ visions of India – that exists in the world of culture only through the mediation of the storyteller – is the starting point for embarking on a number of performative acts based on the motifs of the Paria. An important point of reference for the creation of the opera is Werner Herzog’s film Fitzccaraldo. What does Herzog’s storyline set in Warsaw’s Bródno tell us?
- The themes addressed by Tomaszewski, which combine orientalism with the culture of housing estates and high art with folklore, are, however, presented with a great distance and a sense of humour inherent in the director’s eclectic style of work.
- The project is a forerunner of the celebrations of the Year of Moniuszko in Poland in 2019.
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