Opera Rara presents the diversity of operatic art – old works are reinterpreted and discovered anew, the most famous ones are reconstructed so that they reflect the spirit of their era, and the contemporary ones are presented in an unobvious form. The Festival also conducts experiments by presenting semi-operas or concert versions of stage works, proving that opera is still a dynamic field for new experiences and challenges, interpretations and ideas. It seeks emotions and sparks debates, while constantly turning towards what is the most important in opera – to singing.
Between tradition and modernity
The Festival was inaugurated by the premiere of Hippolyte et Aricie – Jean-Philippe Rameau’s lyrical tragedy directed by Sjaron Minailo. A great challenge of the French Baroque turned out to be a field for experimentation for a contemporary artist. The Israeli director created the spectacle with elegance worthy of France, all while maintaining a balance between music, libretto and movement, thus proving that it is possible to build a bridge between the past and tradition spanning centuries with contemporary interpretation. Non nova, sed novae – the old has been read anew. A similar experiment was conducted by Tomasz Cyz, who presented a coherent artistic statement by combining two musical works, with completely divergent histories, aesthetics, genre and form. His two-part, reflexive staging of Cassandra & Just consisted of Baroque solo cantata by Benedetto Marcelli (1727) and post-minimalistic film music by David Lang (2014). A Madrigal Opera by Philip Glass is another one of experimental works, which is constantly being reinterpreted and read anew. Thanks to Krzysztof Garbaczewski’s metaphorical and artistic interpretation, the original opera returned to Krakow (the performance was commissioned by the Opera Rara Festival in 2017), focusing once again on the openness and ambiguity of the composer’s and director’s message.
After the creative search at the intersection of the experiment, abstract art and metaphor, there was time for some entertainment, masquerade and humour – Mozart’s Così fan tutte, cast and directed by Cezary Tomaszewski, was a carnival holiday and controlled prank. The sisters were played by the perfect Katarzyna Oleś-Blacha (Fiordiligi) and the charming Monika Korybalska-Kozarek (Dorabella), Marzena Lubaszka was cast as their clever and playful maid Despina, Sebastian Szumski and Przemysław Borys created a successful duo of young officers – Guglielmo and Ferrando, and Jacek Ozimkowski entertained the audience as Don Alfonso. The artists and the director provided the audience with excellent entertainment, and the music, masterfully played by the musicians of Cappella Cracoviensis under the baton of Jan Tomasz Adamus, left them in awe. Inviting the Krakow Burgher Choir, made up of amateur singers and music aficionados, turned out to be a perfect move, since they gave a great performance.
Chamber meetings with highest-quality singing were possible thanks to renowned artists, performing on the most important music stages in the world: Jakub Józef Orliński, Evelina Dobračeva, Sophie Karthäuser, Adriana Kučerová and Patricia Petibon. Each of the five recitals presented a variety of voices and temperaments of the performers, while demonstrating the diversity of the repertoire over the centuries and cultures.
The young and charismatic countertenor Jakub Józef Orliński enthralled listeners with the joy and lightness of is singing, as well as with his bold juxtaposition of two distant musical worlds – 17th-century operatic arias and Polish songs of the 20th and 21st centuries. Not only did he reveal many colours and undertones of Baroque music, but he also proved himself extremely successful in contemporary repertoire, particularly with his masterful performance of songs by Szymanowski, Baird and Łukaszewski. Russian soprano Evelina Dobračeva reassured the audience that lyricism can be expressed to its fullest mostly through singing, by performing songs of the three great composers – Pyotr Tchaikovsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov and Sergei Rachmaninov. Sophie Karthäuser impressed with her rich musical imagination and artistic maturity, which are both required to perform a musically difficult and interpretative programme comprising German Lieder and French songs. Adriana Kučerova’s recital let the Krakow audience listen to Slovak folk songs, and the artist enchanted her listeners with her beautiful voice and expressive stage personality. The festival and a series of recitals were crowned by the performance of the unconventional French soprano Patricia Petibon. Together with La Cetra Barockorchester ensemble, the singer has brought about an extraordinary world with no stylistic, sound, historical or even geographical boundaries. Seemingly musically distant arias from French Baroque operas and traditional melodies from different parts of the world all came together to form this colourful panorama of sounds.
Opera Rara is not a review of performances, but a committed and creative forum on the current state of the opera. This year’s edition of the festival proved that this genre constantly remains inspiring and fashionable, allowing us to draw on its rich and extensive tradition, experiment, rediscover old works, keep creating new ones, evoke emotions and have fun. The diverse programme of this year’s edition of the festival certainly provided the audience with a wide range of impressions and emotions. Did it find new roads? Following the paths of various interpretations and ideas, it marked out its own path – somewhere between experimentation and tradition, between modernity and history. Was it a golden mean?