stage director

Archive for March, 2012

The Marriage/Mussorgsky/Gogol/Opera (Teatr Wielki im. Stanisława Moniuszki) in Poznań, Poland

Coproduction with Teatr Polski (Municipal Theatre) in Poznań
first performance 20.04.2012
upcoming dates: 4.12.2012, 5.12.2012
Photo: Caterina Zalewska

Gogol still entertaining
“Marriage“ directed by Monika Dobrowlańska in the Opera House in Poznań (cooperation with Municipal Theatre in Poznań). Review by Andrzej Chylewski in Polska Głos Wielkopolski.

Continuing its interesting activity the Pocket Stage [Scena Kieszonkowa] in the Opera House [Teatr Wielki] in Poznań worked on something that according to composer’s intention (as well as according to researchers’ opinions) was thought to be merely a composing exercise “committed“ at the beginning of his mature opera career.
Modest Mussorgsky (1839-81), an outstanding Russian composer, managed to complete only 4 scenes of the 1st opera act called Marriage, and what’s more it was a piano version. Having introduced supplements, in 1931 Mikhail Mikhailovich Ippolitov-Ivanov composed the final orchestra version as well as the 2nd, 3rd and 4th opera acts.
But what was Mussorgsky intention? “I would like to speak by means of music; to speak the way Gogol characters want to speak.” It is an authentic prose expressed by music. Music without arias, ensembles, orchestra interludes.“
Born in Poznań, the director, Monika Dobrowlańska had an amazing idea….. she decided to complete Mussorgsky’s work, but with the theatre drama: Nikolai Gogol’s genuine work translated into Polish by outstanding Julian Tuwim.
This extraordinary confrontation of opera (with music written only for a quintet conducted by Krzysztof Słowiński and a text in Russian language) and theatre comedy (enriched with Mussorgsky’s music – especially with the motif “The Chicks in their Shells” from “Pictures from an Exhibition”) resulted in a surprising effect.
The actors from the Municipal Theatre in Poznań (Anna Sandowicz, Wojciech Kalwat, Andrzej Szubski, Sylwester Woroniecki) show the audience the concert of comedy acting whereas the opera singers (Andrzej Ogórkiewicz, Jolanta Podlewska, Bartłomiej Szczeszek, Tomasz Raczkiewicz, Marian Kępczyński) open an equivalent dialogue by means of vocal and actor’s language performed to the fascinating accompaniment of instrumental chamber music. And everything happens in the stage design (Hanna Sibilski) consisting only of a bed (opera) and a very capacious, multi-functional piano (comedy).
So musical and funny was the performance. Because Gogol is not getting out-of-date, on the contrary Nikolai Gogol still entertains. And what’s more, he can be entertaining even to the opera audience.
Gogol still entertaining
Andrzej Chylewski
Polska Głos Wielkopolski nr 94/21-22.04.

Hilarious event in two acts.

Followed Amadeus the next cooperation between two Poznań theatres, Municipal and Grand Theatres, is evidence that such a cooperation can make a real success. ”Marriage”. Quite a hilarious event in two acts“ based on Modest Mussorgsky’s and Nikolai Gogol’s works is not only a brilliant comedy but also a genuine picture of social life.
Mussorgsky’s opera, inspired by “Marriage“, is an unfinished work which breaks off when Podkolyosin and Kochkaryov are to meet Agafya Tikhonovna who is just looking for a right candidate to become her husband. Imagine Monika Dobrowlańska had directed only this piece of work on stage, it might be interesting as far as the music is concerned and funny when it goes about the plot, still the most essential part of Gogol’s drama would be missing. Fortunately, the director decided to finish “Marriage“ in compliance with Gogol’s intension. Thanks to it the spectacle was made in two acts which differ markedly.
The first part belongs to Mussorgsky: the action takes place in Podkolyosin’s room where Podkolyosin, sprawling on his spacious bed, awaits a marriage matchmaker . A very classical part with costumes and humble stage design (consisting merely of a bed and a mirror) stylized in the manner of 19th century furniture whereas libretto (numerous dialogues which are difficult in terms of music) is sung in the original language – Russian. The premiere was made as a part of the Pocket Opera project focusing on presenting on stage unknown or unfinished works. Paradoxically, these opera elements are merely a foretaste of what’s the best in the second act. In this act we move to present days, which we find out seeing a completely different stage design whose main element is a multi-functional, piano-resembling table – cabinet. It is in this cabinet that all girl’s belongings as well as she herself is hidden to overhear bachelors’ conversations. Characters’ costumes are also very fashionable, only characters’ problems remain the same. Now the plot takes place in a house belonging to Agafya Tikhonovna (outstanding Anna Sandowicz, an actress from the Municipal Theatre) whose matchmaker Fyokla Ivanovna (this role is well-acted by an opera singer, Jolanta Podlewska) discusses potential husbands. Swallowing fruit in a more and more greedy manner, with blushes on her cheeks the girl listens to the descriptions of bachelors and tries to imagine what they might look like. Even though the music is not as important as in the first part, Mussorgsky’s “Pictures from an Exhibition” interwoven with this story, is not only the background but it also adds some flavour to the story nearly visualizing these men in front of our eyes.
Brilliant acting is the greatest advantage deciding about the success of the whole performance. The audience, deprived of the knowledge related to which actor comes from which theatre, may initially find it difficult to distinguish actors from opera singers – the latter act as well as their colleagues from the Municipal Theatre. Brilliant Tomasz Raczkiewicz (Municipal Theatre) stars a lieutenant from Zhevakin’s Navy. Despite the fact that he discusses Sicily and plump Italian women, the audience will hear in his voice harsh military discipline and see pedantry in all his movements eg. automatic shaking invisible crumbs off his uniform. It is only during performing his fantastic “O sole mio” opera aria that he forgets about his occupation: Zhevakin gets carried away with his emotions so much that he ends up on a table as if on stage. Hilarious Andrzej Szubski (Municipal Theatre) in the role of stuttering Anuchkin who runs his campaign for the most important marriage matter: his future wife’s linguistic skills. Does not matter that Anuchkin himself cannot utter a single word in French – a woman should know this language and that’s that! It is impossible not to gaze at shy Podkolyosin (Andrzej Ogórkiewicz, Grand Theatre) or Yaichnitsa, a self-confident executive clerk (Wojciech Kalwat – Municipal Theatre).
“Marriage“ is definitely based on good acting. All actors skillfully create their image of the world which, in fact, has not changed for ages. Even if offered the most tempting dowry, people, for some unknown reasons, get into panic while facing the most important life decision and avoid responsibility. The latest premiere of Gogol’s work shows these quite unbelievable bachelors’ dilemmas in a graceful manner.
Agnieszka Misiewicz
Teatralia Poznań
Nr 17 (17)
30 April 2012