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Premiere: 23 January 2020, Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Cracow (Poland) during Opera Rara Festival 2020, Performances: 26, 28, 30 January 2020

Creative team: Krystian Lada (concept & stage director), Jan Tomasz Adamus (music director), Natalia Kitamikado (set & costumes design), Maarten Warmerdam (lighting design), Capella Cracoviensis

More info & tickets: http://operarara.pl/programme/61


“Strangers tend to cause anxiety precisely because of being ‘strange’ – and so, fearsomely unpredictable, unlike the people with whom we interact daily and from whom we believe we know what to expect,” this statement by the Polish sociologist and philosopher Zygmut Bauman sums up precisely the core of this project. This staging of Rossini’s rarely performed opera Sigismondo seeks to understand the origins, contours and impact of the present-day fear of otherness. Behind Rossini’s farcical plot about a Polish king rediscovering the wife he believed he had executed, a visceral drama of political exclusion unfolds. By zooming in on the violent confrontations between a Polish community and the unsettling strangers at and inside their gates, it speaks to the current socio-political situation and fear-inducing political campaigns of our times.


Franco Fagioli, Francesca Chiejina and Kenneth Kellogg (to name but a few) – a cast of soloists coming from different cultural backgrounds will highlight the anxiety about the other that forms the dark undercurrent of this opera. The non-Polish wife of the Polish king Sigismondo and her father’s Bohemian army embody the seductive yet intimidating power held by strangers, which Sigismondo’s court see as a threat to his patriarchal authority and national purity. How to deal with, and live with, the other? In the liminal space of the forest between the two monarchies, a careful diplomatic game between the foreign and the native materializes, in which the real motives of the players only gradually become clear. In this play of power, masks are put on, new identities are tried out, and different oppositional tactics are used according to the roles one is expected to perform. 


By re-contextualizing recognisable elements of the Polish culture, this production invites its audience to reflect on the nationalistic historical narratives that still play a major role in contemporary politics and to reconsider the old fears and prejudices on which political scaremongering often depends. The premiere of this production will take place on the historical stage of the iconic Juliusz Słowacki Theatre in Cracow.


Photo: Bartek Barczyk