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), Jagoda Chałcińska (video projections) Capella Cracoviensis

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

Sigismondo in the brilliant and witty stage direction by Krystian Lady refers to symbols that are well known to us, Poles, known both from art and from our everyday life. There were many references to Matejko’s paintings, playing with colourful lights, contrasts and textures. Some of the protagonists appeared among the spectators in the auditorium of the theatre. The video materials – once intimate and delicate, and again amazingly impressive – diversified the stage image and were naturally combined with the action. The references in the staging to the comedy dell’arte emphasized the theatricality and fictitiousness of history, which is more universal than can be assumed at first.” Maryla Zając (PWM)


“Krystian Lada proposed a kind of historical happening on stage. The point of departure for his staging is the painting Prussian Hommage by the Polish artist Jan Matejko. The protagonists of the painting come to life on the stage, which gradually becomes an artistic props store full of patriotic symbols. The world is deconstructed when Aldimira’s father King Ulderico invades Poland. And we can only defend ourselves against him with a banner with the modern slogan: Poland for Poles.” Jacek Marczyński, Rzeczpospolita (26.01.2020)


“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: Edyta Dufaj & Klaudyna Schubert (Krakowskie Biuro Festiwalowe)