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Giving Ophelia a voice

The Death of Ophelia is a little-known monodrama by Stanisław Wyspiański, written when the author was severely ill and physically incapacitated. According to an article by Monika Wycykał published in the Katowice Dziennik Teatralny, the work essentially concerns the question of how one should speak when approaching death. The crossing of the line between life and death became the inspiration for Jerzy Fryderyk Wojciechowski, a 32-year-old composer from Poznań.

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Ophelia

In his prior work, Wojciechowski has distanced himself from both the avant-garde and the traditional. He has allowed himself to be readily inspired by local traditions, best seen in his chamber piece "o'pyra" (a variation on the word opera, with pyra, a spud in the Poznań dialect, highlighting the link with the local region) Tej! This time, he interprets a classic. 

It all started with the 10th edition of Metafory Rzeczywistości (The Metaphors of Reality), a Polish drama competition. It was then that, for the first time in the event's history, its organiser - Teatr Polski - invited the Poznań Opera to collaborate. The finals featured not only five dramas but also two musical theatrical pieces: Ptasiek (Birdy) by Karol Nepelski, Waldemar Raźniak and Marcin Chlanda oraz Ophelia by Wojciechowski. Regrettably, the failure to obtain copyrights disqualified Ptasiek, prompting the jury to unanimously confer the award on Ophelia's author. His one-act opera will premiere on 30 March in the Teatr Wielki. 

"For many years, I have been highly impressed with Wyspiański's genius - I have tried to combine my talent and work with his art, his vision of a deranged Ophelia. As I read the work, I felt that the character's internal dialogue reveals the tragedy of a person searching for love, as well as an artist lost in the world, unable to find a place for his art and himself. The work is also about the decisions one makes in life, about whether to stay on the shores or let the water carry one along", says Wojciechowski about how his text was inspired by this author from the Young Poland period. 

The composer's approach to the drama was very personal. He saw dramatic potential in the soliloquy and split the main character into two. Hence, Ophelia speaks to the audience in her actual and inner voice (Ophelia 1 and Ophelia 2). "The composer's invention surprisingly challenges Shakespearian, romance and modernist stereotypes, depicting the protagonist from a contemporary perspective", noted Krzysztof Cicheński, the show director for Metafory Rzeczywistości. 

Through his work, Wojciechowski seeks to give voice to a woman who was never properly heard in Shakespeare's Hamlet or in Wyspiański's The Death of Ophelia. The music draws heavily on pop. "Bits of familiar Britney Spears tunes resound in successive scenes, transforming and bringing one closer to Ophelia's experience, superficially objectified in many previous interpretations", notes the director. The organisers of the Saturday premiere bill the work as an opportunity for audiences to gain insights into the true nature of contemporary music. The part of Ophelia will be played by two sopranos: Maria Domżał and Maria Antkowiak. The musical director is Grzegorz Wierus.

Aleksandra Kujawiak

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski  

Ophelia by Jerzy Fryderyk Wojciechowski, directed by Krzysztof Cicheński, Teatr Wielki, Drabowicz Room, premiere: 30.03, 7pm

© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2019