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Candide in reviews

10 June 2019

 photo by Łukasz Łuszczek

he second weekend of June was marked by Leonard Bernstein’s Candide. Three evenings in our theatre began with the characteristic, vivid, full of melodic inventiveness overture to the work which is sometimes called the valentine of European music. On 7 June 2019, the work inaugurated the 23rd Krakow Opera Summer Festival.  

We are already receiving first reviews. Anna Woźniakowska wrote for polskamuza.eu:

The story of a young man who believed – as did his master, Pangloss - that he lived in the most beautiful of worlds, is as much a philosophical reflection on the fate of a man pushed by the winds of history, as a satire full of absurd. Creating a convincing whole out of single images is quite a challenge. And Michał Zaniecki, the director of the performance, designer of costumes and play of light, faced it successfully. Stage designer Luigi Scoglio and choreographer Jarosław Staniek lent a helping hand. What we see on the stage of the Krakow Opera is a vibrant spectacle, full of well-planned movement, beautiful at times.

The reviewer emphasises the cast’s strengths: Voytek Soko-Sokolnicki (debuting on the Krakow stage) created the character of Candid well, consistently presenting his maturing, he was successful both as an actor and a vocalist. Katarzyna Oleś-Blacha presented a good Cunegonde. Małgorzata Walewska performed Old-Lady really masterfully, as did Mariusz Godlewski as Pangloss. I enjoyed watching and listening to Monika Korybalska as Paquette and Hubert Zapiór as Maximilian. Additionally, all the actors in smaller roles, and there were many of them, did great. So did the ballet and the dancing choir. 

Anna Małachowska
wrote for nascenie.info:

Małgorzata Walewska (Old Lady), whose craftsmanship of opera singing I value so high, surprised me with her acting abilities and the grace of her performance in Michał Zaniecki’s spectacle, and Michał Kutnik (Martin), who took full advantage of his time onstage to thoroughly scoff at Candid’s naive optimism in the aria Words, Words, Words, and performed his duties as an actor and vocalist expressively. I enjoyed watching and listening to Mariusz Godlewski (Pangloss) and Monika Korybalska (Paquette). We encourage you to read the full review HERE.

Jacek Marczyński
wrote for “Rzeczpospolita”:

The Krakow Opera prepared Candide with a splendour, although the performance takes a while to develop (...). The spectacle gains pace when the main cast takes the stage. (...) Renowned opera stars present themselves in a whole new light, which adds appeal. Małgorzata Walewska as Old Lady moves gracefully between musical and opera, and her good comedy act is enriched by ironically treated primadonna style. Mariusz Godlewski (the philosopher Pangloss) is equally flawless in those two music worlds. Katarzyna Oleś-Blacha (Cunegonde) always reaches the best artistic effect when treating her stunning vocal technique with a distance, like here, in the role of a woman valuing the clinking coins and shining diamonds. Voytek Soko Sokolnicki gave Candide a noble simplicity (...). Director Michał Zaniecki creatively set almost the whole of the plot in a library full of smart books, because Candide gained his view on the world from the teachings of Pangloss. When, after unbelievable adventures he got his beloved woman back and moved in with her to a modest house, the library was transformed into a supermarket. This is our world – one in which bookshelves were replaced by products with colourful stickers. Is this the life which Candide pursues in the 21st century?

Lesław Czapliński
also evaluated the second cast, which performed during the Saturday premiere:

Łukasz Gaj feels more confident in this vocal convention and has largely fought his voice emission issues which were evident before. Mariusz Godlewski took the role of the philosopher Pangloss twice, his interpretation of the second song Dear Boy was particularly characterised by expressive voice timber modulations and its skilful use, including lowering the voice. (...) Katarzyna Oleś-Blacha won the audience not only with her noble legato but also by adding feelings to the stage image of her character, while Joanna Moskowicz did better in vocalises (...). Young baritone, Hubert Zapiór, performed not only as Maximillian, who takes on various personas such as an Argentinian beauty shown as a drag queen and presented transmutative acting in which he transformed multiple times. (...) The artist darkened the timber of his voice giving it a hero-like quality. (...) Krzysztof Kozarek has made significant progress in voice control, and that’s why his role of the aforementioned governor is one of his most successful. Michał Kutnik and Stanisław Olejniczak did well in the characteristic song of the devilish pyromaniac, Martin - Words, Words, Words – being the opposite of Pangloss’s optimism and his song - The Best Of All Possible Worlds. Vasyl Grokholskyi, too, found himself in the parodistic roles of Ragotski and Vanderdendur, and his singing was melodic and characterised by even timber. 

The author also noticed: Michał Znaniecki emphasised the spectacle side of his creative production, which is aimed at stunning the audience with richness and abundance of ornaments and costumes, while not straying from the original but corresponding to it, and preserving the identity bond.

Łukasz Gazur
of “Dziennik Polski” stressed the strengths of the director’s concept, choreography and stage design:

Music and theatre theorists still discuss whether Leonard Bernstein’s Candide is an opera, operetta or a musical. Michał Znaniecki seems to put an end to this discussion with his interpretation staged in the Krakow Opera. He created a musical masterpiece. He is one of the best known Polish opera directors in the world, who takes an unorthodox approach to the matter of the pieces he works on. It is a collage of, at times loosely connected, scenes presented in an attractive form which take us on a journey around the world – together with Candide characters – in the search of a land in which one could breathe happiness. Each of the stops in the journey has a varying character, adorned with an opera-like splendour and a musical-like craze. A parade-like chick makes the audience follow the director’s imagination with delight. Some of the ideas are risky, such as the appearance of a bearded drag queen or the dance of nuns and inquisitors who are wearing hooded outfits still used today in processions in the Iberian Peninsula; the ideas, however, turn out to be successful. Jarosław Staniek, an amazing choreographer - already known by the Krakow audience, is to be credited for this. (...) Choreography is well-thought-out and adapted to the stage of the Krakow Opera, especially with such a numerous cast performing. Similar compliments can be paid to Luigi Scoglio, author of the scenery. He managed to build a stage world above chronological and geographical divisions. A bookshelf is an axis of the stage – this comes as no surprise since we are in Wolter’s world. Yet, we quickly jump to the new worlds hidden behind the shelves (Is this an allusion to knowledge derived from books?). Anyway, a sense of depth, multiple layers and stories told over space was created. Even if this is sometimes too visually literal, the vividness of this narration simply seduces the audience.

Łukasz Gazur stressed the modern meaning of “Candide”: Znaniecki read the piece uncanonically and made the audience think about what the modern El Dorado is. He once again proved how up-to-date the productions viewed in an opera building can be.