“Searching for Lear: Verdi” — “The Voice of the Excluded” at the Opera

This was not just a performance; it was a touching story of impermanence and old age, with its starting point in Shakespeare’s “King Lear” and Giuseppe Verdi’s music. On 5 October, Michał Znaniecki presented his “Searching for Lear: Verdi” on our Chamber Stage — a performance he staged as part of “The Voice of the Excluded” project. The artist’s keyword was “exclusion” and his goal was including in the theatre experience those social groups for whom it is normally challenging to access art and culture. The project was launched in 2013 in Wrocław, and in subsequent years has visited other cities, arriving in Krakow along the way. For each edition, the director brought in a different group of people struggling with social exclusion.

The Krakow performance, aside from Jerzy Artysz, Wojciech Malajkat, Ewa Biegas, Karin Wiktor-Kałucka, and Marta Mika, features the residents of Krakow’s care homes and the Choir and Ballet Studio of the Krakow Opera. The performance is accompanied on the piano by Jacek Kita – the project’s music director. “It is beautiful, worthy of respect and praise that a valued director brings light to problems that may affect any of us, and which are at the same time so hard to talk about — on the one hand, the issue of exclusion, and on the other — the transience of life and the dark side of old age. The staging, although it is a combination of theatre and opera, has no on-stage showiness — it touches important, albeit difficult, matters, breaking through the barrier of shame and clichés. That is its great power” writes Anna Małachowska (nascenie.info). Michał Znaniecki uses the story of King Lear and the music of G. Verdi — a composer who dreamt of writing an opera based on Shakespeare’s drama, but was never able to reach that goal. Anna Woźniakowska notes on the Polska Muza site: “… thanks to Michał Znaniecki, we have been able to watch and listen to Verdi’s “King Lear” at the Krakow Opera …”.

Because of the inclusion of the elderly residents of Krakow’s care homes, the themes of age and transience gained additional depth, and above all authenticity, which combined with the director’s vision and the artistic creativity of the soloists and the actors, moved more than a few of the spectators in the audience. “… it was, at least for me, an interesting experience, or even a moving one,” Anna Woźniakowska writes. 

The performance was repeated on 6 October. The part of Fool was played by Kamil Baron, with the accompaniment by Joachim Kołpanowicz.