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Opera Club: Przybylski’s ‘Anhelli’

Dariusz Przybylski

Teatr Wielki im. Stanisława Moniuszki

Link to watch the production here. Trailer for production here.

This week’s Opera Club is a ‘Discovery’, from Teatr Wielki in Poznan.  For much of the last 200 years, Poland was subjected to the power struggles of its neighbouring empires, suffered multiple losses of its national state and saw its cultural heritage attacked and instrumentalised in turn.

During the European Romanticism of the 19th century, Poland saw the emergence of an artist movement preoccupied with questions about nationhood, national character, and suffering. One of its most prolific exponents was Juliusz Słowacki – now remembered as one of Poland’s national bards, primarily for his prose poem ‘Anhelli’. Written in 1837, only a few years after the failed uprising against the Russian oppressor in 1830, ‘Anhelli’ captured motifs of exile and martyrdom in a story about a pilgrimage through hostile Siberia as the antithesis to an imagined safe homeland Poland. Its protagonist, a boy named Anhelli is chosen by the Shaman as the redeemer of the Polish people – together they embark on a journey through wintery wasteland and places of abject demoralisation.

Loosely based on Słowacki’s text, composer Dariusz Przybylski, director Margo Zālīte and designer Dorota Karolszak create an exhilarating opera installation that focuses in on the original’s elements of wandering on the one hand (the performance begins in the foyer, and the divide between auditorium and stage is broken up, with musicians performing form the balconies and the stage spilling into the audience), and a longing for an unspoilt, utopian homeland on the other. Tying in with the latter, the staging concept included an innovative, sustainable approach: Karolczak’s stunning costumes and sets are made entirely from recycled materials based on the idea of zero waste theatre.  As part of the social project, citizens brought in unwanted items, and the set and costumes were created using these materials.  You can see some behind the scenes images of the costume-making process here: ANHELLI _ DK

Costumes, ‘Anhelli’

Dorota Karolczak has worked with Northern Ireland Opera as set designer for two of our co-productions at the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, The Threepenny Opera and Sweeney Todd for which she was nominated for an Irish Times Irish Theatre Award.

Dorota Karolczak’s set for NI Opera’s ‘Sweeney Todd’

To see all our Opera Club recommendations to date, click here.