The event com­me­mo­ra­ting the 200th anni­ver­sa­ry of the birth of one of Polan­d’s gre­atest ope­ra com­po­sers has arri­ved in Toron­to. The­re came from Poland the well-known ope­ra sin­gers Elzbie­ta Kacz­ma­rzyk, Joan­na Horod­ko, Tomasz Jan­czak, and Kamil Peka­la. Caro­li­ne Stan­czyk and Sio­na Majew­ski, two Cana­dian clas­si­cal sin­gers were also invi­ted to per­form. The big event took pla­ce at the Chri­stian Per­for­ming Arts Cen­tre, loca­ted in Toron­to­’s west-end, in Eto­bi­co­ke. The sin­gers were sup­por­ted by the Cele­bri­ty Sym­pho­ny Orche­stra, by Lecho­wia Dan­ce Com­pa­ny and children’s cho­ir — all of them from the Gre­ater Toron­to Area. The event was orga­ni­zed by maestro Andrzej Roz­bic­ki. Andrzej Roz­bic­ki cre­ated the Cele­bri­ty Sym­pho­ny orche­stra 25 years ago. “The Very Best of Moniusz­ko” was com­me­mo­ra­ting both anniversaries.

Sta­ni­slaw Moniusz­ko is Polish ope­ra­’s gre­atest com­po­ser. Moniusz­ko cre­ated 10 ope­ras, among which “The Haun­ted Manor” (Strasz­ny Dwor) and “Hal­ka” are the best known and most often play­ed by dif­fe­rent ope­ra houses. Sta­ni­slaw Moniusz­ko also cre­ated hun­dreds of songs of sacred music and secu­lar can­ta­tas. He was born in 1819. By the decree of Polan­d’s Par­lia­ment, the year 2019 has been cal­led the year of Sta­ni­slaw Moniusz­ko. In Poland hun­dreds of musi­cal events were orga­ni­zed to com­me­mo­ra­te his name. Polan­d’s govern­ment also finan­cial­ly hel­ped to orga­ni­ze hun­dreds of events out­si­de of Poland. Thanks to the ener­gy and endu­ran­ce of maestro Andrzej Roz­bic­ki, one of the­se events could take pla­ce in Canada.

It has to be expla­ined that when Moniusz­ko cre­ated his ope­ras, Poland did not exist as a sta­te. Polan­d’s ter­ri­to­ry was par­ti­tio­ned among three powers: Rus­sia, Prus­sia, and the Austro-Hun­ga­rian Empi­re. This occu­pa­tion con­tri­bu­ted to the lack of distri­bu­tion and lack of popu­la­ri­ty of Monuiszko’s music in the Western hemi­sphe­re. The years Moniusz­ko cre­ated his music were the dar­kest years of Polan­d’s occu­pa­tion. The Polish lan­gu­age was not tau­ght in public scho­ols. In fact, in scho­ols under Prus­sian and Rus­sian occu­pa­tion, the use of the Polish lan­gu­age was enti­re­ly for­bid­den. Thus, Moniusz­ko­’s music was not popu­la­ri­zed, and was con­fi­ned mostly to Polan­d’s eth­nic ter­ri­to­ry. Even after Poland rega­ined inde­pen­den­ce at the end of the First World War, Moniusz­ko­’s ope­ras, and Moniuszko’s music did not gain popu­la­ri­ty in Western Euro­pe and in North Ame­ri­ca. Stran­ge­ly eno­ugh I have met inde­pen­den­tly two dif­fe­rent people from Chi­na who told me that they have seen ope­ra “The Haun­ted Manor” in Chi­na. “The Haun­ted Manor” was only recen­tly being shown in USA, and never in full in Cana­da. “The Very Best of Moniusz­ko” was one of the lar­gest events in North Ame­ri­ca whe­re, to a lar­ge extent were sung excerpts from Moniusz­ko­’s ope­ras, and also some other of his songs were pre­sen­ted to the public.

The first part of the event was dedi­ca­ted enti­re­ly to Moniusz­ko­’s music, and the second part, after the inter­mis­sion, was a mix of clas­si­cal music, and popu­lar music, also inc­lu­ding Polish popu­lar music which is beco­ming clas­si­cal music such as for instan­ce the song Dead Sea (Morze Martwe).

In the first part. the four sin­gers sang parts mostly from The Haun­ted Manor. The sto­ry of the ope­ra takes pla­ce in the seven­te­enth cen­tu­ry, when two sol­diers are coming back home. On the­ir way, they stop in a noble­ma­n’s manor for the night. and the sto­ry revo­lves aro­und the two sol­diers and young dau­gh­ters of the owner of the manor. The sin­gers sang the­ir songs in the histo­ri­cal dress of the time used by the noble­men. They were sup­por­ted by the dan­cers from Lecho­wia also dres­sed in the uni­forms from that time.

Elzbie­ta Kacz­ma­rzyk sang the aria of Jadwi­ga “Dum­ka”. Ms. Kacz­ma­rzyk, a mez­zo-sopra­no mat­ched well to the role of Jadwi­ga, and ope­ned the show in a per­fect man­ner. Ste­fan Jan­czak took the role of Ste­fan, one of the two sol­diers, and having a smo­oth tenor gained the hearts of the over 1,500 listeners.

Kamil Peka­la is a rela­ti­ve­ly young ope­ra sin­ger. He sings in five lan­gu­ages and has per­for­med in many coun­tries. He is equ­ip­ped with a strong bari­to­ne. That eve­ning he sang a couple of dif­fi­cult arias. One of the most known arias was from “The Haun­ted Manor” is Miecz­ni­k’s aria, Mr. Peka­la did a good job. As the emo­tions of the show were rising with each of the arias per­for­med, the time came to the moment when Elzbie­ta Kacz­ma­rzyk, Jani­na Horod­ko, Tomasz Jan­czak and Kamil Peka­la sang “The Quar­tet.”. They did it per­fec­tly. And a per­fect sup­por­ting job was made by the Cele­bri­ty Sym­pho­ny Orche­stra. It sho­uld be men­tio­ned that in this orche­stra the­re is only a few musi­cians ori­gi­nal­ly from Poland, never­the­less, the orche­stra felt the spi­rit of the music perfectly.

Caro­li­ne Stan­czyk who is born in Cana­da but of Polish parents and who just recen­tly gra­du­ated from Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to, sang beau­ti­ful­ly in a per­fect sopra­no, the song “The uncertainty”.

Mr. Roz­bic­ki invi­ted Ms. Sio­na Majew­ski to sing a dif­fi­cult “Song of the Eve­ning”. The song is dif­fi­cult both musi­cal­ly and oral­ly. Ms. Sonia Majew­ski was not born in Poland and acqu­ired the Polish lan­gu­age thro­ugh her hus­band. Some songs of Moniusz­ko were trans­la­ted rela­ti­ve­ly recen­tly from Polish to English. Ms. Majew­ski deci­ded to sing in the Polish lan­gu­age. She did it with the accom­pa­ni­ment of all of the other five sin­gers. That was the per­fect fina­le to the first part of the evening.

The second part of the show was a com­bi­na­tion of songs from dif­fe­rent ope­ras, musi­cals, and Polish movies, and also songs of Polish rock bands. It was a good idea to incor­po­ra­te into the eve­ning some of the songs and music for movies, and also songs sung by rock bands. Thank to movies, and the clas­si­cal music that is from movies. the young gene­ra­tion keeps this type of music popu­lar and ali­ve. Good music from some movies is beco­ming clas­si­cal. Less often, but it also hap­pens that some music per­for­med by rock bands is beco­ming classical.

The song “Dead Sea” was cre­ated by the Polish rock band Bud­ka Sufle­ra. The words of the “Dead Sea” may espe­cial­ly appe­al to the com­mu­ni­ty of emi­grants. The song was sung in the Polish lan­gu­age by the duo of ope­ra sin­gers Joan­na Horod­ko and Tomasz Jan­czak. And aga­in, the audien­ce liked it. What would I do fur­ther with that par­ti­cu­lar song? I would ask the Polish-Cana­dian jazz band “Kom­pot” to sing the song in the English lan­gu­age in order to bring the words clo­ser to tho­se for whom Polish lan­gu­age is a second lan­gu­age, or for the­se who do not know the Polish lan­gu­age. “Dead Sea” is a beau­ti­ful and emo­tio­nal song and is wor­thy to be popu­la­ri­zed in the English-spe­aking hemi­sphe­re. It could be used as a lure to attract young people to make them come to the con­cert halls, to hear clas­si­cal music, and music cre­ated in Poland.

Con­tem­po­ra­ry Polish com­po­sers are quite often being invi­ted to wri­te music for movies cre­ated in USA and other coun­tries. But some­how the music from movies made in Poland is not gaining popu­la­ri­ty in the West. It needs to be per­for­med more often out­si­de of Poland becau­se it is abo­ut love, is roman­tic, and the lines of the music are calming.

The intro­duc­tion of music from Eastern Euro­pe, and from Poland, to North Ame­ri­ca can be made main­ly thro­ugh shows like this one. Euro­pe is dif­fe­rent. Over the­re the exchan­ge of sin­gers, orche­stras, and musi­cians is going on at a ste­ady peace. For instan­ce, my home­town is Jele­nia Gora in Poland. Mr. Tomasz Jan­czak, the tenor, sings in the ope­ra in the city of Wroc­law, and in addi­tion is a direc­tor of the Phil­har­mo­nic Orche­stra in the town of Jele­nia Góra, and the Direc­tor of the Lower Sile­sia Ope­ra Com­pe­ti­tion. The city of Jele­nia Gora has a Phil­har­mo­nic Orche­stra and a phil­har­mo­nic hall, and has a the­atre. The city has some hun­dred tho­usand inha­bi­tants. But the town is situ­ated in the moun­ta­ins whe­re in the small towns the­re are a lot of hotels and spas. Thanks to that, the­re is a ste­ady flow of people inte­re­sted in hearing clas­si­cal music. Eve­ry year when I visit my home­town, I am pas­sing by the phil­har­mo­nic hall and I noti­ce that eve­ry time the­re are visi­ting arti­sts from all over Euro­pe. So, the­re in Euro­pe, and espe­cial­ly in coun­tries of Euro­pe­an Com­mu­ni­ty, the­re is a ste­ady exchan­ge of arti­sts, musi­cians. They have a chan­ce to play in other coun­tries, other cities. In the coun­tries of the Euro­pe­an Com­mu­ni­ty, arti­sts, musi­cians, have a lot of oppor­tu­ni­ties to view each other, to obse­rve each other on a much big­ger sca­le than what we see in North America.

Maestro Roz­bic­ki over the past 25 years orga­ni­zed eve­ry year ste­adi­ly 2 to 3 big musi­cal events. He did it with an empha­sis on brin­ging a mix of sin­gers and a varie­ty of music. This gives the oppor­tu­ni­ty to sin­gers from Cana­da to sing along with sin­gers from Euro­pe. And it is a heal­thy mix. It gives the show emo­tion, and one may feel that some kind of com­pe­ti­tion is going on, on the sta­ge. To main­ta­in the­ir skill, sin­gers must sing for the public, musi­cians must play in public, dan­cers have to dan­ce in front of an audien­ce. This is the only way to main­ta­in skills, or to bring arti­stic skills to a higher level. The public comes and enjoys the ready pro­duct. But this ready pro­duct is being pre­pa­red for a year or lon­ger. Some­one has to be the spi­ri­tus movens, some­one has to bring it all toge­ther, to orga­ni­ze all of it. Toron­to is luc­ky that it has Andrzej Roz­bic­ki. Thanks to his ener­gy, thanks to his ende­avor and endu­ran­ce, events like this one can take pla­ce, and the satis­fac­tion of patrons of good music can be ful­fil­led. Yet, Mr. Roz­bic­ki, never for­gets abo­ut the people who are hel­ping him to orga­ni­ze such big shows. He does not for­get abo­ut the musi­cians and volun­te­ers invo­lved eve­ry time in a pro­duc­tion. During this event. seve­ral musi­cians and volun­te­ers who were asso­cia­ted with the Cele­bri­ty Sym­pho­ny Orche­stra obta­ined awards from Polan­d’s Mini­stry of Cul­tu­re. Mr. Roz­bic­ki under­stands that big events like this one can be cre­ated only when a lar­ge gro­up of people gets toge­ther and works as a gro­up for seve­ral weeks and mon­ths towards a com­mon goal of brin­ging addi­tio­nal arti­stic value to Cana­da. Let’s hope that in the same way as Mr. Roz­bic­ki does not for­get abo­ut people asso­cia­ted with him, Onta­rio is also not going to for­get in ack­now­led­ging the work of Mr. Roz­bic­ki. In the mean­ti­me: Thank you maestro Rozbicki.

Janusz Niem­czyk