Brussels, 23/08/2019. One of the highlights of my recent first-time trip to Poland was attending the Jan Kiepura opera festival in Krynica-Zdroj, in the south of Poland. Krynica is better known as a winter ski resort, however the opera festival, named after the well-known Polish singer, provides a welcome cultural addition to the town’s summer attraction as a health and wellness retreat.
I’m not normally an opera fanatic, and unfortunately understand almost zero Polish. Which is something of a handicap, as the seven-day festival presents a wide range of music from classical opera to film themes and even a touch of ‘Strictly’. Nevertheless, I had no doubt that the performances were world-class, from the solo voices to the instrumentalists to the orchestras themselves, which were drawn from cities across Poland. And there was more than a sprinkling of comedy in each of the concerts to enliven the proceedings.
The festival puts on free musical performances throughout the day in the town square, and these are popular with visitors. The more formal evening performances take place in the ‘Main Pump Room’, which contrary to what you might expect for such a historic town is a bland modern edifice with little to recommend it except function. However the final evening’s performance of this 2019 festival was held outside on the square – on the programme the Lodz Grand Theater orchestra presenting Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss.
It had rained during the day, and as the seating in the open-air auditorium filled for the event, dark skies threatened further precipitation. Some participants, including in the orchestra, therefore preferred warmer clothing in preparation for the worst. However the organisers had thought ahead, and concert-goers were issued with disposable rain ponchos (much like English summertime pop festivals) as they entered.
I settled in my seat to the left of the stage near to one of the festival’s key organisers – I would have liked to ask him more questions, unfortunately my Polish and his English made that impossible. So I just had to settle back in my seat and listen – not really so diffucult to do.
It is always a pleasure to listen to singers and musicians performing well together. A wonderfully relaxing form of entertainment, and public performances like this nearly always bring out the performers’ best. Indeed it might be tempting to set up some kind of online voting mechanism that could enable audiences to vote for the performances they enjoyed the most.
But perhaps that would go against the spirit of the festival, which is, after all, dedicated to musical variety. I enjoyed almost all the performances I attended, and am quite likely to return. But maybe next time with a little more Polish to help me understand better!
© Philip Hunt, 2019.