The Miracle, or Cracovians and Highlanders

Jan Stefani

Vaudeville in four acts  
Libretto: Wojciech Bogusławski
World premiere: 1 March 1794
Premiere: 13 March 2015

In the original Polish 

Today we’d say: engaged art, or a sneaking in of political themes. Bogusławski simply said: ‘playing to say what’s necessary when it’s necessary’. The Miracle, or Cracovians and Highlanders is a piece strongly tied to the past. In the year of the premiere, 1794, similarly to the vaudeville’s plot, a militant mood was catching on in Warsaw: the outbreak of the Kościuszko Uprising and the third partition of Poland were imminent. The audience welcomed the first three performances with euphoria; there was no fourth performance because the show was banned, and it’s a ‘miracle’ that Bogusławski wasn’t arrested. Wojciech Bogusławski, often called the father of Polish theatre, knew both Cracovians and Highlanders, so he created some full-blooded, believable characters. Composer Jan Stefani, a Polonized Czech, creatively drew on Polish folklore, blending it with classical forms. Both performed such a ‘miracle’ that their work has a timeless relevance. After all, people still have an inclination for fun and for quarrels, they still laugh at the situational and verbal jokes in Cracovians… and at the characters, they’re still touched by the polonaise, appreciate the grace of the mazurka and the energy of the krakowiak. Yes, there’s something historical about the show: it’s sung in Old Polish additionally stylized to sound like dialect, the musicians play period instruments, and the sets and costumes conform to the plot. But at the same time, it has a youthful charm: it is performed by students of the Opera Academy of the Polish National Opera.


Participants of Opera Academy, the young talents development programme 
Opera Academy’s baroque orchestra 
Artos Youth Choir

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    The Miracle, or Cracovians and Highlanders: a special production of the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

    Wojciech Bogusławski’s The Miracle, or Cracovians and Highlanders set to music by Jan Stefani is considered to be the first Polish national opera. Written and staged shortly before the third partition of Poland (1795), it employed a light-hearted musical form and brilliant text to carry a very clear patriotic message, so important to Polish audiences at that time. Today, when this aspect has only historical significance, Cracovians and Highlanders is still an attractive opera show with a universal message stemming from folk wisdom, as well as a rewarding learning material for young performers.

    It is precisely with them in mind that the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera is preparing to put on a new production of this opera in 2015. Most of the cast will be young, talented singers who participate in or have graduated from Opera Academy, a programme run by the Teatr Wielki since 2009 to support the professional development of young opera artists, mainly singers. Opera Academy offers its students a chance to take part in regularly organised workshops and master classes; individual voice, acting and language mentoring; as well as continual professional support. Participants can also benefit from workshops held by members of the European Network of Opera Academies, or ENOA, which gathers eleven cultural institutions from ten countries. The Teatr Wielki joined the network in 2009. 

    The new staging of Cracovians and Highlanders is special because its musical setting is supposed to be as close to the 18th century original. An orchestra will be put together specially for the production comprising young musicians who play period instruments or contemporary copies. The ensemble will work under the direction of Władysław Kłosiewicz, Grzegorz Lalek and Tytus Wojnowicz. Władysław Kłosiewicz, a leading interpreter of early music, is the musical director of the whole production and will teach the young musicians the arcana of period performance. His arrangement of the score draws on source materials, including Jan Stefani’s manuscripts.

    Besides a longer rehearsal period than is customary, work on the production will include workshops for the singers and instrumentalists conducted by leading teachers and artists specialising in historically informed performance. The singers will be able to take advantage of vocal consultations, lessons in elocution, acting, and stage movement. Workshops for musicians will include playing period instruments and learning how to get period sound out of contemporary instruments.

    The show will be directed by Jarosław Kilian, the sets and costumes will be designed by Izabela Chełkowska, while the choreographer is Emil Wesołowski.

    Set to premiere at the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera’s small stage, the show is being designed to tour across the country, including places without an opera house or a large theatre stage. Performances will be preceded by talks on the work’s historical and social contexts, its performance tradition, and reception from its original premiere in 1794 until today.

    The Warsaw premiere will be preceded by an extensive educational programme for adults and young people. As well as providing a background for the watching the show, the programme will celebrate 250 years of public theatre in Poland. 


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  • Partners of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

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