Opera in three acts (four scenes)
Libretto: Ferdinand Lion and the composer based on characters from the short story Das Fräulein von Scuderi by E.T.A. Hoffmann
World premiere: 9 November 1926, Staatsoper, Dresden
Premiere of this production: 23 April 2021, Polish National Opera, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw
A co-production with: Oper Köln; Teatro Real, Madrid
In the original German with Polish
An elusive murderer is on the loose in Paris. He preys on the clients of a renowned jeweller by the name of Cardillac. Following the latest murder, the city’s residents are frustrated to the point of erupting into riot. The young detective at the helm of the investigation has a lead suggesting the involvement of the maker of desirable jewellery himself. At the same time, Cardillac’s daughter is planning to run away from home with her beloved. Her work-obsessed father is unimpressed with the idea. A confrontation between the girl’s sweetheart and her father reveals the identity of the murderer, who is lynched by the angry crowd.
Paul Hindemith’s Cardillac (1926) is one of the most compelling 20th-century operas, a true thriller based on Das Fräulein von Scuderi, a story by the master of fantasy and Gothic fiction, E.T.A. Hoffmann. Young Hindemith was a daringly original music writer, a remarkable innovator. Around 1925, however, he made a U-turn towards German baroque and romantic tradition. Far from becoming an imitator though, he remained an independent artist looking for fresh inspiration in the olden forms.
There’s not a iota of its literary prototype’s historicism in Cardillac. The opera is an example of New Objectivity that rejected the pathos and sentimentality towards the past. The story becomes even more relevant in this day and age. After all, fascination with and fetishisation of valuable objects is the essence of present-day capitalism. Socially mandated productivity calls for glorification of work and perfectionism. Feeling empty inside, the opera’s protagonists try to fill the void with ersatz love or the fantasy of death. There is also a clash of generations, with the jeweller’s daughter embodying triviality and her father being the personification of seriousness and seeming ethos. At its core, the story is an attempt to understand a serial killer – an individual who puts themself above morality and the society. In their take on the opera, director Mariusz Treliński and set designer Boris Kudlička approach it as film noire that poses as great entertainment but in fact offers insight into a killer’s mind. They move the action the present time, or perhaps near future.
It is probably due to its interpretative ambiguity and excellent vibrant polyphonic music that Paul Hindemith’s Cardillac is so eagerly staged internationally. In Poland, however, the composter of the opera Matthis der Maler has been consistently absent from opera listings. This production from Treliński and Kudlička goes against the trend. This is also the first time Hindemith’s music will be heard at the Polish National Opera since the ballet Theme with Variations: The Four Temperaments was shown here in 1962. The opera is a co-production with the Oper Köln and Teatro Real Madrid. Excellent baritone Tomasz Konieczny stars as Cardillac, a role he regularly performs at the Wiener Staatsoper.
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Partner of the premiere
Patrons of the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera
Partners of the Opera Academy
Partners of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera