Before the 4th International Adam Didur Opera Singers’ Competition

07 january 2019, Monday

An interview with Łukasz Goik, the director of the Silesian Opera

by Regina Gowarzewska

In April next year the Silesian Opera will organise the 4th International Adam Didur Opera Singers’ Competition. Why is that singer the patron of the contest for young artists?

Adam Didur is one of the greatest Polish opera singers, and the founding father of the first opera ensemble (later transformed into the Silesian Opera) in the post-war Poland.  He was born in a small village of Wola Sękowa near Sanok.  He sang major bass parts on various world stages, including the Metropolitan Opera in New York, where he had his début in 1908. He took part in the world première of “La fanciulla del West” (The Girl of the West) by Giacomo Puccini. It was in 1913 that he sang the title part in “Boris Godunov” by Musogosky which was the first staging of that opera in the USA.  Didur’s part was a grand creation and the “New York Sun” wrote that this was unexpectedly colourful and communicative creation of a tragic protagonist.  Didur remained a soloist of the MET until 1929 with as many as 916 performances.  His voice was always met with genuine awe and enthusiasm.  He was a true pride of opera stages.  With time he shifted the focus to teaching, first in Lviv, and then - during the Nazi occupation - in Warsaw.  When the war was about to end, he learnt that there was a chance to create an opera theatre in Katowice.  So his students from the war years followed him to Silesia.  On 14th June 1945 the première of “Halka” by Stanisław Moniuszko took place at stage which now houses the  Wyspiański Theatre in  Katowice.  And this is how the history of the Silesian Opera began.  Therefore I think, that the founders of the first – at that time – national opera singers’ competition in 1979 could not have chosen anyone else.

What makes the Bytom competition unique as compared to other contests for singers?

We are distinguished by our tradition.  The  Adam Didur Competition has been organised for 40 years.  We may easily say that this is the oldest existing competition in Poland.  It is in the Silesian Opera that the beautiful careers of our laureates began; the elite of Polish opera singers earned their stripes in Bytom and only then set off to sing on world stages.  Suffice it to mention here Romuald Tesarowicz, Janusz Monarcha, Piotr Nowacki, Wojciech Drabowicz, Mikołaj Zalasiński, Artur Ruciński, Stanisław Kuflyuk, Aleksandra Kubas, Aleksandra Buczek, Dariusz Machej, Mariusz Godlewski or the talented Australian singer Elena Xanthoudakis and many many more.  However what distinguishes us most of all is the specificity of the repertoire.  We are a typically opera competition.  We search for opera singers who demonstrate not only their talent and great voices, but also acting skills and thus for those who can draw audience attention to their stage creations.  That is why in the finals of the Competition the participants have not only to sing one aria, but they also need to impersonate the character, dress up in costume, stand in decorations and convince the jury by what they have thus created.

Who will sit on the jury this year?

We invite an international group of jurors – among them distinguished singers, teachers, conductors and managers.  Let me just mention here such excellent personalities of the music world as Wiesław Ochman (a famous tenor and director), Izabela Kłosińska (a brilliant singer and teacher), Małgorzata Walewska and Andrzej Dobber – both stars of world opera stages, Wasyl Wowkun (a producer and director) and Bassem Akiki (a conductor).

The Silesian Opera was once called “the breeding ground of new talents”. What steps do you undertake now to still deserve that exceptional name?

I respect the beautiful history of the Silesian Opera where once the most remarkable Polish singers debuted, yet we work on development of all teams and I am always happy to see on our stage people who are talented and who want to make progress. Novice singers are always welcome in Bytom and they can count on my support. At present we have the best singers of the young generation employed with us on permanent basis – Ewa Majcherczyk, Anna Borucka, Ewelina Szybilska, Kamil Zdebel or Sławomir Naborczyk; they are being invited to cooperate by various Polish and foreign opera theatres. We also have young talented conductors: Bassem Akiki, Maciej Tomasiewicz, Grzegorz Brajner or Rafał Kłoczko. For many years now we have been cooperating with the Academy of Music in Katowice. Quite recently we have staged together the première of “La finta giardiniera” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, where one cast included the most talented students. They were able to participate in professional preparations for the performance gaining necessary professional experience.  The Adam Didur Competition is also organized in cooperation with the Academy of Music in Katowice.

Indeed, the last two years of the operation of the Silesian Opera under your management have been a time of tremendous development and it shows how important it is to plan the future based on young people.  Thus, what the  4th International Adam Didur Opera Singers’ Competition  will be like?

I believe it will be interesting and full of young talents.  The Competition is extremely important element of the strategy of creation of a modern opera theatre, open and yet, respecting tradition.  It is also an organizational challenge.  I had a chance to cooperate at three previous editions, twice as an assistant to the Competition director.  It gives me the necessary knowledge and experience, but I also have a team of co-workers managed by Anna Kościelna, an experienced manager who will act as the Competition director.  I planned to organize the 4th edition of the International Adam Didur Opera Singers’ Competition  which is at the same time the tenth, jubilee edition, 40 years after the first one, just before the refurbishment of our stage.  We managed to get financial support from the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage and to win the favour of the Marshal Office.  We invite singers of all nationalities: graduates and students of music universities and conservatories, secondary schools, to soloists of opera houses and music theatres and members of professional choirs, who, on 01st April 2019, will be below the age of 32. The official opening will take place on 31st March and will be followed by Verdi’s “Aida” with brilliant cast – Małgorzata Walewska and Andrzej Dobber. A day before we will also show a competition-dedicated performance of  Poniatowski’s “Don Desiderio” with the winner of the 3rd International Adam Didur Opera Singers’ Competition  Stanisław Kuflyuk in the title part.  Then the three-stage auditions will start, in the last stage the singers will be accompanied by the Orchestra of the Silesian Opera.  The laureates’ concert will take place on 07th April, and then will be repeated on 09th April in the Silesian Theatre in Katowice. The auditions are open to the public so everyone is invited to the Silesian Opera.

Łukasz Goik – a graduate of the Jagiellonian University in Cracow (Institute of Culture, Chair of Culture Management) and the Higher School of Banking in Poznań (faculty of Banking and Finance, major in European Studies and Financial Consulting). He has been working in the Silesian Opera since 2004.  He was twice an assistant to the director of the International Adam Didur  Opera Singers’ Competition. In 2012 he became the deputy director and since 2016 he has been the director of the Silesian Opera.

The interview was published in a bi-monthly ArtPost no. 1(26)/2019 January-February


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