CARMINA BURANA (1990) is a specific monograph on love not showing its emergence and vicissitudes in a linear way, but presenting all of its phases at once. On the musical level the piece is at the same time a call for the music of the Middle Ages. Many musicologists claim that medieval music extended throughout Europe and was partially preserved in many local traditions. In CARMINA BURANA therefore - besides the reconstruction of the melodies from the 13th century code - there were also religious hymns and many folk songs originating in various cultures. Staniewski also included musical phrases from the cantata of Carl Orff. He fused the selected songs with the myth of Tristan and Isolde and he introduced the figure of Merlin and his earthly lover Vivian, belonging also to the sphere of Celtic tales.
The performance goes on in a new hall in a rebuilt outhouse, in a cross-shaped space, in front of the Wheel of Fortune closing it from one side surrounded by pavilions and the podium - a harmonium set down on the other side, around which the choir groups itself.
The choir creates a world of play, calls up the characters, maintains the tension and conducts an eternal dialogue.
CARMINA BURANA recalls the legend of Tristan and Isolde. All its themes are present in mythical times. It is saturated with the struggle of good against evil, marking out the progress of the world, perhaps having its beginning in the human soul, possibly with the plan provoked by Merlin the half-human, half-demon, who himself in the end suffered a defeat. It defines the arena of rivalry and drawing closer together, conflicts, love, betrayals and friendship.
Just as in other GARDZIENICE performances, in CARMINA BURANA there are no tales presented in a naturalistic way. Everything that occurs has the form of allusion, metaphor, poetic brevity - it takes place in a space filled entirely with music and song.
Tristan, and later on the Older Isolde, are tied to the Wheel of Fortune located in the centre. Fate turns them round. The King looks down on everything. He maintains power. A stiff symmetrical hierarchy arises. Accidents of fate cause the downfall of the heroes, often on a floating barge, a ship without a rudder. The overthrown are surrounded by demonstrations, processions, dynamic action. Rising up to fight they cause their rebirth and afterwards new conflicts and activities.
The space of CARMINA BURANA has become the place of the play of cosmic forces. Humanity has become entangled. The iconography of love full of rapprochement, partings, yearnings, betrayals, reconciliation, fulfillment, admissions of guilt - and therefore judgment aswell - entangles itself with its own philosophy of history, with the allegorically shown conception of the rise and fall of the Kingdom of Happiness, with the history of the destruction of the cosmic order. They are pervaded by the perspective of the Gnostic depiction of reality with its eternal questions about the function of good and evil. Great matters are linked with small ones, mythical and personal, universal and national. The desire for love with the activity of the «evil soul», the recognition of God and the problem of evil, deep friendship with aggressive fighting. A curse full of venom sounds together with lyrical emotion, the hymn in praise of the Lord mixes with giggles; love hungers with the rhythm of the black mass; nostalgia for the glorious deed with the anti-Jewish pogrom.
The music in CARMINA BURANA - the richest of all the productions - has been treated as the most flexible material. It breaks its forms, escapes old rules, with impunity absorbs songs originating from various times and places. It is interrupted by dissonance, by a suddenly broken sound – and then it becomes fused again, harmonized with rhythm; surrounded by the hard breath of the people. It is an attempt to summon from nothingness the music of the Middle Ages and the spiritual values of the era.
Direction, text adaptation, dramaturgy of music: Włodzimierz Staniewski
Costumes: Rena Targońska, by concept Włodzimierz Staniewski
Premiere Cast: Grzegorz Bral, Catherine Corrigan, Mariusz Gołaj, Stanisław Kral, Elżbieta Podleśna, Dorota Porowska, Emma Rice, Tomasz Rodowicz, Jacquline. P. Thomas, Anna Zubrzycka
The first presentations: 1990 in Gardzienice