In popular culture and in the collective imagination, thattreasure trove of culture, the names of Sybil and Pythia, as well as of Cassandra, merged into one. All three are associated with the ability to foretell the future andendowed with divine inspiration and with the ability to uncover the mysteries of the human condition.
Sibyl came from Kume, in the Etruscan Campania (said to have come there from Greece), Cassandra was from Troy, and the prophetess, praised under the name of Pythia, was lodged in Delphi.
Today, in Delphi one can touch a rock, which they call the Sibyl’s Rock. Cassandra led a worldly life ("bios"), while the life of Sybil and Pythia passed into an eternal dimension (the Greek "zoe"). They all received their prophetic gift from Apollo and have become an inexhaustible source of inspiration for poets/eulogists, whom we, Slavs, call "wieszcz", soothsayers.
"Where is that man, who a whole thought from my song will hear?" (A. Mickiewicz)
Apollo reigned in Delphi, and he also took care of the Seven Wise Men, who were called in the sixth century BC into this hub of the universe, to give testimony to the sagacity and sublimeness of the Greek mind and spirit. One should not, however, forget that Delphi was the only place where sanctuaries of both Apollo and Dionysus resided together in almost brotherly harmony. Thunderous Apollonian paeans and Dionysian dithyrambs resounded over the mountain pastures and trails of Mount Parnassus which overlooked Delphi,.
The first praised reason, the second- music and intuition.
In the whole of human history there cannot be verses—and all included in one code—so concise in form, so deep and lofty in content, so poetically winged and so musical, such as "the commandments of the Seven Wise Men". And their validity never expires. They (of course) cut across the chatter of our post-culture, the washing out of faith of all values from today’s post-world—one hundred and fifty maxims, precepts, exclamations, exhortations, requests, warnings, litanies, spells and "skyward screams" ...
Engraved in a conical stone wasthe omphalos, set before the temple of Apollo, at the foot of the rock, from which on the seventh day of each month Pythia / Sibyl would deliver her prophecies. So it is said by some ... Others have suggested that both Pythia and the omphalos were hidden from the eyes of ordinary mortals in the adyton, in the Holy of Holies, the shrine of Apollo. Still others presume that there were two stones - one designating the centre of the world, the second – a stele, on which the message of the Seven Wise Men was carved.
Some sound like road signs to life ("Do not break the oath," "Praise bravery," "Drink in moderation"), while others - like the Sibylline paraphrase ("Think of hearing," "Behold, what you heard," "Look like a stranger"; "Know what you know") are more enigmatic and thought-provoking.
On the stone, the word and the musical note were engraved alike. The stone spoke and sang. For centuries, since early historic times, the stone cone of Delphi was repeatedly copied—not only in the Peloponnese, but also in Miletopolis and in other cities of Asia Minor, and even in Egypt, and in Afghan Bactria. Sibyl / Pythia appeared in their successive incarnations wherever ancient Hellenes set foot. Divination, in antiquity, was an art as common and as desirable, as prediction and fantastic are today. The ancients postulated: "Know thyself." Modern magicians foretell of exchange rates and conduct public opinion research. Commentary is unnecessary. And here,a word from eminent experts:
"We must always remember that the original inscription “in the most holy Pythian shrine" was cut on the stele sometime in the early 6th c. B.C. (if not earlier) (…) We know that "The Commandments of the Seven" is the earliest known didactic collection of Greek wisdom and we know also that it has successfully served Greek education for more than twenty full centuries.
Regarding its ethical standard, all we can say is that it stands at a higher level than the Mosaic Decalogue without claiming to be the word of any god, at the same time that it teaches total respect and obedience to Divine power."
The press reviews:
Until the final applause you get the impression that there is no other reality. That we entered the time machine with the audience, and we bought a one way ticket. As we look ahead, our thoughts do not stop just there. Through the foundations of scenes and elements of dramatization they travel further, all the way to the peaks of Parnassus, so that a second later they can crumble into a stone chamber under the temple of Apollo. It is the largest phenomenon of Staniewski’s theatre. The incredible imagery and its impact on the imagination. Using the now famous GARDZIENICE movements and sounds the director can design the world in which we believe so much, that it is impossible to distinguish it from the reality. (...)
In the Pythian Oratorio, as in previous performances, Staniewski attacks with syncretic form of colours, movements and sounds. Every now and then we look at the different part of the stage, to see as much as possible, and still – there is no way to comprehend it all. (...)
During the performance, we see ten actors on the stage. All of them are great individuals, but their superhuman force is active only in the collective body. In the resonant of voices, bodies and movements they create a performance unheard of anywhere else. As usual, they extract a whole range of beautiful and wild sounds from each other, on which they work laboriously for many years. (...) It is an amazing feast for the soul.
Kacper Sulowski, Gazeta Wyborcza
The verses from the "Commandments of the Seven Wise Men" (VI century BC), so concise in their form, were confronted by Włodzimierz Staniewski with the perfection of melodious movement and precise gesture of the actors. The musical form of the Oratorio, with a choir and an orchestra playing live, even doubled the theatrical energy load of the new GARDZIENICE performance. The performance, like a fountain of pure, refreshing water, provides the spectator with much guidance how to move in the time of the post-culture and the post-world.
The recent work of Włodzmierz Staniewski is a performance suited for the times in which a man desperately needs a by-pass to his own heart, and from the heart to the other, from the heart to the sky. Staniewski performed a "bypass surgery" on the open hearts of the audience. The performance restores our faith in the values of modesty, self-control, justice, rationality. It reminds us: Know the right time, search for wisdom, say the beauty, give what you should...
Waldemar Sulisz, Dziennik Wschodni Lubelski
At Delphi, that first village girl, like her countless successors, sat on a tripod allowing Apollo’s vapours to enter her body through her vagina. She felt them pass through the continuous tube which the Greeks believed connected a woman’s vagina and womb with her larynx, and emerge from her lips in the form of inspired utterances—the words of Apollo. The priestess, called the Pythia, was sometimes young; sometimes the office was taken by an older woman, who had produced children, but renounced sexual relations with men to devote herself to providing a pure vessel—a vehicle--for the mediation of the will of Apollo to the ears of men. The post was prestigious, conferring money and status on the priestess and her kin; there must have been tension and competition over the selection and training of suitable candidates.
The aural experience of the Pythia’s trance remains something of a mystery. The Greeks used words to describe it which imply both the growling of dogs and the twittering of swallows. Seers in ancient drama swooped down intervals of more than an octave to represent the moment when the prophetic ecstasy took hold. The form in which the questioners received them was in the ancient, rolling, six-beat verses also used by Greek epic—the dactylic hexameter. Some priestesses may well have been able to extemporise in this verse form, although sometimes their noises were inarticulate and needed to be ‘translated’ into verse riddles by one of the several male priests who attended her.
What impresses me most about the Pythian Oratorio is the emotional conviction with which the Gardzienice actors bring the ancient wisdom speech to life—not only aurally, in their clear-ringing voices, but in the shifting registers of their solo and ensemble dance movements. The performance feels like an act of ritual, as audience and performers become jointly engaged in a mysterious rite of communion with their cultural ancestors, who themselves sought through divination and philosophy to tap into the secrets of human existence and of the universe.
Prof. Edith Hall, Oxford University, U.K.
I was enthralled by the new Pythian Oratorio from start to finish – itwas one of those experiences where you do not notice time passing.The work inextricably weaves together the words of ancient Delphicwisdom with physicality, voice and music into a sequence that is fullof variety and yet forged into a unity. Combined with the dynamic paceand vigour that are so much associated with Staniewski and hisGardzienice performers, there were strands of grace and lyricism,opening up vistas of tranquility locked into a kind of primevalintercourse with struggle and fierceness. Echoes of the Music of theSpheres!
Prof. Oliver Taplin, Oxford University, U.K.
Staniewski’s Pythian Oratorio is an appropriately modern lyrical feastfor the eye and ear. It refreshingly sidesteps touristic ritualism orrecreations of ancient happenings, and from the condition ofmusicality – the resonances of ensemble movement and choric soundings– awakens the aesthetics of mysterious oratory. The piece is bothcommanding and hymnal, bouyant and profound.
Ph.D. Zachary Dunbar, Royal Central School of Speach & Drama, University of London
Autor of the performance - Włodzimierz Staniewski
Compositions for the sentences of the Seven Wise Men - Mikołaj Blajda
Adaptation of Ancient Greek music - Maciej Rychły
Translation of Met emoisi and Eksodos from IPHIGENIA IN AULIS - Jerzy Łanowski
Translation of Tripoda manteion, Asklepion aeisomen, O Bacchou, Promoleth Musai, Hoson dzēs - Jerzy Danielewicz
Premiere Cast: Mariusz Gołaj, Agnieszka Mendel, Marcin Mrowca, Joanna Holcgreber, Anna Dąbrowska, Lia Ikkos Serrano, James Brennan, Martin Quintela, Dorota Kołodziej
Choir – Maciej Gorczyński, Elżbieta Wolińska, graduates of Academy for Theatre Practices GARDZIENICE,
musicians: Gabriela Żmigrodzka, Karolina Rudaś, and originally: Orient Express Orchestra conducted by Mikołaj Blajda.
Previously/temporarily performed: Lia Ikkos Serrano, Mateusz Malecki, Olena Yeremenko, Elżbieta Wolińska, Jan Niemczyk, Karolina Skrzyńska, Lyubomyr Ishchuk, Rafał Granat, Filip Pysz, Kamil Gosek, Szymon Kałużny, Adam Lipiński
Present cast (actors and musicians): Mariusz Gołaj, Marcin Mrowca, Joanna Holcgreber, Anna Dąbrowska, Dorota Kołodziej, Tetiana Oreshko, Magdalena Pamuła, Kacper Lech, Jan Żórawski, Anna Nguyen, Maciej Czerniak, Jacek Sribniak, Maciej Drzymała, Małgorzata Bardak, Bartek Godla, Sylwia Pelak
Lights: Paweł Kieszko
Multimedia: Krzysztof Dziwny
The first presentations: 2013, Łazienki Park in Warsaw