Krauze, Zygmunt


Krauze, Zygmunt

Gwiarzda (The Star) (mit deutschem Libretto)

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Zygmunt Krauze
(b. Warsaw, 19 September 1938)

Gwiarzda (The Star)

Chamber opera in one act (1981-82)
on a libretto by Helmut Kajzar

Scoring: 2 sopranos, 2 mezzo-sopranos, alto, tenor saxophone (also soprano melodicas),
trumpet (also alto melodicas), percussion, accordion, electric guitar, violin and double bass

Zygmunt Krauze is a leading member of that post-war generation of composers that has gone down in music history as the Polish School and included such internationally acclaimed figures as Krzysztof Penderecki (1933-), Henryk Mikalaj Górecki (1933-), Kazimierz Serocki (1922-1981), Tadeusz Baird (1928-1981), and, of course, the progenitor of them all, Witold Lutosławski (1913-1994). A selective list of Krauze’s many awards and distinctions bears eloquent witness to the role he has played for Polish music on the international scene: Chevalier dans l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres (1984), President of the International Society of Contemporary Music (ISCM, 1987-90), honorary member of the ISCM (1999), the UNESCO Heritage of Humanity Award (2005) and the highest honour bestowed by the nation of France, the Ordre National de la Légion d’honneur (2007), not to mention a first prize at the Gaudeamus Competition (1966) and a great many awards from his native Poland. What sets him apart from this generation is, however, his openness toward media art forms, particularly sound installations, and his advocacy of a distinctive type of minimalism which, along with Tomasz Sikorski (1939-1988), has earned him the tag ‘Polish Minimalist’. His minimalism, however, has roots quite different from those of his American and Western European counterparts: it is grounded in the ‘Unism’ theory propounded in 1928 by the influential Polish painter Wladyslaw Strzeminsky (1892-1953), who shunned contrasts of any sort and developed his paintings from replications and transmutation of small modular units. Transferred to music, this theory took the following form in Krauze’s work: „Whatever the listener discovers in the first few seconds of the performance of the piece will last to the end. The beginning of the composition immediately exposes the whole scale of sound so that nothing alien, nothing new will appear. There will be no surprises.“ (Krauze, 1969)

The result was a body of music of remarkable quality and consistency extending to the present day, beginning with Fête galant et pastoral (1975), a distillation of an eight-layer musical installation, and Piano Concerto no. 1 (1977), where the pianist gradually emerges from and recedes into an iridescent orchestral backdrop, over and over again.

Not surprisingly, this approach to composition does not transfer lightly to the musical stage, and it was thus only relatively late in life that Krauze ventured into the field of opera at all. The immediate result was Gwiarzda (The Star), a chamber opera commissioned by the National Theatre of Mannheim, where it was premièred with the title Die Kleider (The Clothes, or perhaps better: The Costumes) in the Werkhaus Studio on 7 April 1982, conducted by Donald Runnicles with Astrid Schirmer as the eponymous Star. The libretto, by Helmut Kajzar (1941-1982) after his like-named play of 1971, tells of a former diva undergoing a midlife crisis and forced to confront her previous triumphs and setbacks in an effort to establish her true identity. There is no plot as such, only a series of memories, visions and hallucinations to which she responds with various levels of submission or rejection. The composer expressed his thoughts on Die Kleider as follows in the programme booklet of the première: „I was never interested in opera; this is my first work in the genre. It is about a woman, an actress. […] The libretto is cast in the form of a monologue, to make the onstage situations more precise. That is why I decided to leave a rather wide scope for freedom of interpretation in Die Kleider. I wanted the people making the piece – especially the director – to find their own, appropriate form for the opera. So the score is not precisely laid down in many of its details; there is room for various options of stage interpretation and musical realisation. One example: the main soloist’s part is set down in the score, but the other five roles can be freely distributed among female singers according to the director’s concept. All the vocal parts are composed so they can be used in situations which I can only presume – that means that they are written for onstage situations which the director must first invent. Nevertheless, for me it was a matter of course that the music, the sung voices develop the libretto’s essential fragments, corresponding to the performers’ characters.“ (Krauze, 1982)


Read full preface > HERE

Score Data


Opera Explorer




210 x 297 mm





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