Five years after his The Captive Mind, Robert Bondara returns to Bydgoszcz’s Opera Nova to choreograph Karol Szymanowski’s Stabat Mater and Harnasie.Bondara has invited stage designer Julia Skrzynecka to contribute to the shows. The two collaborated in Bondara’s previous ballets, such as Persona and Nevermore…? (National Opera in Warsaw), Čiurlionis (Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre in Vilnius), Firebird and The Magnificent Mandarin udowny mandaryn (Wrocław Opera).
Robert Bondara on choreographing Stabat Mater:
My staging of Stabat Mater is not intended as a literal representation of the passion of Christ and the torment of Virgin Mary, but rather a symbolic reference to the event. I hope that such a point of view will enrich the interpretative range of the piece, enabling the audience to watch Stabat Mater not just from the perspective of Mary mourning the death of Jesus Christ, but also a Mother who weeps for her dead Son. I trust that in conferring a more human dimension on the story through its universalism, it will become dearer to the viewer. The structure of the performance resembles that of a peculiar rite, performed to evoke and enact the well known narrative anew.
…and his work with Harnasie:
Since the premiere of Harnasie, the surrounding reality has changed diametrically. One would struggle today to find Podhale highwaymen as depicted in the libretto. The folklore has lost much of its authenticity – it no longer constitutes an integral part of the local communities; converted into entertaining stylization, it acts as a decorative ornament with various celebrations, e.g. wedding ceremonies set in highland sceneries.
While working on Harnasie I did not pursue a faithful reconstruction, whose perfection would be measured by the most faithful reproduction of the original. It seemed far more attractive and exciting to me to remain faithful to the libretto and the score, while at the same time discovering and emphasizing those components which – despite the passage of time – remain relatable to contemporary audiences and cohere with today’s reality. Thus, the colorful folklore gives way to an in-depth analysis of individual characters, their problems and motives, but also interpersonal relationships and social relations which frequently influence one’s decisions. I hope such a perspective will enable to highlight the universal message of the work, one which lends Harnasie its timeless stature.
Directed and choreographed by: Robert Bondara
Musical director: Maciej Figas
Stage design and costumes: Julia Skrzynecka
Choir preparation: Henryk Wierzchoń
Lighting design: Maciej Igielski
Produced under the honorary patronage of the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage.
Robert Bondara is adancer, choreographer and pedagogue, artist of the Polish National Ballet. A graduate of the Feliks Parnell State Ballet School in Łódź, the Warsaw School of Economics (postgraduate studies for managers of culture), and the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, where he currently works as lecturer. His first affiliation was with the Music Theatre in Łódź, from which he moved to the Wielki Theatre in Poznań. In 2005, he joined the Polish National Ballet, and in 2008 he began his collaboration with Aleksandra Dziurosz’s Warsaw Dance Theatre.
A laureate of the 2nd prize (1st prize was not awarded) and the Special Prize of the Witold Lutosławski Society in the Bronisława Niżyńska National Choreographic Competition in Warsaw (2008), the Jan Kiepura Prize in the Choreographer of the Year category (2011), he was also the finalist of the 27th and 29th International Choreographers’ Competition in Hannover (2013, 2015), and a laureate of the Bronze Medal for Merits to Culture “Gloria Artis” (2016).
Bondara participated in the Polish National Ballet Choreographic Workshops, where he choreographed When You End and I Begin... to Paweł Szymański’s music (the piece was later included in the company’s chamber repertoire), as well as Szabolcs Esztényi’s The Garden's Gates, Amon Tobin’s 8m68 and Współczynnik przenikania [Permeation factor], Czkawka [Hiccup] to the music composed by Michał Jacaszek and Take Me With You to the music composed by Radiohead.
In 2011, he was a guest with Opera Nova in Bydgoszcz, where he directed an original ballet The Captive Mind, inspired by Czesław Miłosz’s book and featuring music by Philip Glass and Wojciech Kilar. That same year, he choreographed another original piece for the Polish National Ballet (Persona, music: Aldona Nawrocka, Arvo Pärt and Paweł Szymański). 2013 saw the world premiere of his Čiurlionis, choreographed for the Lithuanian National Opera and Ballet Theatre in Vilnius. In 2014, he directed The Wonderful Mandarin and Firebird with the ballet of the Wrocław Opera, as well as Nevermore…? with the Polish National Ballet (the piece was presented alongside Jiří Kylián’s Field Mass and Kurt Joos’s Green table as part of a piece titled 1914). The premiere took place at the 6th Days of Dance at the Polish National Opera in Warsaw. In 2016, Bondara has choreographed for such ensembles as Washington’s Company E and the Kielce Dance Theatre.
His choreographies were presented at the Polish Ballet Competition in Gdańsk, International Gala of ballet Stars in Szczecin, Didura Festival in Sanok, 43rd International Dance Festival in Kuopio, as well as at Moscow’s Bolshoi Theatre, in Bergen and Stavanger, at the Dance Sald Festival in Houston, JFK Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, Dancing Poznań – International Dance Theatre Festival in Poznań, “Studio” Theatre in Warsaw, and during the 2nd, 3rd, 4th, 5th and 6th Days of Dance at the Polish National Opera in Warsaw.