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Sacrum Profanum Festiwal

World premiere at the finale of the Sacrum Profanum Festival


The 16th Sacrum Profanum Festival opens on 11 September. During the week-long festival, we will hear dozens of Polish and world premieres, with the finale featuring the opera ahat ilī – Sister of Gods, specially commissioned from Alek Nowak and with an original libretto by Olga Tokarczuk. It’s the first ever opera with a libretto by this acclaimed, popular author.

“Sacrum Profanum’s identity is structured around fascinating elements in music. I’m sure it brings as much enjoyment to the listeners as it does to the artists. Last year’s festival fostered discussion, inspired us to ask questions and underpinned the idea that we shouldn’t just listen to music – we should think about it, too,” says Izabela Helbin, director of the Kraków Festival Office. The Sacrum Profanum Festival opens the autumn season of events in our city – it’s simply unmissable! This year’s festival once again showcases the full spectrum of contemporary music.

“This is the third time Sacrum Profanum is presented in a refreshed format. We focus on experimental and uncompromising music, and continue shifting the boundaries between different genres and aesthetics. The extensive programme will once again provide a bold commentary on the world around us. We are also making sure the festival preserves its unique identity, and – naturally – promise the highest quality music,” says Krzysztof Pietraszewski, curator of the festival. He adds, “We start by announcing the world premiere of the feminist opera ahat ilī – Sister of Gods, created by a tremendous team of artists, most of whom are women. The event is bound to make a great impact.”

ahat ilī – Sister of Gods will be the culmination of this year’s Sacrum Profanum Festival. The unique work was created by an extraordinary ensemble of artists: the music was composed by Alek Nowak, the libretto was penned by Olga Tokarczuk and the performance is directed by Pia Partum, with sets designed by Magdalena Maciejewska. “Although most of the characters in the story are gods, the protagonist is a man and his godly and ungodly nature,” says the Silesian composer. Nowak’s musical language is brought together by a highly distinctive idiom, intertwining different aesthetics and inspirations; we can hear nods to tradition, as well as the latest composition techniques.

The libretto is loosely based on Olga Tokarczuk’s novel Anna In w grobowcach świata. “Myths describe events which have never happened, but which are also always happening. The tale of the mutinous goddess who descends to the underworld to confront her own sister, the mistress of death, is one of humankind’s oldest stories, filled with presages of many later myths. This ancient legend has been asking pertinent and universal questions as far back as five millennia ago: questions on immortality, on the relationship between gods and humankind, on sacrifice. The captivating, audacious goddess Inanna remains surprisingly modern,” says Tokarczuk, stressing the universal themes in the opera. The director Pia Partum adds, “Death remains our unvanquished enemy. Humankind has always strived to overcome it. The cosmos – eternal, merciless order which provokes revolt. Humans have always revolted against their gods. Here, the ancient Sumerian tale carved into clay takes place at an unspecified point in the future, in a strange, futuristic city. The incomprehensibility of the intertwining languages which tell the story serves to stress its universal nature and the validity of the desires which drive it.”

Originally written in Polish, the opera will be performed in several languages: modern English for the human characters, and selected ancient languages – Acadian, Latin, ancient Greek, Proto-Slavic and Aztec – for the gods and demons.

We are delighted to reveal the dates of the festival finale, but this is just the start of our announcements of the Sacrum Profanum programme. The premiere of ahat ilī – Sister of Gods will be a pivotal moment for contemporary Polish music. We will be revealing the soloists and performers soon, followed by announcements on other elements of the festival programme.

Tickets for the opera go on sale on 11 March!

Sunday 16 September 2018

ahat ilī – Siostra bogów | ahat ilī – Sister of Gods (2018), 90’ [world premiere]

Alek Nowak (music), Olga Tokarczuk (libretto),

Pia Partum (director), Magdalena Maciejewska (stage sets)

8pm // Theatre Hall, ICE Kraków

Monday 17 September 2018

ahat ilī – Siostra bogów | ahat ilī – Sister of Gods (2018), 90’ [world premiere]

Alek Nowak (music), Olga Tokarczuk (libretto),

Pia Partum (director), Magdalena Maciejewska (stage sets)

9pm // Theatre Hall, ICE Kraków