EFAcast - International Festival Wratislawia Cantans

In this new episode of the EFAcast, Simon Mundy meets Giovanni Antonini, the Artistic Director of International Festival Wratislawia Cantans (Poland).

The music festival runs from 9 till 18 September 2022.

57th International Festival Wratislawia Cantans - Dangerous Liaisons

The sources of the motto of this year’s Wratislavia Cantans festival are the famous film by Stephen Frears Dangerous Liaisons and the novel by Pierre Choderlos de Laclos of the same title. Some time ago I reread it, which inspired me to look for analogies in music. I would say that this is primarily a novel about power – it is power that drives the characters’ actions. I would risk saying that it is the most common cause of human actions in general.

I do not forget that Wratislavia Cantans was founded as an oratorio festival, so this year we will start and end it with oratorios. Written by Emilio de’ Cavalieri at the very beginning of the 17th century, Rappresentatione di anima et di corpo can be considered the first oratorio in the history of music, in which, apart from music itself, there is also a political and religious dimension. The festival programme includes another oratorio, created recently by the Ukrainian composer Oleksandr Shymko, right after Russia’s first aggression against Ukraine. It is a tribute to the Ukrainians who died at that time. In terms of music, it is a remarkably interesting mixture of Shymko’s contemporary compositional language with Ukrainian folk tradition, very archaic music. That is why this work will be a perfect complement to the programme of this year’s Wratislavia. It is also important that Ukrainian musicians can find a space in Wrocław to show their art.

This is the power of music that crosses borders. Time limits as well. Thanks to it, we enter a very intimate relationship with people who created it hundreds of years ago or today create it hundreds of kilometers from us. This is especially important in the face of war, and Poland and Ukraine have been closely related for centuries. I must admit that until now I was not aware of the close ties between the Polish and Ukrainian nations. Only today when I saw this vast number of refugees admitted in Poland did I realise it. I wanted this year’s Wratislavia Cantans to show this extraordinary relationship between Poles and Ukrainians in its own way. The concert of the National Choir of Ukraine “Dumka” entitled Ukrainian Soul will be an anthology of Ukrainian vocal music dating back to the 18th century. The artists proposed the programme, and we welcomed it with joy.

When working on the Wrocław festival, I have always tried to be as creative as possible. I have been looking for inspiration all around me, to then create a kind of synthesis of what interests me and what is most interesting on the world music scene. This year, however, it turned out to be much more difficult because I lacked the impulses that I always had in abundance: meetings with people, concerts, getting to know new works and new interpretations, surprises and discoveries – what has been my life since I can remember. All this was combined with the anxiety about the war, which is far away from me, but many Ukrainians live in Italy too. It is so emotionally engaging that sometimes it is difficult for me to go back to music and close myself in my own artistic world. Music gives comfort, but now it is not enough. I am not only a musician, and a fanatic one, but also just a human being. Let’s hope that this year’s Wratislavia will prove that the artistic life in Europe has been revived for good, both in the context of the long pandemic break and the drama unfolding behind Poland’s eastern border. Despite the act of war that we are observing, we want to host artists from all over the world, including those from Ukraine, and give the audience an opportunity to learn about the richness of their musical culture.

Giovanni Antonini
Artistic Director of International Festival Wratislavia Cantans