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The Warsaw Voice » Stage & Screen » July 13, 2016
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Jewish Culture at its Finest
July 13, 2016   
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Celebrating Jewish culture at its finest, the annual Singer’s Warsaw Festival of Jewish Culture will be held for the 13th time this year. It will start Aug. 27 and run until Sept. 4.

The festival has for more than a decade brought together all those who appreciate the Yiddish language as a key part of the Polish-Jewish heritage. Through the years, the Singer’s Warsaw Festival has featured celebrated artists, authors and musicians who come to share their innovative projects with audiences in the Polish capital. Experts and academics who take part in festival events present viewers with countless opportunities to explore Jewish history, traditions and customs.

This year’s event will kick off with a concert at the Nożyk Synagogue in central Warsaw. It will feature some of the world’s best cantors, including Yaakov Lemmer, Benzion Miller and Tzudik Greewald, accompanied by pianist Menchaem Bristowski and the Warsaw Chamber Opera Orchestra. The Warsaw Chamber Opera company will later play Requiem by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart on Grzybowski Square. The masterpiece of religious music will be performed by four Warsaw Chamber Opera soloists along with the opera’s Vocal Ensemble and Sinfonietta Orchestra.

The Nożyk Synagogue will then host one of three piano concerts showcasing work by Polish-born Jewish composers. This time, pianist Kuba Stankiewicz will play his project entitled The Music of Henryk Wars. Other music highlights of this year’s festival include Yiddish Tango, a unique project taking audiences back to the Warsaw of the 1930s with familiar tango pieces in new arrangements. The songs will be performed in Polish, Yiddish, Hebrew and Spanish by singer Olga Avigail to music played by the Tango Attack group led by composer and pianist Hadrian Tabęcki.

The Singer’s Warsaw festival will close with a concert headlined by The Klezmatics, a New York-based klezmer group. Versatile and eclectic, The Klezmatics play a variety of music styles and genres from traditional Jewish songs and jazz to gospel and rock’n’roll. The outdoor Night of the Klezmers concert will also feature Hamsa (Britain), a band that combines Jewish music from Central Europe with Sephardic tunes from Turkey into a melting pot of Mediterranean beats. Finally, the female trio Sormeh from Austria, formed by two Iranians and a Serb, will deliver their signature happy blend of impromptu Orient- and Balkan-inspired performances with Jewish music.

Music will also play a key part in a multimedia project entitled Remember by Italian musician Francesco Bruno. His work centers on Primo Levi, an Italian Jewish writer who used poetry to recount his concentration camp experience. In the Remember project, Bruno’s moving music strengthens Levi’s testimony of what it was like to live in a death camp.

Polish sax player Leszek Ż±dło will come to Warsaw from his home in Germany to play music by the famous Polish movie score composer Krzysztof Komeda, a big fan of Jewish culture. Tracks performed by Ż±dło come from The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden, a musical Komeda wrote shortly before his death.

Other noteworthy music acts to attend the Singer’s Warsaw festival include the Tel Aviv-based trio Savannah and The Stringz, who are bringing their experimental mix of jazz, indie rock, cabaret and classical chamber music. Polish jazz musician Włodzimierz Nahorny will be celebrating his 75th birthday during the festival by performing a music set together with his guests: Zbigniew Namysłowski, Wojciech Jachna, Wojciech Myrczek and the Sefardix Trio featuring Jorgos Skolias. The musicians will join forces on Jewish tracks from Sefardix’s largest album entitled Maggid.

This year’s festival will also have a lot in store for theater lovers. The highlight is Anne Frank, a play written by Croatia’s Jakov Sedlar and based on the Diary of Anne Frank, which is the second most translated book in history after the Bible. The play takes the form of a theatrical mass, allowing audiences to see the Holocaust through the eyes of a terrified young girl.

Theater and music will meet cooking in The Kishke Monologues, a show that takes viewers on a culinary voyage across Eastern Europe with Jewish cuisine as the central theme. The amusing yet touching show comprises Jewish songs and Hebrew monologues delivered by young actors from the Yiddishpiel National Jewish Theater in Israel.

Warsaw audiences will then see Eichmann, a compelling play by Austria’s Franz Froshauer. The story is narrated by Adolf Eichmann, a war criminal sentenced for genocide and haunted by night visions of a choir that challenges depositions he gave in his trial. The experience of war is also the main theme of The Death of a Beautiful Roe Deer, a stage adaptation of a novel by Czech writer Oto Pavel directed by Poland’s Jan Szurmiej. The play tackles the horrors of war in the distinctive Czech style where humor is mixed with tears.

Festival audiences will see Polish actors Jerzy Zelnik and Sebastian Ry¶ in a play entitled The Scars of Memory that ponders the value of human life and the cost of sacrifice. The main character in the play is Jan Karski, the first man to provide the Allies with evidence of the Holocaust.

Polish veteran actress Danuta Szaflarska (101) will star in A Store on the Main Street as Ms. Lautmanowa, a Jewish woman who loses her store and estate to repressions targeted against Jews. Loss is also at the core of Mothers, a performance project inspired by Gołda Tencer, the director of the Jewish Theater in Warsaw. The project focuses on mothers, including death camp prisoners trying to save their newborn babies from death, and mothers living outside ghetto walls and giving shelter to Jewish children.

Warsaw’s Jewish Theater will stage a musical entitled Have a Good Life, That’s the Best Revenge and written by Paweł Demirski and Monika Sztrzępka. The plot focuses on the aftermath of the March 1968 events in Poland when the country’s communist authorities staged a fierce anti-Semitic campaign.

Home Recipes, a series of performative readings invented by Mike Urbaniak, will this year feature classic Jewish plays in new Polish translations. One of the featured plays is Sholem Aleichem’s The Jackpot translated by Marta Gu¶niowska and directed by Tomasz Szczepanek.

In addition to music and theater performances, every year the Singer’s Warsaw festival presents audiences with a wide choice of other activities, such as Jewish cuisine workshops, art classes for kids, lectures on Warsaw’s Jewish heritage and Jewish dance classes.

The Singer’s Warsaw Festival of Jewish Culture is organized by the Shalom Foundation, which since 1988 has worked to preserve the memory of the cultural heritage of Polish Jews. The founder and driving force behind the festival is Shalom’s director-general Gołda Tencer, an actress, singer and theater director.

For further information and the festival program go to www.festiwalsingera.pl
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