The Theatre of Music and the Mask „VENEZIA”

“As I write this,
I can hear below me the roar of the sea,
and I close my eyes.
I gaze into an unborn, unembodied world
that demands to be ordered and shaped,
I see before me a host of shadowy human figures
whose gestures implore me to cast upon them the spell
that shall be their deliverance:
tragic and comic figures,
and some who are both at once –
and to these I am strongly drawn”
—Thomas Mann: “Tonio Kröger”, 1903

The Theatre of Music and the Mask "VENEZIA" was created during the winter of 2007/2008 as a result of an almost lifelong fascination with the fine arts on the part of its founder, Beata Wielopolska. Venetian masks and costumes
– as an unparalleled means of totally metamorphosing individual human beings – theatre, pantomime, but also European painting, architectural space and classical music blend here into a unique synthesis, all in the spirit of the "Gesamtkunstwerk".

Following several exhibitions of photography enriched with happenings in her own costume creations, and particularly after the series of interactive Venetian parades at the Baltic Sea in Gdynia-Orłowo, Poland, the disguised figures had begun to take possession of their author’s imagination to such an extent that she was not only forced to find additional space for their acting, but also to expand their means of expression by incorporating elements of ballet, dance and, above all, of pantomime.

At the heart of the Theatre is her private collection of more than one hundred costumes,
all inspired by the contemporary Carnival of Venice. In cooperation with choreographers Ryszard Wojtala and Wacław Gaworczyk, the enigma produced by the tableaux of disguised figures has been transmuted into a dynamic stage movement. For Beata Wielopolska the ongoing changes of music and of stage design have provided an excellent opportunity to search for new identities for her unusual costume-figures. As the artistic concept of the Theatre continues to mature, out of the sea of enigmatic masks there emerge new characters, which one after another become bearers of universal emotions, reflections, experiences. Faces, masks, mimes – all of them are telling their own story, hiding their own mystery or luring one into an illusion of something that does not exist...

The Theatre is gradually establishing its own repertoire – from stage etudes, through chamber concerts arranged in form of a spectacle, going on to regular productions involving music, choreography and stage movement. In order to fulfil its goal, it relies first of all on classical music, starting with Baroque, through nineteen century Italian or French opera, and continuing with the music of the modern period. Being itself a hybrid, the Theatre of Music and the Mask "VENEZIA" takes its position right at the point where genres and styles intersect attempting to integrate in its endeavours elements of "living pictures", trance, pantomime, classical dance and ballet. In so doing, it also tries to proactively explore new forms of expression: the open-air theatre, the street theatre, and especially the Dance Theatre. The recent exchange of thoughts and experiences with the Polish Dance Theater of Poznań, headed by Ewa Wycichowska, has become an immensely important influence on its efforts.

In the main photograph Beata Wielopolska's figures are acting within the stage design for "Casanova" of Tadeusz Smolicki. The performance directed by Jacek Bunsch premiered on 20th July 2007 on the XIIth Summer Stage in Gdynia-Orłowo, Poland (courtesy of both authors).