A rich programme of events accompanying the 16th Misteria Paschalia Festival

Wednesday 27 March 2019

How to describe this year’s Misteria Paschalia Festival accompanying events in just one sentence? One can think of trite phrases, which have nothing to do with what you will be able to experience in Krakow, apart from extraordinary music by Italian and Polish masters from past eras.

Things that you can experience just now, because since 9 March, the basement of the Jagiellonian University Museum Collegium Maius hosts Postcards from Italy, an exhibition of photographs by Professor Piotr Sztompka. The European Early Musi Day, which we celebrated with two concerts, is now behind us. Soon, we will be in for the upcoming workshop preparing the participants to participate in the Easter Vespers, organised in cooperation with the inCanto Foundation, and on the first two Sundays of April, together with Quartetto Nero, we are going to set off to Biecz and Tarnów for concerts taking place as part of the Misteria Paschalia in tournée. Are you breathless yet? We’re just warming up! From Palm Sunday, 14 April, until Maundy Thursday, 18 April, the musical part of the festival will be accompanied by lectures, discussions, meetings, literary programming and dance workshops, all set in exceptional locations and featuring outstanding guests.

Sacred music in contemporary world

While preparing the programme of this year’s festival, we spent a lot of time talking about the original function and context of the existence of music, which we present during the festival. Music has accompanied the liturgy since time immemorial. It was composed by the greatest masters — and it was their work in this field that brought about the most important and significant changes in music. The music art developed throughout centuries — from the monodic chorals, through the earliest forms of polyphony, such as organum, conductus and motet, to complex polyphonic forms. For centuries, music has been an integral part of the liturgy, and its quality has been of the utmost importance. What has changed since then? What rules govern sacred music today? What is the difference between liturgical and religious music? Is music still an important part of the liturgy today, or is it just an often-inconvenient addition? In all the documents, that strictly define the rules for the presence of music during meetings, is there at least one provision relating to the quality of performance?


Together with the Pontifical University of John Paul II we decided to ask these questions, that are rarely easy to answer. On Easter Monday at 4 pm, join us at the Bishop Erazm Ciołek Palace – a branch of the National Museum in Krakow for a debate, which will be hosted by Marek Zając, a journalist known for his cooperation with Tygodnik Powszechny, director of Polsat Rodzina TV station. Joining us will be a group of outstanding specialists and practitioners in this field from Poland and Italy: Rev. Vincenzo Di Gregorio — President of the Pontifical Council of Culture, Rev. Robert Tyrała, President of the Archdiocesan Commission for Church Music, Fr. Nikodem Kilnar OSPPE — National Chaplain of Church Musicians, Dr. Jakub Kubieniec from the Institute of Musicology of the Jagiellonian University, Dr Dinko Fabris (Università degli Studi della Basilicata, Matera) and Dr Giuseppina Crescenzo (Universität Frankfurt am Mein, Conservatorio di Sassari).

Polish-Italian ties and where did these sources go?

In a year of celebrations of the 100th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Italy and Poland, raising this issue seems to be mandatory. The cultural exchange between the countries flourished in the 16th century, when Bona Sforza married the Polish king Sigismund I the Old. The new queen, who was raised surrounded by great works of art, brought Italian masters of architecture, painting and music to Krakow, thus bringing upon the period of the Jagiellonian Golden Age. An intensive cultural exchange continued in the subsequent centuries, which can be proved by the documents from the period preserved in the archives. On Holy Tuesday, the 16 April at 5 pm at the Fiorentina Restaurant, Dr. Dinko Fabris, a professor of the Università degli Studi della Basilicata in Matera, will talk about rorantists, Italian musicians and composers at Polish courts, Marco Scacchi and the Italian perspective of cultural relations between Poland and Italy.

On the next day, Dr hab. Aleksandra Patalas, Director of the Institute of Musicology of the Jagiellonian University, will try to approach this topic from a slightly different angle. Join us a the Institute at 4 pm. We are going to go back in time to the first half of the 17th century, when composers from the Apennine Peninsula were active in the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, and had a significant influence on the shape of musical life in our country. What exactly does this passage — which sounds as if it was taken straight from a textbook — mean in reality? Who were the people who came to Poland and worked here? What about sources? What is the state of preservation of this repertoire and do we know which works have disappeared? During the lecture we will also think about the artistic innovations proposed by Italians to Polish audiences and the extent of interest in them, expressed by local artists. Last but not least, we will show how Italian secular works were transformed into religious pieces.

The stage will be taken over by Dr. Maciej Jochymczyk, also representing the Institute of Musicology of the Jagiellonian University. After a short break we will go back to the subject of sources. According to the lecturer himself, the Misteria Paschalia Festival, which is dedicated primarily to religious works of the Baroque, is an excellent opportunity to reflect on the music resounding in churches and monasteries of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in the days of old. The lecture will be devoted to musical life of the 17th and 18th centuries, the works of selected composers-monks, as well as musical sources themselves, both those preserved to our times and those lost. We will also consider the challenges faced by musicians and musicologists who discover the old repertoire and prepare it for performance so that we – the audiences – can listen to it.

Literary programming

The Passion of Christ is read twice in a liturgical year – on Palm Sunday and Good Friday. Just like the story itself, the characters, or the dramatis personae, featured in this mysterious drama are well known: Jesus, Pontius Pilate, Barabbas, Judas… We know what roles they played, what happened because of them and what happened to them. However, many writers — including Anatole France, Mikhail Bulgakov and Jorge Luis Borges — decided to go beyond the framework of the message conveyed in liturgy, disagreeing with the image presented there. On Palm Sunday, 14 April, the Krakow – UNESCO City of Literature and the Misteria Paschalia Festival would like to invite you to the De Revolutionibus bookshop-cum-café for a conversation of Magdalena Barbaruk and Dariusz Czaja, which will kickstart this year’s literary programming. The conversation will be devoted to the tension between mystery and history, between the figure profiled by the evangelical text and the real figure, between what we believe in and what we know or should know.

The martyrdom of Christ is a central experience of the paschal mystery. What is its meaning? Why did God agree to the sacrifice of his Son? What did God need it for? What is the meaning of suffering in the modern world? Not only from the point of view of religion, but also from the point of view of reportage, which often advocates for the victims. Can religion and reportage change their fate? Can their intervention put an end to the suffering, or at least restore the dignity of those who suffer? Also, how to deal with a situation in which long-lasting pain finally goes away? These extremely difficult questions, which almost everybody has to face at least once in their lives, will be answered by Rev. Adam Boniecki and Katarzyna Kubisiowska — we will meet them on Holy Tuesday, 16 April at 4 pm. We will soon reveal the location of this extraordinary meeting in preparation for Easter celebrations.

Finally, on Maundy Thursday, the day starting the celebration of the Paschal Triduum, join Grzegorz Jankowicz and Zbigniew Mikołejko at the Karakter bookshop to talk about ritual — an indispensable element of every holiday. How did the Easter ritual develop? What were its religious and cultural sources? What pagan rituals did it co-opt as its own? Which ones did it try to differentiate from at all costs? How did Easter customs come to be? Why are symbols associated with spring and the world coming back to life the attributes of this holiday? What form did it take in different historical periods?

Maestro Monteverdi

Maundy Thursday will be truly devoted to the written word, since the day will feature another meeting with literature. At 6:30 p.m. in the foyer of the ICE Kraków Congress Centre (on the 2nd floor), Ewa Obniska will talk about her new book Claudio Monteverdi and its protagonist. The only monograph of the Italian composer on the Polish market is the result of the author’s great fascination with his works, while the characterisation and the oeuvre of this great master are presented against the backdrop of the twilight of the Renaissance and the birth of the Baroque. What kind of person was Monteverdi? What role did his highly individualised compositions — so different from the works of contemporary artists — play? Where does their deep emotionality, spirituality and universalism come from? Ewa Obniska and host of the meeting Klaudia Baranowska will take us on a historical-musical journey to northern Italy. The book published by Polish Music Publisher Edition — an obligatory reading for early music lovers — will be available for purchase during the festival.


On Easter Monday, 22 April, the Krzysztof Penderecki Hall at the ICE Kraków Congress Centre will turn into the streets of Naples — we are going on a journey to the very heart of the traditional Festa Napoletana. Many of the visitors will certainly be compelled to dance, and everybody will be eager join in the fun. Fortunately, thanks to the cooperation with the Crossroads of Culture and Traditions Association and the EtnoKraków/Crossroads Festival, everybody will have the opportunity to do so. This year’s festival does not end with the final concert. On Sunday, 28 April, join us at the Strefa club for dance workshops devoted to two traditional dances of southern Italy: pizzica (from the Apulia region) and tammurriata (from the Campania region). They belong to the so-called tarantella family, which enjoys great popularity — a dance for couples, where the movements of dancers and the rhythm of the drums (and in some cases also the singing) are inseparably intertwined, creating a continuous dialogue between the musicians and the dancers. The workshop will be hosted by Chiara Scarfato and music will be played by Andrea Tios.

Immediately after the workshops, you can join us for Addhrai, an evening with traditional Italian music and dances of southern Italy, starting at 8 pm. Addhrai will play tarantelles, pizzicas, tammurriatas, songs from Sicily, Apulia, Campania, Basilicata and Lazio — music for dancing, lullabies and love songs. The term tarantella denotes both local varieties from Calabria, Sicily and Gargano, as well as the most popular forms, such as the Salento pizzica. According to the common belief, the “pizzicu” (bite) of a tarantula causes mood fluctuations and even a state of deep depression, which can only be cured by dancing. A person bitten by a tarantula dances to the rhythm of the tambourine, thus entering into a healing trance. Salento is also the place of origin of beautiful songs performed by Addhrai in griko salentino, a very old dialect that reminds us of ancient Greece, which reached as far as to these lands. Tammurriata, another dance associated with the folklore of the Campania and Naples region, also boasts ancient roots. This lively and sensual dance is based on a game of seduction to the rhythm of nacchere (castanets) and tammorra — a drum to which it owes its name. The Sicilian repertoire will be represented by tarantella, but also by the poignant songs of the extraordinary folk singer Rosa Balistreri.

Admission to all accompanying events of the Misteria Paschalia Festival is free.