Saint Catherine of Siena was a mystic who did not take into account the established norms. She claimed that what she knew about God she knew directly from himself. The piece by Katarzyna Szwed and Julianna Bloodgood which will be premiered in Warsaw, Poland, on 8 March 2022, during the Nowe Epifanie Festival of religious performance, is an attempt to reach the essence of the mystical experience of Saint Catherine of Siena, as well as a new look at her story and the message of her words.
The authors give the floor to Saint Catherine, whose words, in their opinion, do not function enough in the general circulation, just like many other female mystics. It is an attempt to recreate the lost line of transmission of Christian mystics women. The words of Saint Catherine will be countered by the words of, among others, Saint Hildegard of Bingen, as well as excerpts from the manuscript of Naj Hammadi. Referring to the music of the late Middle Ages, the piece will use old instruments, also those symbolizing Saint Catherine – bells and tambourines.
The performance is an attempt to grasp the essence of Saint Catherine’s mystical experience by conveying the deepest possible emotional and spiritual layers of the text. A story told by an ensemble of women, the radical nature of the means is to render the extreme, ecstatic and fully embodied character of Saint Catherine’s mysticism. Music is our language and the body is our means.
The piece consists of eight vocal parts and an instrumental part. The premiere concert will be performed by an international group of musicians-actors, most of whom formed the ensemble of the Song of the Goat Theater in Wrocław. In order to implement this unique project, an international group of musicians-actors was established under the leadership of Julianna Bloodgood, former principal actress and singer of Song of the Goat Theatre, Poland, who in 2019 received a scholarship from the Ministry of Culture for the purpose of researching Saint Catherine of Siena for artistic purposes. The music director of the performance is Lilianna Krych from Polish Royal Opera and artistic director of the Warsaw Stage Society. The authors of the multilingual text of the work are Julianna Bloodgood and Danielle Blackbird – medieval culture researcher and playwright.
The concert is the result of field research in Italy, aimed at reaching authentic sources of knowledge about the context of Saint Catherine’s life. The authors managed to reach not only many organisations related to the figure of Saint Catherine and the impressive library of the Academia Chigiana in Siena, including many source musical materials from the 14th century, but also literature on the musical life of Siena at that time.
The producer of the concert is the Warsaw Stage Society – an association that has been producing cultural events such as concerts, theatre and opera performances since 2006. Katarzyna Szwed’s piece was co-financed by the Polish Ministry of Culture, National Heritage and Sport from the Culture Promotion Fund as part of the „Composing Commissions” program implemented by the Institute of Music and Dance.
Premiere: 8 March 2022, 7 PM, Ujazdowski Castle Centre for Contemporary Art, Warsaw, Poland
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