Penderecki establishes operatic mastery. Polish composer talks about his newfound romance with opera

Krzysztof Penderecki was in Santa Fe for nearly a month to watch the final rehearsals and first three performances of his latest opera. I spoke to the Polish composer by phone shortly after the July 31 premi`ere, and he declared himself ``very satisfied. I think the production was very good.''

``The conception was not so different from Salzburg,'' the composer continued. ``Until now there were three productions, one in Salzburg (and Vienna, because it was the same production), and then the opera house in Poznan [Poland] did it. And here is the third one. I don't think there is any major change in the conception, because I think the libretto is very clear, and the music, I think, makes clear how to do it.''

He cited the ``fantastic soloists here,'' explaining: ``First of all, it is a virtuoso piece for voices, really. It's written for 14 soloists, and it is a lot of ensemble in this piece, and they have to work very hard to do it.''

Mr. Penderecki has invited some of the Sante Fe singers to participate in concert performances of the work in London and in Paris, where he also expects to record the opera. ``I think it is the best piece that I ever wrote!''

While in Santa Fe, the composer was working on his Third Symphony and hearing other operas, including the Richard Strauss double bill of ``Feuersnot'' and ``Friedenstag'' (``a very, very good piece''). He said he was also impressed with ``Friedenstag'' soprano Alessandra Marc, who has been the talk of Santa Fe opera fans this summer. ``I have already engaged her for Verdi Requiems in Europe. She has all the possibilities, really. [And] this is the ideal piece for her.''

Penderecki noted that the Poznan production of ``The Black Mask'' had already toured to Berlin and Wiesbaden, Leningrad, Moscow, Copenhagen, Madrid and Barcelona, various cities in Holland, and the Israel, Prague, and Athens festivals. There will also be new production in Stuttgart.

``This is maybe the most popular piece I have ever written,'' he said. ``I am more interested in opera than anything else.'' Meanwhile, Penderecki pursues an active conducting career (``I learn so much from conducting''), with 50 to 60 concerts annually.

Included on his busy schedule is an opera based on Alfred Jarry's ``Ubu Roi'' for Munich. And Penderecki is deciding what to do for a Berlin commission, due in 1993. ``I have three subjects,'' he said. ``One is `Amadeus.' I think it's a fantastic subject for an opera - very hard for the composer to deal with Mozart's music. Every critic will write that the best was Mozart!''

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