I was asked yesterday why Humility (Pokora) is a dramma giocoso. I replied in a way that was unsatisfactory to myself, and besides, hardly anyone was listening (but Szczepan was, and I feel the need to express myself more fully and precisely for him), so let me try again.
As you can read here and there, the emergence of the opera’s sub-genre dramma giocoso (which literally means “funny drama”) was associated with some important transformations – within the opera genre itself, but also as regards its social role and reception. The legitimisation of the category of it “being funny” within a serious subject is interestingly combined here with the rise of the middle classes. I have the impression that this eighteenth-century act of smuggling comedy into the realm of serious opera is a seedling of mass arts, a somewhat initially reluctant nod to the public, the commoners attending theatres in ever greater numbers. Widening of the common denominator. That is the first thing.
Secondly, the category of “funniness” is very important to me in the context of Silesia – the understanding this place and myself in it. I grew up here, in Silesia, in a family that could probably be considered lower-middle class, with some ambitions and aspirations to the intelligentsia. My parents more or less came here from more or less distant small villages as part of social upward mobility paid for by huge effort, and they are more or less the first generation of educated people. (I write “more or less”, because in details, it is all a little more complicated, but that’s not particularly relevant here). We lived in a working-class neighbourhood for most of my childhood; I went to a local primary school with a very diversified social trait. For me as a child, Silesia was a virtually transparent background at first, but as I grew older, it became more noticeable, functioning as a kind of comical/amusing flavour. So called 'harmless' jokes about women and men, about how ridiculous normal things said in “dialect” sounded, and so on, were in circulation. No disdain, full respect for the dignity of all was there, but nevertheless, with that awareness that some people around are, as if, a bit stupid. I needed a long time to notice and reject this filter of seeing things as funny and silly, which was seemingly civilized but in fact deep, insidious and inconspicuous contempt for a part of the world and for some people. I needed the experience of entering into my wife’s family that is Silesian to the core (on its own, that family is quite a fascinating, multi-generational, like a training ground littered by victims, for different perspectives on Silesia and their Silesian identity), I needed various readings, e.g Drach i Pokora (Humility) and recently the wonderful Kajś by Zbigniew Rokita, which was a revelation for me and a kind of liberation. I needed to see the story of Alojs Pokora through the prism of Agnes’ empty laughter; to see myself in Alojs and in Agnes, and, I confess, I needed to cry and laugh through the tears.
So that’s why giocoso.
Today (November 7, 2021) is the last day of Auksodrone and Drach. Unfriendly hour of the concert, but all are welcome nonetheless. And at a similar time, only 600 km away, in Munich, for the second time Baczyński with Tomasz Konieczny, Lech Napierała and Adam Dudek.
(transl. Magdalena Małek-Andrzejowska)