Cyprian Kamil Norwid

“His is great literature, in which everything that is still the most important to us has been said.

What Norwid said on every topic in the 19th century remains relevant in the 21st century “-

Czesław Miłosz, Nobel Prize in Literature, 1980.

Cyprian Kamil Norwid is considered today one of Poland’s greatest writers of the 19th century. A

keen thinker and fervent moralist whose work gained critical appreciation only long after his

death. A genius ahead of his time, he himself prognosticated: “The son shall bypass my script

and tone, but you, my grandson, shall remember me.”

Norwid left Poland in 1842, never to return. An emigrant who chose freedom, wandering through

Europe and America, “An artist must be free to create. I left a country of captivity.” A visionary

whose innovative work and uncompromising artistic, political and moral judgments resulted in

his rejection as a cursed artist. In 1855, recognized by the Russian partitioning powers as a

political “exile”, he could only return to prison or to Siberia. “To the land where a crumbled

bread / Is lifted from the ground in respect / For the gifts of Heaven / I long for thee, me Lord.”

He died in Paris impoverished, abandoned, and buried in a common grave.

The monodrama “Norwid’s Return” is a minimalist contemporary dialogue between an actor

and a pianist, a rich tapestry between words and music in which Norwid pulsates with emotion

and provokes with every thought.

The stage is set to a contained space of a mere paper square – the representation of Norwid’s

spiritual and material reality, the homeless world of an emigrant, a reflection of the inner world

of an outcast. In this realm of tension, rebellion, and passionate intellectual polemics, the paper

stage is gradually ripped, defaced, and ultimately torn to shreds. Past and present intertwine

making painful settlements with a rejected love, society and criticism, which ridiculed his work

as “complex” and “brilliantly suicidal”, and the Russian Tsarist regime, which condemned him as

an exile and prohibited his return to the homeland.

The dialogue between the actor and the pianist is a dynamic collision of words and sounds, a web

of inner contemplation and resonance which reverberates deep within the heart of human

emotion, confronting traditions, and enchanting with radical truth and the raw genius of a poet

ahead of his time. By melding and cleaving a stage play and a musical performance, it

illuminates the Norwidean darkness and the complexity of his mind. Represented by familiar

forms of classical music of the great composers (Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Maurice Ravel,

Frederic Chopin, Karol Szymanowski) the melodrama uncompromisingly transforms through

extended piano technique into an exotic, and colorful orchestra which exceeds what is possible,

It delights and terrifies, all at once. An instrument torn from its familiar world of elegance and

comfort and a homeless emigrant, a poet on the brink of insanity, who collapses on the pavement

of the modern metropolitan dumpster, subject to the same torture.

The rejected visionary returns to us today, more than 200 years after his birth, as a contemporary

innovator who delights, cheers, moves, and shocks with aesthetic radicalism.