Slow Man

Director: Maja Kleczewska
Music: Nicholas Lens
Duration: 2 h


Slow Man, the first opera in John Maxwell Coetzee's oeuvre is an adaptation of his novel. It is focused around a meeting arranged by the writer Elisabeth Costello between Paul Rayment, a man in his sixties whose life changes dramatically after a cycling accident which leaves him with an amputated leg, with the blind Marijana. “Paul does not know what to expect of this meeting. The tension grows. We are in a kind of trance. The scene is exceptionally intimate, also due to the sexual act which takes place. John and I wanted to preserve this intimacy, to create something personal,” the composer told us. A minor event in the novel becomes a starting point for reflection upon alienation, love, old age and fear of dying. It is an opportunity to look deep into the thoughts and premonitions that occupy the minds of the three characters. During the première staging of the opera we will hear the extraordinary voices of Mark S. Doss as Paul Rayment, Lani Poulson as Elizabeth Costello and Claron McFadden as Marijana. Their performance will be enhanced by two dancers and some superb video projections upstage. During the première staging of the opera we will hear Mark S. Doss as Paul Rayment, Lani Poulson as Elizabeth Costello and Claron McFadden as Marijana. Their performance will be enhanced by two dancers and upstage video projections

John Maxwell Coetzee (b. 1940), the recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature and two-time winner of the Booker Prize, was invited to work on an opera by Belgian composer Nicholas Lens (b. 1957),  a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music in Brussels, former member of the National Orchestra of Belgium and of the Israël Sinfonietta in Be’er Sheva. Nicholas Lens studied violin, trumpet, double-bass and viola de gamba and started composing music at 15. His work (most well known is the trilogy The Accacha Chronicles including Flamma Flamma, 1994; Terra Terra, 1999; Amor Aeternus, 2005) is published by Schott Music International, Mainz, Germany. Time magazine wrote: "Nicholas Lens' work, thanks to its visceral strength and sustained emotional drive has won a loyal audience and critical favor". Together with Nick Cave (as lyricist) Lens is preparing a commission called Shell-Shock, A Requiem of War to premiere in October 2014 as official commemoration of the Great War. As well he prepares a second opera with J. M. Coetzee, a chamber opera this time about Elizabeth Costello.

The Orchestra of Poznań’s Teatr Wielki will be conducted by Bassem Akiki. He was born in Lebanon. In Beirut he studied music at the Lebanese Higher National Conservatory of Music and philosophy at the Lebanese International University. In 2003 he came to Poland where he studied at the Academy of Music in Krakow (Choral Conducting under Professor S. Krawczyński, Faculty of Composition, Interpretation and Education; majored with honours in 2008) and the Academy of Music in Wrocław (Professor M. Pijarowski’s Conducting Class; majored in 2010). He is currently a conductor at the Wrocław Opera in addition to working with various orchestras and artistic ensembles in Lebanon, Poland, France, Italy, USA and Canada. Bassem Akiki’s interests focus on music of the East and West alike. Their mutual influence was the subject of his lectures at the University of Marburg, Germany (2007-2009).

The director of Slow Man the opera is Maja Kleczewska (b. 1973), a highly acclaimed and one of the most provocative Polish artists whom critics have dubbed a rebel and experimenter. She majored in theatre directing at the Ludwik Solski Academy for the Dramatic Arts in Krakow and in psychology at the Warsaw University. During her studies she worked with Krzysztof Warlikowski and as Krystian Lupa’s assistant at Stary Teatr (the Old Theatre) in Krakow. She won great acclaim for her productions of Büchner’s Woyzeck (2005); Shakespeare’s Macbeth (2004), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (2006) and The Tempest (2012), and Racine’s Phèdre (2009). In 2010 Maja Kleczewska directed Zubel’s Between and Nowak’s Sudden Rain at the Grand Theatre – National Opera in Warsaw. In 2007 she received the Polityka magazine Paszport Award in the Theatre category for “her uncompromising albeit wise inclusion of a contemporary sense of insecurity into classical storylines and for her pictorial imagination that provides for the construction of fascinating worlds on stage.”

music Nicholas Lens
libretto J. M. Coetzee
director Maja Kleczewska
conductor Bassem Akiki

choreography Mikołaj Mikołajczyk
set designer Katarzyna Borkowska
movie/video/light Wojciech Puś

steadycam/live video: Marek Kozakiewicz
soloists Claron McFadden, Mark S. Doss, Lani Paulson
Première: 5 July 2012
Production: Malta Festival Poznań, Grand Theatre Poznań (Teatr Wielki w Poznaniu) with the financial support of the Local Government of the Wielkopolska Region