A concert arranged by Poland’s embassy with the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage to celebrate European Union Day was held on Monday evening at the Opera House on Katara Cultural Village.
It was attended by Culture, Arts and Heritage Minister HE Dr Hamad bin Abdulaziz al-Kuwari and other Qatari officials, senior diplomats from many countries, including those in the European Union, and a crowd of regular concert-goers.
The building featured a display of large colour photographs, two from each country in the European Union, of traditional and modern architecture and scenic views.
The first half of the evening’s programme featured a performance by celebrated Polish musicians: pianist Tamara Granat and violinist Bogdan Kierejsza.
In true Doha style they abandoned the advertised programme, which included pieces by Mozart, Czerny, Debussy and Chopin, and even JS Bach and Dvorak in a later revised edition, settling instead for an altogether lighter performance of Kreisler, Wieniawski, Sarasate and Brahms’ Hungarian Dance No 1.
The emphasis was very much on compositions inspired by folk dances and songs, particularly gypsy music as in Sarasate’s Gypsy Melody.
This part of the evening’s entertainment ended with a lively Spanish tango and a piece by the Italian composer Vittorio Monte.
Mercifully, the audience was spared a rendering of Gershwin’s Summertime, which appeared to have been misguidedly added to the re-revised programme at the last minute.
Violinist Kierejsza won enthusiastic applause for his cheerfully relaxed and stylish performance as he walked around the stage, especially for his seemingly effortless rendering of that perennial favourite, The Flight of the Bumblebee by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.
Tamara Granat, who is best known for her performances for four hands and two pianos with Waldemar Malicki and, more recently, the Swedish pianist Daniel Propper, provided an equally polished and relaxed accompaniment.
The second half of the evening saw Kierejska, in a variety of odd costumes, and pianist Granat provide the accompaniment for a 50-minute self-proclaimed “one-woman show” by Polish operatic mezzosoprano Alicja Wegorzewska-Whiskerd.
In “Diva’s Secrets” she presented a light-hearted monodrama on what it is to be an opera singer, with amusing anecdotes and personal observations, punctuated with renditions not only of arias within the mezzosoprano range but others well outside it, including those written for men.
As the singer herself observed, “Maria Callas would never have dared to try this!”
She concluded with her performance of “Carmen in 10 minutes” with explanations and translations along the way.
The monologue was interspersed with arias not only from Bizet’s Carmen but from Verdi and Puccini and from the operas of Mozart himself, with a lively rendition of Cherubino’s Voi che sapete from The Marriage of Figaro.
Original as is the concept of “Diva’s Secrets”, it somehow failed to take hold of the audience, which was at first puzzled and then later began cautiously to applaud – the singer herself bravely commenting on the lacklustre response.
Wegorzewska-Whiskerd’s performance lacked spontaneity and was altogether too slow – one suspects she is accustomed to a far larger audience.
And over-amplification of the singer’s rich and powerful voice did not do her justice.
This reviewer wonders why music programmes in Doha are constantly changed without notice, so that people who have bought tickets for something they actually wish to hear are presented with a completely different programme, and why anyone should assume that a Doha audience requires an introduction to opera surely more suited to schoolchildren.
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