Very few artists earned the honor of having their family name converted into a noun describing a wildly popular fad, but this little fact is still another item on the long list of lifetime achievements of Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
Somewhat delicate and graced by an engaging smile topped by a shock of auburn hair, young Paderewski’s angelic appearance and his brilliant pianism were often accompanied by scenes of women rushing the stages of European theatres. Enthusiastic fans threw flowers, tried to kiss Paderewski’s hands and occasionally even charged the artist with a pair of scissors in order to obtain a snippet of his hair.
Such tidbits in Paderewski’s biography certainly provide a veritable goldmine of opportunities to a good librettist. With the runaway success of Hamilton in the U.S. as the lodestar, a few years ago the Adam Mickiewicz Institute in Warsaw hit upon an idea of creating a musical about Paderewski to commemorate the centenary of Poland’s independence, which was regained largely thanks to… none other than Ignacy Jan Paderewski.
An international competition for treatments on the subject was duly announced, a distinguished jury of experts had assembled and deliberated, and several finalists with the most promising projects were eventually advanced to the production stage. One of them, 3 Paderewskis, was actually presented in a concert version by the Polish Music Center at Newman Hall on the USC campus and also at the Paderewski Festival in Paso Robles during the 2019 fall season.
Another finalist of the Paderewski musical competition, Paddymania, was penned by Matthew Hardy (who wrote the libretto and the music) and Andrew Fox, who provided instrumental arrangements. The full musical has been renamed Virtuoso, but songs from the first act were presented in a concert entitled “Paddymania” on September 12, 2020 at Poznań’s Teatr Muzyczny. The performance featured soloists Radosław Elis, Oksana Hamerska, Denisa Jarczak, Łukasz Kocur, Przemysław Łukasiewicz, Katarzyna Tapek, Dagmara Rybak, Agnieszka Wawrzyniak, and Maciej Zaruski. Janusz Kruciński appeared as guest artist in the title role. These soloists were accompanied by an ensemble including Andrzej Iwanowski, Radosław Mateja, Urszula Nagrodzka, Piotr Pawlus Piotr Trojanowski, and Piotr Żukowski.
The Department of Public and Cultural Diplomacy of Poland’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs cooperated with the Music Theatre in Poznań to make the video of the performance publicly available just in time to celebrate Poland’s Independence Day on November 11. The full staging with props and costumes was translated into and sung in Polish, but English subtitles were also provided in the video that can be seen at: www.youtube.com