Krzysztof Penderecki’s Phaedra is shrouded in legend. The composer began work on adapting Jean-Baptiste Racine’s play but failed to complete it. The Vienna Staatsoper postponed the premiere twice, from 2015 to the 2018/2019 season, but ultimately cancelled the contract, at the composer’s request. The work was originally devised with Ewa Podleś in mind as the lead. Fragments of the unfinished opera, written for choir and orchestra, were collected by Jurek Dybał and never performed before.
Penderecki’s only opera buffa (and last completed opera), Ubu Rex, is a bitter commentary on the world of politics, power and war. A suite from the opera has been arranged by conductor Jurek Dybał, who can boast considerable experience in leading performances of Ubu Rex: in 2016 he worked, for example, with Waldemar Zawodziński at the Silesian Opera, for which he received the Jan Kiepura Theatre Award for ‘Best Conductor’.
César Franck’s Psyché is a symphonic poem expressing a fascination with ancient culture. Inspired by the myth of Eros and Psyche (in the version from Apuleius’ Metamorphoses), the composer depicted the young girl’s struggles with the hateful Aphrodite, employing the gamut of late Romantic means of expression. The excellent orchestration emphasises not just the programme of the work, but also the heroine’s inner dilemmas; after all, the word psyche (ψυχή) is Greek for ‘soul’.