In what would appear to be a rather pointless exercise, one of the most respected Polish market research agencies recently asked 1,000 Poles of different generations who the most outstanding Polish musical artist is.The survey was commissioned by the Director of Mazowiecki Teatr Muzyczny Operetta in Warsaw in an attempt to found out how aware the average Pole was of the charismatic operatic tenor, Jan Kiepura, who achieved worldwide fame on the stage and screen between the wars. Having stockpiled a fortune from concert appearances, he built a gargantuan villa in the fashionable spa town of Krynica-Zdroj. Since 1967, the town has held an annual festival to commemorate his achievements and promote new talent. Jan Kiepura’s name was discreetly inserted by the TNS OBOP agency into a list of currently popular music stars that included Doda Robaczewska, Maryla Rodowicz and Krzysztof Krawczyk. Unsurprisingly, Kiepura’s name was selected by a fair few respondents in their 40s, but none who were younger. Rodowicz and Krawczyk, who are middle-aged media-friendly artists with big stage personas, appealed to the broadest range of ages. Pop diva, Doda “Elektroda,” whose off-stage behavior is primed to give off a faint whiff of mildly titillating scandal was most popular with teenagers.All pretty predictable. But, according to the press, musical “experts” have been insisting that Poles should see the results of the survey as an indictment of their musical judgment. But they are not totally to blame. The indoctrination starts young. Critical faculties are stunted from childhood due to a combination of cynical media onslaught and the rudimentary music lessons they receive at school from uninspired part-timers. As they reach adulthood, stage charisma and media exposure rather than pure talent determine whether they purchase a recording or attend a concert.. In short, as happens in practically all western-style democracies, the government invests much less in musical education than they ought to and the media are determining the tastes of Mr. Average rather than the other way round. What is intriguing, however, is the vehement counter-reaction of the opera community. Boguslaw Kaczynski, director of the annual Kiepura festival told Dziennik Polski, “This is functional illiteracy? unless the Ministry of Culture, the educational authorities and journalists do something, we will become a nation of deaf savages.”Unfortunately, by attempting to shore up the reputation of a long-dead tenor who mainly appeals to older people and the opera cognoscenti, he’s almost definitely fighting a losing battle. Jan Kiepura achieved extraordinary success, gracing the stage of some of the most prestigious theaters in the world. But, I won’t be replacing the Doda album my 10-year-old niece asked for as a Birthday present with a Kiepura recording. That would be indoctrination.
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