Tomorrow, musical drama in one act (1964-1966)
Baird’s only work for the stage was dedicated to Alina Sawicka, the composer’s future wife. The work is written for four characters: three vocal roles (Jessica, Ozias, Jozue), one spoken role (Harry), and large symphony orchestra. It was premiered at Warsaw’s Teatr Wielki during the 10th Warsaw Autumn.
The libretto, arranged by Jerzy S. Sito, was based on Joseph Condrad’s story from the collection Typhoon and Other Stories. The librettist used Conrad’s contemplative tale to create a drama with a large dose of expressive variety and plenty of expressionist stage and dramatic solutions. This is how Jerzy S. Sito summarised the plot:
A small finishing town with just two inhabitants: Ozias and Jessica. Ozias is an old man mad with hope; Jessica – a young girl who inadvertently lets herself be dragged into his game of hope. Ozias is waiting for the return of his son, who many years earlier escaped to the sea. His whole existence is focused on the young man’s return. He builds on it a model of a new, better tomorrow. Apart from his son Harry, he places in this better world Jessica, the only person who is kind to him. Jessica allows herself to be brought into this beautiful but unreal world. She places all her awakened longing, all her thoughts and feelings in this future encounter. The only person who sees the upcoming disaster is Jozue, the girl’s father, a blind carpenter – witness to the tragedy. When the long-awaited Harry finally comes, he turns out to be a banal, brutal and stupid man. He enjoys the situation, which he does not understand; he wants to take advantage of it. Ozias does not need his physical presence, so he does not recognise him and chases him out. But Jessica does need him. Harry is prepared to give her himself, literally. He tries to rape her. Old Ozias comes, hearing Jessica’s cries. He kills his own son in the name of Harry. In the name of fiction he kills the reality which cannot live up to it. His world has remained intact – he will continue to wait for his son. But there is no longer a place for Jessica in this world. Ozias tries to draw her into it once again, but her laughter makes him back away. The growing, tragic laughter stands at the threshold of tomorrow.
Tomorrow is a one-act work, without a clear division into scences, though we can clearly distinguish two phases in it. Phase one is an exposition and development of the drama, phase two – incident and disaster. The whole work is based on twelve-note material organised in a series and on transformations of several-note structures deriving from it. However, in arranging this material the composer does not employ a strict dodecaphonic technique. The two most important elements in Tomorrow, indicated by Baird himself, are: the use of a “leitmotiv” in order to reveal specific mental and emotional states of the protagonists, and the use of colour motifs to characterise a given protagonist, which makes it possible to divide the orchestra into four groups differing in terms of colour.
Tomorrow fulfils the requirement of an expressionist composition, characterised as it is by short duration, compact and pared-down artistic form, small number of protagonists and spare stage accessories. The work is rich in terms of its musical content; the composer uses various singing techniques in order to emphasise the drama of the literary text, sophisticated colour solutions connected with the line-up of performers as well as a great variety of ways of producing sound. Baird’s drama tackles supra-individual matters – the problem of hope in human existence.
The reviews after the premiere of Tomorrow differed widely. Consequently, the work was more often appreciated outside Poland – in Germany it was received enthusiastically. Writing about its Poznań premiere in 2010, Beata Kornatowska wrote:
It is hard to understand why the work has been absent from the stage for so many years: the piece is very coherent and intense in its expression – an intricate construction in which drama and the musical layer create a perfect whole.
Jerzy Artysz, who participated in the premiere, has a similar opinion:
What I can say [...] is to express my regret that a work like Tomorrow [...] does not get the praise it deserves. After all, we don’t have many such true works on stage [...]. If today we can understand Beckett’s theatre, for example, why should we not become acquainted with drama presented in such a way? [...]. Such a work should be played [...]. It is the only Polish music drama [...]. I am sorry it is not cultivated, conductors should think about it.
The main information about the work’s reception comes from the 1970s. In 1973 a concert version of Baird’s work under the title of Demain was presented in Abbaye de Royaumont near Paris. A year later the Polish Television made a film version of Tomorrow directed by Bogdan Hussakowski. In the same year the film won the Grand Prix at the 11th “Golden Prague” International Television Festival in the music film category.
- J.S. Sito, “Commentary on the concert programme” [in:] Programme Booklet of the 15th “Warsaw Autumn” International Festival of Contemporary Music, Warsaw 1966, pp. 21-22.
- B. Kornatowska, “Dwa oblicza opery współczesnej” [“Two faces of contemporary opera”], Ruch Muzyczny 2010, no. 8, p. 20.