Welsh National Opera boss awarded for promoting Poland

Image caption, David Pountney received the award at a ceremony in Vienna

Welsh National Opera's chief executive has been given one of Poland's highest honours for promoting Polish culture.

David Pountney, who is also the company's artistic director, was awarded the Order of Merit at a ceremony in Vienna.

It recognises outstanding contributions to co-operation between Poland and other nations.

He was honoured for staging Polish opera in his role as director of the Bregenz festival in Austria since 2003.

Foreigners and Polish citizens living abroad are eligible for the award.

Mr Pountney, who joined WNO in 2011, has worked on operas by Polish artists including Karol Szymanowski's King Roger, Mieczyslaw Weinberg's The Passenger and the forthcoming premiere of Andre Tchaikowsky's The Merchant of Venice.

"Polish opera has an emotional intensity, a resonance", said Mr Pountney, who pointed to the difficult history that Poland had endured under long periods of foreign domination.

"These people have been through suffering and you can feel it in the music.

"That is what opera does. It brings feelings. Music describes something beyond words."

In response to the honour, Mr Pountney said: "I feel a deep gratitude and honour to receive this award. I am delighted that the Bregenz Festival could contribute to the dissemination of the culture of Poland.

"I knew in this case, we had really done a lot for Polish culture at the festival. We had uncovered two Polish composers that Poland had forgotten."

The work of Karol Szymanowski had its world premiere at the Bregenz Festival after being banned under Communist rule.

Since being performed at Bregenz, Szymanowski's operas have been performed by the English National Opera in London and by companies in Houston, New York, Chicago, France, Poland and Germany.

Mr Pountney added: "The arts are different to politics, the arts have a soft power. By allowing these operas to be performed we are changing, in a very small way, the history of music and theatre."

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