The theatre piece I Played, I Danced was written during the wartime of 1916. The author, poet, and playwright Rainis is a central figure in Latvian literature, as well as the social and political processes of that period. The play tells the story of a witty vagabond and bard – Tots. He goes into the underworld to bring back his young bride Lelde, abducted from her wedding by the old Lord, who terrorises and suppresses the people. On his way, Tots discloses and transforms the realms of the suffering dead, of the devils, and of the living, aiming for a better future. However, it is he himself who has to change the most. Playwright Rainis merges together characters of Latvian mythology with the current political issues of his time, setting into the centre his ideal of the “Man of Future”.
In 1977, the composer Imants Kalniņš put the play to music. Imants Kalniņš is a symbol of the Latvian anti-establishment art scene. Composing academic as well as popular music, he has his own very particular and distinctive expression of music that has left a major impact. In the opera I Played, I Danced, spectators hear folkloristic reminiscences of Latvian traditional music blended into Imants Kalniņš’ ornamental and elaborate musical language.
Leading young Latvian director Laura Groza-Ķibere, together with visual artist Miķelis Fišers, bring out the wild energy of this opera and through it consider the present Latvian society. Are the ideas of Rainis still relevant today? Should one fight the demons of the past to enliven a new vision for the future?