The Criminals in Vilnius

  • Agnieszka Wójtowicz
Keywords: Grand Theatre in Pohulanka Street, Vilnius, Ferdinand Bruckner, The Criminals, Aleksander Zelwerowicz, scandal, censorship, Paweł Jasienica


On 29 April 1930, the premiere of Ferdinand Bruckner’s The Criminals (original title Die Verbrecher) directed by Aleksander Zelwerowicz took place at the Teatr Wielki na Pohulance in Vilnius. After two performances, the play was cancelled by the mayor of Vilnius. The authorities of the city were outraged by the ‘drastic amoral scenes (homosexual love, abortion)’. Zelwerowicz submitted his resignation, which he withdrew a few days later. A performance combined with a debate on the drama was organised. One of the Literary Wednesdays was also devoted to a discussion about The Criminals. The Słowo daily published an open letter to the director Zelwerowicz ‘supporting his repertoire policy’. Eventually, The Criminals was cancelled. Based on the unique documents I have found, publications in the press, photographs, and reminiscences of the participants, I will try to reconstruct these events and, above all, to describe and reinterpret the performance that was to ‘introduce the cultural Vilnius to the truly modern and European track’.
Musicology. Theatrology