About this Recording
8.111391-92 - MONIUSZKO, S.: Haunted Manor (The) (Paprocki, Kossowski, Kostrzewska, Poznan State Moniuszko Opera, Bierdiajew) (1953-1954)
English 

Stanisław Moniuszko (1819–1872)
The Haunted Manor

 

The opera The Haunted Manor by the nineteenth-century Polish composer Stanisław Moniuszko is generally considered to be his masterpiece, and a work in which the composer’s skill, experience and inspiration all found equal expression, and matched his own patriotism. Although not well known outside Poland, this opera is a central work in the rising tide of nationalism that swept across Europe during the latter part of the nineteenth century.

Moniuszko was born in 1819 into a middle class family living in the small village of Ubiel, near Minsk. At this time Poland was largely under Russian rule, following partition at the Congress of Vienna of 1815. Moniuszko’s father, who had served as an officer in Napoleon’s army, was a poet and painter of note, while his mother was a gifted amateur painter who gave him his first piano lessons. In 1827 the family moved to Warsaw, where he took piano lessons with the German-born August Freyer. Three years later, as a result of financial pressures, the family moved back to Minsk; here he continued his musical studies with Dominik Stefanowicz, the conductor of the local theatre orchestra. As a result of the growing Russian influence on formal Polish education, his father removed him from school in Minsk in 1837 and sent him to Berlin, where he enrolled in the Singakademie, to study with CF Rungenhagen. In Berlin he greatly increased his knowledge of opera: Spontini was director of the court opera, where the repertoire included recent works by Weber, Marschner and Lortzing. He completed his studies in 1839, settled in Vilnius (then part of Poland), married, and eked out a meagre living as a church organist, piano teacher and conductor of the local theatre orchestra.

While in Berlin, Moniuszko had composed some songs, two string quartets and the operetta A Night in the Apennines, which was first performed in Vilnius in 1839. The return to his home country sparked a flurry of compositional activity, which resulted in further songs and operettas, the best of which, The Lottery, received its premiere in Minsk in 1843, followed by further performances in 1846 in Warsaw. Here he encountered several of the principal figures in contemporary Polish artistic life, including the poet Włodzimierz Wolski, the future librettist of two of his operas Halka and The Countess. His time in Warsaw fired him with the desire to compose a ‘grand opera’, and he set about writing Halka straight away. Quickly completed, the initial two-act version was first performed in concert in Vilnius in 1848, the year in which major revolutions erupted in Europe, and was later staged in 1854. After considerable difficulties it was accepted for performance in Warsaw, and for this Moniuszko revised and extended it to four acts. It was immediately successful when staged in 1858 and has remained the most popular of Polish operas.

The success of Halka made Moniuszko a national celebrity: he undertook a tour of Europe, during which he met Smetana in Prague and Liszt in Weimar, and then stayed in Paris, where he began to compose the one-act opera The Raftsman. On returning to Poland he accepted the post of head of Polish productions at the Wielki Theatre in Warsaw. Here The Raftsman and The Countess were successfuly mounted in 1858 and 1860; they were followed by another one-acter, Verbum nobile, libretto by Jan Chęciński, that was presented in 1861. In the same year Moniuszko and Chęciński set to work on The Haunted Manor. Alongside his professional life, Moniuszko was also involved in local political developments, which came to a head in the unsuccessful political insurrection of 1863, during which the Wielki Theatre was converted into a barracks. Moniuszko lost his position and was thus dependant for an income upon his work as a professor of choral conducting at the newly founded Music Institute, the forerunner of the present Warsaw Conservatory. Russian rule of Poland now became more harsh: censorship was extreme. The Haunted Manor was viewed by the authorities as excessively patriotic and had to be withdrawn after its third performance in 1865. Moniuszko’s creativity declined: his next two stage works, the opera Paria and the operetta Beata, were both unsuccessful when performed in 1869 and 1872, the year in which Moniuszko died of a heart attack.

The libretto of The Haunted Manor is based on a story by KW Wojcicki that was published in his Old Legends and Pictures. It was exactly what Moniuszko had been searching for: an old Polish idyll that tells of noble country-loving people and which evokes a picture of the old, colourful way of life of the gentry. By idealizing the past, the composer sought to alleviate the national depression in the face of Russian rule and to suggest that the beautiful and serene past might be revived at some time in the future. It has been suggested that The Haunted Manor is the musical equivalent of Mickiewicz’s epic poem Master Thaddeus—like the opera a ‘genteel story’ of 1811–12, portraying a vision of the past that is described in the brilliant colours of the poetic world. At the same time the opera focuses upon the idealistic preoccupation with the patriotic duties of the soldier, and the military virtues of courage, bravery, and the readiness to take up arms against any enemy of the nation, as well as the importance of family honour. It thus presents in its opening scenes the obvious conflict between these patriotic aspirations on the one hand, and the desire for a quiet home life, love and marriage, on the other. This nationalistic picture is further coloured by the frequent use of Polish dance forms, such as the polonaise, mazurka, krakowiak, and polka, a Czech ‘Polish dance’. In terms of musical style Moniuszko blends elements drawn from the French opéra-comique repertoire and Italian opera, with the addition of a central role for the chorus.

The plot of The Haunted Manor revolves around the decision of the two brothers Stefan and Zbigniew, who have returned from war, to foreswear women, so that they are ready to fight for their country whenever needed. Their plans are thrown into disarray by their aunt Cześnikowa who has plans for them to marry two girls she has chosen. The brothers announce that they are off to see an old friend of their father’s, Miecznik. He has two daughters whom Cześnikowa thinks the brothers may fall for, so she tells them that the manor where Miecznik lives is haunted. Miecznik’s daughters, Hanna and Jadwiga, are preparing for the traditional fortune-telling that may reveal their future husbands, whom Miecznik would like to be soldiers. To put the girls off the brothers, Cześnikowa intends to portray them as cowards. A hunting party arrives, led by Skoluba, with news to his discomfort that a wild boar has been killed, by the brothers. The two sisters decide to test the brothers by playing a trick on them. After all have gone to bed the brothers confess to each other that they have fallen in love with the girls, who are hiding in the same room. Hearing strange noises they stumble upon Damazy, a foppish lawyer who is courting Hanna. Damazy invents a story that the manor house is haunted because of previous nefarious deeds, and the brothers decide to leave immediately. Miecznik brands them as cowards. After a party of revellers has interrupted the proceedings and Damazy confesses that he is in love with Hanna, Miecznik reveals that the ‘haunting’ refers to the magic powers the manor was reputed to possess in the past, as every man who visited it to court the nine beautiful daughters of his grandfather ended up by proposing to them. Stefan and Zbigniew apologise for their suspicions, declare their love for Hanna and Jadwiga, and Miecznik blesses the two couples.

David Patmore

Synopsis

CD 1

Act I

[1] Intrada (Orchestra)

[2] Scene 1: The setting is an army campsite. On the left the entrance to an inn. On the right a few tents. Soldiers are seated in front of the inn. Downstage on the right the two brothers Zbigniew and Stefan are seated, surrounded by friends, and with their servant Maciej in the forefront. Stefan and Zbigniew sing of returning home, where they will be ready to fight for their country at the first call. They are happy to foreswear the love of women and sing of the joys of bachelorhood. They all say goodbye and will meet again where fate decrees. Zbigniew and Stefan, followed by Maciej, depart.

[3] Scene 2: The setting is a large but modestly furnished room in Stefan and Zbigniew’s manor house. Upstage a doorway leads to a porch and on the left a window through which some old furniture may be seen. A group of peasants are completing the cleaning. They ask the housekeeper, Marta, if it is true that the brothers are returning. She confirms that they are and fetches salt and bread with which to welcome them.

[4] Scene 3: Stefan and Zbigniew enter and take the proferred bread and salt from Marta, which Maciej places on a table. The brothers greet everyone warmly, and sing of their affection for the manor house, where they were born and grew up, and of their joy at returning to it. After the peasants and Marta have left, the brothers look forward to cultivating their estate and caring for their retainers, while also remaining bachelors with Maciej as their steward. Out of the window they see a coach approaching.

[5] Scene 4. Their aunt Cześnikowa enters and welcomes them home, commenting that they will gain the attention of all the women in the town. There are so many women around that single men are extremely attractive. She mentions two that she would especially like them to meet—they would make wonderful wives. The brothers thank her for her interest, but tell her that they are committed to bachelorhood and to cultivating their estate. They tell her that shortly they will be going to the estate of Kalinowo for New Year’s Eve, the home of Miecznik, the sword-bearer and friend of their father. Cześnikowa, alarmed that her plan to marry them off may fail, suggests that Kalinowo is dangerous.

[6] Scene 5. The peasants, Marta and Maciej re-enter with the valet Grześ. Cześnikowa suggests that the manor house of Kalinowo is haunted. All except the brothers express considerable concern, fearing that the brothers may face ruin. Stefan and Zbigniew tell them that their hearts are pure and that they fear no danger. The retainers acknowledge that God will protect them.

Act II

[7] Scene 1. The setting is a large room in Kalinowo, the manor house of Miecznik. It is half-panelled in wood. On the left a fireplace, upstage the main doorway and on the right doors to other rooms. It is New Year’s Eve. Miecznik’s daughters Jadwiga and Hanna and others are sitting at looms embroidering a carpet, while others work at spinning wheels. They sing of their pleasure at making the carpet, which will be finished long before many couples are engaged to be married. They are looking forward to the New Year. Hanna stands up and suggests that they seek to foretell the future by looking into molten wax in water. Jadwiga sings of the appearance of lovers, but then takes fright at the idea of foretelling the future—what lies in store is God’s design.

[8] Scene 2. Damazy, a lawyer and Miecznik’s factotum, enters with a bowl of water for the fortune telling. He tells Hanna that she does not need to look into the future—he is the man for them. She makes fun of him to his discomfort.

[9] Scene 3. Miecznik enters and greets everyone. Hanna pours the molten wax into the water. Jadwiga peers into it and sees helmets and visors and other military symbols. She tells Hanna that she will be married to a knight. Miecznik tells Damazy that his dreams may come to nothing. Hanna now looks into the wax and sees swords and ploughs. Miecznik suggests that magic is seldom right—they must trust in God. He sings that he who seeks to wed his daughters must be good and brave, a crack shot and a swordsman, and one for traditions and national dress. Anyone else (looking at Damazy) will fail. After he has finished, the girls clear away the fortune-telling equipment.and depart. Only Hanna, Jadwiga and Miecznik remain.

[10] Scene 4. Hearing sleigh bells outside, Miecznik opens the door to Cześnikowa. Miecznik welcomes her. She asks if the squires, Stefan and Zbigniew, have arrived yet. Miecznik says how much he is looking forward to seeing them. Cześnikowa maligns them, while Miecznik says how he would hate to have her as an in-law.

[11] Scene 5. The huntsmen, led by Skołuba, enter. Skołuba claims to have killed a wild boar, but the huntsmen disagree—they say it was shot by gentlemen in a cart, which is arriving outside. Now the truth will be revealed.

[12] Scene 6. Stefan and Zbigniew enter. Miecznik welcomes them as the sons of one of his closest friends, and introduces them to those present. Hanna and Jadwiga look fixedly at Stefan and Zbigniew. Cześnikowa worries for the future while Miecznik recalls his memories of the boys’ father. Meanwhile Skołuba asks Maciej who shot the boar, and Maciej claims that he did. Damazy sees rivals present and realises that he is wasting his time. Stefan and Zbigniew engage Hanna and Jadwiga as well as Cześnikowa in conversation. They all form pairs, Stefan with Jadwiga, Zbigniew with Hanna, and Miecznik with Cześnikowa and prepare to move into another room. Skołuba suggests intrigue to Damazy, who is delighted to co-operate.

CD 2

Act III

[1] Scene 1. The setting is a deserted hall with old furnishings, some of which are damaged. Upstage, through two large windows a garden in winter may be seen. Between the windows stands a large grandfather clock with a coat-of-arms hanging above it. Further forward, in view of the audience, hang two large portraits, both military in nature. By the wings hang two portraits of matronly women. The stage is lit by moonlight coming through the window. Skołuba is leading Maciej, who is frightened, around the hall. Skołuba tells Maciej where the two brothers will be sleeping, and then shows him where he, Maciej, will be sleeping, by the clock. Both think the chamber may be haunted. Skołuba bids Maciej good night and departs.

[2] Scene 2. Maciej is startled to hear Hanna’s voice coming from the portrait on the right and Jadwiga’s from that on the left. He then notices that real faces have appeared in the portraits. As he starts to flee he bumps into Stefan and Zbigniew entering.

[3] Scene 3. Maciej tells them that he thinks the chamber is haunted, but Stefan and Zbigniew ridicule him. Zbigniew and Maciej depart.

[4] Scene 4. Stefan sings of his feeling that the manor is indeed haunted, but by love, and especially his love for Hanna. The clock strikes and then plays a polonaise. These sounds stir up in Stefan’s mind memories of his mother and father, especially of his father departing for battle.

[5] Scene 5. Zbigniew re-enters: he cannot sleep, unlike Maciej. He can only think of Jadwiga. Stefan tells him that he feels the same for Hanna and they celebrate that they are not rivals in love. Stefan starts to reminisce again, while Zbigniew starts to revel in the bachelor state. As they prepare to depart, the portraits of the two women slide upwards: Hanna and Jadwiga step into the frames, dressed in costumes similar to those of the original paintings. As the brothers speak the sisters echo their words.They sing a quartet suggesting that there is more to life than entering old age alone—it is best to have a partner. As the quartet finishes, Damazy, who has been sleeping in the clock, steps out and, noticing the girls, moves cautiously to the centre of the stage. As they call out his name he rushes back to the clock. Stefan and Zbigniew realise that there is something strange about the paintings as the canvases slide down into place. Stefan and Zbigniew guess that the girls may have been playing tricks on them and depart through the windows, leaving Maciej to stand guard. Convinced the house is haunted, Maciej falls asleep. Damazy comes out of the clock and moves downstage.

[6] Scene 6. Damazy finds the switches which control the canvases of the paintings going up and down. Maciej wakes and thinks Damazy is the ghost of the clock. As he tries to act like a ghost Maciej recognises him.

[7] Scene 7. Zbigniew and Stefan enter. Zbigniew asks why there is so much noise. Maciej replies that he is guarding Damazy. Stefan and Zbigniew think that it is Damazy who has been engineering the changes in the paintings and the clock. Damazy vigorously denies that all this is his doing. Then he tries to turn the situation to his advantage by saying that he hid in the clock, as he was curious about the haunted history of the house but did not wish to sleep alone. As the others show interest he goes on to say that many years ago the house was cursed through bad deeds and ill-gotten gains. Stefan, Zbigniew and Maciej decide it is time to leave and Damazy thinks that he has got the better of them. They all depart.

Act IV

[8] Scene 1. The setting is the same as for Act II, a large room in Kalinowo, the manor house of Miecznik. Hanna, alone, paces up and down, deep in thought. She finds the behaviour of the two brothers strange, especially their seeming resistance to the idea of marriage. Polish women by contrast are strong and courageous. Damazy enters. He tells Hanna that the brothers intend to leave, frightened by the ghosts of the previous night. When he says they are cowards she calls him a liar. Damazy plans to ask her to marry him as soon as the brothers are out of the way. Hanna is about to leave when she meets Stefan in the doorway.

[9] Scene 4. Stefan, Miecznik and Zbigniew enter. Miecznik urges the brothers to stay, but they are clear that they do not want to do so.

[10] Scene 5. Maciej enters. Miecznik accuses them all of being cowards. Maciej recounts what Damazy has said about the manor’s past.

[11] Scene 6. The sounds of sleighs and sleigh bells can be heard outside. Skołuba enters and Miecznik commands him to go and fetch Damazy. Skołuba tells him that Damazy has gone to the town. Miecznik tells the brothers that he will be able to explain the legend of the manor as soon as Damazy returns.

[12] Scene 7. The main doors swing open and a large group, dressed in various costumes, enter. Harlequin (Damazy in disguise) taps the two brothers on the shoulder with a carpet beater and disappears into the crowd. Musicians position themselves in the corners of the stage. The guests greet Stefan, Zbigniew and Miecznik. Skołuba enters and stands by the central doors awaiting instructions. The chorus sings of the cold weather and the desire for a hot toddy, after which a mazurka is played. The chorus urges the musicians to play with verve and gusto. Servants enter with cakes and glasses of wine, which they offer to the guests. Miecznik is perplexed. The chorus asks him what’s wrong. He replies that he is so sorry his friend who left at dawn cannot be with them. The chorus reply that he is in fact present, dressed as Harlequin. The chorus continues to sing of the need for drink because of the cold weather, while Damazy confirms his presence. Miecznik demands to know why he has been speaking ill of the manor. Damazy replies that he came up with what he said as a way of eliminating his rivals. Damazy is about to ask for the hand of the sister whom he wishes to marry when Zbigniew and Stefan approach him in a threatening manner. Stefan turns to Miecznik and asks for Hanna’s hand, and Zbigniew asks for Jadwiga’s. Miezcnik says he is not going to agree to anything until the matter of why the manor is haunted is explained. He calls for his daughters who immediately appear. He takes them to the centre of the stage with himself and asks for their help. Damazy hurriedly exits.

[13] Scene 8. Miecznik tells how his grandfather built the manor and had nine daughters. Gradually they all were married. Other girls who were waiting to be married blamed the manor and said that it was haunted, or enchanted.

[14] Scene 9. Cześnikowa enters with Damazy who tells her what has happened. Miecznik tells her that she was wrong to cast doubt on the bravery of Stefan and Zbigniew. Stefan and Zbigniew tell Cześnikowa that they know why the manor is said to be haunted. Miezcnik agrees to their requests for the hands of Hanna and Jadwiga. The chorus sings in praise of the haunted manor and of marriage.


David Patmore


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