Friday, March 08, 2019

Stanisław Moniuszko, The Haunted Manor (1865)

Hey, guess what I saw! Big thanks to my brother for twigging me to this production on youtube, with English subs (well, English and Polish simultaneously--slightly awkward but ultimately perfectly watchable)--I hadn't been able to find it, possibly because the video misspells the title. BUT OH WELL! Of course, this is the other well-known (relatively speaking) opera by the author of Halka. It's very tonally different, though--that was a fairly typical tragedy, whereas this is a goofy comedy with strong lashings of Polish patriotism.

The Haunted Manor concerns two brothers, Stefan and Zbigniew, who at the beginning are just getting out of the army; they take an oath never to get married so that they'll always be available to protect the homeland when needed. Inspiring! But given that this is a comedy, it's pretty easy to guess how that works out. Back home, they decide to visit a manor where an old family friend lives with his daughters, Hanna and Jadwiga, though there's some talk of this mansion being haunted. During the night, the two sisters decide to test the brothers' bravery and some jealous hangers-on try to drive them away by playing that the mansion is indeed haunted. Everything ends happily with the two brothers and two sisters...well, what do you think?

According to the wikipedia entry, this is considered (by whom? Presumably the infamous "some") to be Moniuszko's best opera, so the immediate question is probably: how does this compare to Halka? It may or may not be a good question; I think it's open to debate to what extent you can really meaningfully compare a comedy and a tragedy. However, let's be straight: I didn't like this as much as Halka. I thought the action was somewhat muddled at times, and there were places--the second act in particular--where it seemed a bit draggy. Also, probably naturally, the "rah rah Poland" stuff sort of rolled off my back a bit.

That's not to deny, however, that there's some fantastic music here, and that the singing in this production is universally strong. Probably my single favorite performance was Anna Borucka as the brothers' scheming aunt Czesnikowa. The character is portrayed as a kind of flapper, and it's really delightful; I just wish it were a bigger part.  Stefan (tenor, Tadeusz Szlenkier) and Zbigniew (bass, Rafał Siwek) are also excellent, and I feel the need to point out that, weirdly, they look like two of the main characters from the webcomic Basic Instructions:

See if you don't agree! Stefan in particular gets a really fantastic third-act aria about their late mother, and Szlenkier just kills it. In a sane world, this would be part of the standard concert repertoire--and Moniuszko would be better-known in general. Really now, this is just ridiculous.


Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

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4:10 PM  
Blogger Pan Miluś pontificated to the effect that...

ARGH!!! HOW COULD I MISSED YOUR REVIEW OF THIS? Thank heavens I scroll down to your older reivews and found this by simple mistake other wise this review would be lost forever for me...
Glad you could expiriance it ^_^

In Poland Moniuszko is super popular/recognisable/national treasure/persona importante same way all American know who... errr... think of good example to compare, think of good example to compare... Mark Twain is.

Love is more of our homeland national treasrue people would get popular outside of Poland... Other then by geting the Maria Skłodowska treatment, when some other country took her, slap their nationality on her and now people around the world think she was French despite the fact she's SO clearly Polish! (The house she was born is now a freaking museum for Piotr's Sake!) Same happened to poor Frycek Chopin and Grzegorz Rosiński :( Hell, some people even mistaken Pope John Paul II for being Italian. I know "Out side of Poland" it's where the money is guys, but come on! The Witcher isn't ashamed of being Polish and promoting our country and culture and that guy is ficitional! (sorry for the random rant)

4:15 PM  

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