Culture in Poznań



Moniuszko waved aside comparisons with Chopin

The premiere of Halka on 31 August 1919, more than a century after the birth of Stanisław Moniuszko, inaugurated the first season of the Wielki Theatre in Poznań. One hundred years on, celebrations of the bicentennial of the composer's birth are set to begin in the Poznań Philharmonic. The choice of Moniuszko as Patron of the Year 2019 is going to make for an extraordinary year for the Poznań Philharmonic itself, as well as the rest of the country.

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Marcelina Beucher, photo: Anita Włodarczyk

In the 19th century, a number of the states that were in the process of developing their national identities created their unique national schools of music. Russia became known for the Mighty Handful (Alexander Borodin, Mily Balakirev, César Cui, Modest Mussorgsky, Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov), Norway for Edward Grieg, Bohemia for Bedřich Smetana and Antonín Dvořák, and Poland primarily for Frédéric Chopin. Chopin is often juxtaposed with Moniuszko, who is considered to be "the father of the national opera". The composer himself mocked such parallels, as well as any suggestions he might be a successor to the great pianist. Moniuszko's modest recognition of his limitations was in fact quite endearing. While his music is neither extraordinary nor ground-breaking, its strength lies in its genuineness and its total commitment to its time.

One of the composer's two works that have become fixtures in Polish opera repertoires is Halka. Its libretto by Włodzimierz Wolski, who additionally authored the text of another opera by the same composer, Hrabina (The Countess), tells the story of the unrequited love of a naïve girl who mistook sex with one of the protagonists, Janusz, for his true love. Yet, the rich boy had no intention of marrying the peasant girl and instead had been planning to tie the knot with Stolnik's daughter, the beautiful Zofia. As is common in romantic operas, the main heroine grapples with powerful emotions...

Since its world premiere in Vilnius in 1848, Halka's score has been modified on several occasions. The date on which its enhanced four-act version was staged in Warsaw a decade later, is considered to mark the birth of Polish opera. The opera's success is best evidenced by the number of times it was performed: by 1872 (the year Moniuszko died), Halka had been staged 150 times, while by 1900, that number had grown to an astounding 500. Soon, the polonaise Niech nam żyje para młoda (Long Live the Newlyweds) reverberated not only in Poland's playhouses but also in Prague, Moscow, Kiev, Riga, New York and Milan. Today, Moniuszko's music is all but forgotten internationally.

The commencement of Stanisław Moniuszko Year in the Poznań Philharmonic will be enriched by the showing of the 1927 motion picture Halka, accompanied by live music. The title role in the movie is played by Marcelina Beucher, a laureate of, among others, the Eva Martón International Vocal Competition in Hungary, the Marcella Sembrich-Kochanska International Voice Competition in New York City and the Placido Domingo Operalia Competition in Guadalajara, Mexico. Also starring are Rafał Bartmiński (tenor) and Mariusz Godlewski (baritone). The Poznań Philharmonic Orchestra will be led by Adam Banaszak, a conductor of the young generation who made a name for himself as the musical director of Czarodziejska góra (The Magic Mountain) by Paweł Mykietyn.

Aleksandra Kujawiak

translation: Krzysztof Kotkowski

Due to the national mourning after the death of Paweł Adamowicz - the mayor of Gdańsk, the Filharmonia Poznańska (Poznań Philharmonic) changes the program and the date of the 474th Poznań Concert scheduled for Saturday 19 January 2019. The Halka on screen and on stage concert will take place in the second half of 2019, in the artistic season 2019/2020. On Friday (18.01) there will be a music event commemorating the late president.

© Wydawnictwo Miejskie Posnania 2019