Notes and Editorial Reviews
EMI has given us an early Christmas present. Recorded in 2001, it took a while to reach the US, but it was worth the wait. Don’t judge the work by its somber title, or by the ominous chords that greet your ears in the first few seconds. The Haunted Manor is a comic opera that bubbles over with one infectious melody after another. It embodies The Bartered Bride, The Daughter of the Regiment, The Barber of Seville, Martha type of merriment.
The plot revolves around the decision two newly discharged soldiers make to never marry (in case military duty calls again). But, living at a nearby estate (The Haunted Manor) are the Sword Bearer’s two daughters. They are being pursued by the lawyer Damazy—whom they do not consider good
husband material. They like the soldiers better! There are some complications along the way, including the efforts made by the daughters to capitalize on the manor’s haunted reputation to scare the soldiers, but happily, by act IV the soldiers and the Sword Bearer’s daughters decide to marry. The chorus finds an excuse to arrive so all can dance a happy mazurka. It’s great fun.
The opera is sung throughout. The recitatives are as melodious as the arias; they flow in and out of each other seamlessly. Some of the music is nationalistic, enough to add flavor to the proceedings, but the appeal is universal and so immediate that it’s puzzling why it’s not better known outside of Poland. Perhaps this EMI recording will help to introduce Moniuszko and The Haunted Manor to a wider audience. This recording has been given a first-class treatment. It’s a studio recording with a strong cast and a conductor who knows and loves the opera. As noted above, Jacek Kaspszyk has conducted The Haunted Manor throughout his career, including a 1982 production in Detroit, Michigan. His tempos have that sense of rightness about them; they breathe with the moment and he builds each scene to the finale. The plot, more convoluted than my simplified reduction, is well constructed. Librettist Jan Ch?ci?ski had that special gift of knowing how to write for the stage—how to structure a plot and build a scene. The sound is warm and spacious and the balances are excellent. The booklet provides the libretto in four languages: Polish, German, French, and English. The German and English are rhymed, often preserving the same rhyme schemes as the original. Unfortunately, no biographical information about the soloists is provided.
Recordings of his music, especially in the United States, are few. Only one of his other operas is currently available: Halka, in a live recording on cpo. Two discs of overtures—one on cpo, the other on Olympic—are the only other recordings devoted exclusively to Moniuszko’s music. His songs and some of his instrumental music share disc space with material of similar nature by other composers. EMI has made a daring artistic decision by releasing The Haunted Manor rather than a safer (i.e., more likely to earn an immediate profit box-office war horse with operatic superstars) choice. This album is definitely worth a listen. Highly recommended.
David L. Kirk, FANFARE
Works on This Recording
Haunted Manor by Stanislaw Moniuszko
Piotr Nowacki (Bass),
Adam Kruszewski (Baritone),
Dariusz Stachura (Tenor),
Iwona Hossa (Soprano),
Anna Lubanska (Alto),
Krzysztof Szmyt (Tenor),
Zbigniew Macias (Baritone),
Agnieszka Zwierko (Mezzo Soprano),
Stefania Toczyska (Mezzo Soprano),
Romuald Tesarowicz (Bass),
Jacek Parol (Tenor)
Wielki Theatre Orchestra,
Wielki Theatre Chorus
Written: 1861-1864; Poland
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