Subscribe to
Opera Today

Receive articles and news via RSS feeds or email subscription.


facebook-icon.png


twitter_logo[1].gif



9780393088953.png

9780521746472.png

0810888688.gif

0810882728.gif

Recently in Recordings

Camille Saint-Saens: Mélodies avec orchestra

Saint-Saëns Mélodies avec orchestra with Yann Beuron and Tassis Christoyannis with the Orchestra della Svizzera Italiana conducted by Markus Poschner.

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV recreated at Versailles

Les Funérailles Royales de Louis XIV, with Ensemble Pygmalion, conducted by Raphaël Pichon now on DVD/Blu -ray from Harmonia Mundi. This captures the historic performance at the Chapelle Royale de Versailles in November 2015, on the 300th anniversary of the King's death.

Tenebræ Responsories
recording by Stile Antico

Tomas Luis de Victoria’s Tenebrae Responsories are designed to occupy the final three days of Holy Week, and contemplate the themes of loss, betrayal and death that dominate the Easter week. As such, the Responsories demand a sense of darkness, reflection and depth that this new recording by Stile Antico - at least partially - captures.

Mahler Symphony no 9, Daniel Harding SRSO

Mahler Symphony no 9 in D major, with Daniel Harding conducting the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, new from Harmonia Mundi. A rewarding performance on many levels, not least because it's thoughtfully sculpted, connecting structure to meaning.

A Splendid Italian Spoken-Dialogue Opera: De Giosa’s Don Checco

Never heard of Nicola De Giosa (1819-85), a composer who was born in Bari (a town on the Adriatic, near the heel of Italy), but who spent most of his career in Naples? Me, neither!

Winterreise by Mark Padmore

Schubert's Winterreise is almost certainly the most performed Lieder cycle in the repertoire. Thousands of performances and hundreds of recordings ! But Mark Padmore and Kristian Bezuidenhout's recording for Harmonia Mundi is proof of concept that the better the music the more it lends itself to re-discovery and endless revelation.

The Epic of Gilgamesh - Bohuslav Martinů

New recording of the English version of Bohuslav Martinů's The Epic of Gilgamesh, from Supraphon, the Czech Philharmonic Orchestra conducted by Manfred Honeck. This is the world premiere recording of the text in English, the original language in which it was written.

Maybe the Best L’heure espagnole Yet

The new recording, from Munich, has features in common with one from Stuttgart that I greatly enjoyed and reviewed here: the singers are all native French-speakers, the orchestra is associated with a German radio channel, we are hearing an actual performance (or in this case an edited version from several performances, in April 2016), and the recording is released by the orchestra itself or its institutional parent.

Stéphanie d’Oustrac in Two Exotic Masterpieces by Maurice Ravel

The two works on this CD make an apt and welcome pair. First we have Ravel’s sumptuous three-song cycle about the mysteries of love and fantasies of exotic lands. Then we have his one-act opera that takes place in a land that, to French people at the time, was beckoningly exotic, and whose title might be freely translated “The Nutty and Delightful Things That Can Happen in Spain in Just One Hour”.

Stefano Secco: Crescendo

I had never heard of Stefano Secco before receiving this CD. But I see that, at age 34, he already has had a substantial career, singing major roles at important houses throughout Europe and, while I was not paying attention, occasionally in the US.

French orientalism : songs and arias, Sabine Devieilhe

Mirages : visions of the exotic East, a selection of French opera arias and songs from Sabine Devieilhe, with Alexandre Tharaud and Les Siècles conducted by François-Xavier Roth, new from Erato

Hans Werner Henze Choral Music

Hans Werner Henze works for mixed voice and chamber orchestra with SWR Vokalensemble and Ensemble Modern, conducted by Marcus Creed. Welcome new recordings of important pieces like Lieder von einer Insel (1964), Orpheus Behind the Wire (1984) plus Fünf Madrigale (1947).

Bettina Smith, Norwegian Mezzo, in Songs by Fauré and Debussy

Here are five complete song sets by two of the greatest masters of French song. The performers are highly competent. I should have known, given the rave reviews that their 2015 recording of modern Norwegian songs received.

Étienne-Nicolas Méhul: Uthal

The opera world barely knows how to handle works that have significant amounts of spoken dialogue. Conductors and stage directors will often trim the dialogue to a bare minimum (Magic Flute), have it rendered as sung recitative (Carmen), or have it spoken in the vernacular though the sung numbers may often be performed in the original language (Die Fledermaus).

A New Anna Moffo?: The Debut Disc of Aida Garifullina

Here is the latest CD from a major label promoting a major new soprano. Aida Garifullina is utterly remarkable: a lyric soprano who also can handle coloratura with ease. Her tone has a constant shimmer, with a touch of quick, narrow vibrato even on short notes.

Il sogno di Scipione: a new recording from Classical Opera

With this recording of Mozart’s 1771 opera, Il sogno di Scipione (Sicpio’s Dream), Classical Opera continue their progress through the adolescent composer’s precocious achievements and take another step towards the fulfilment of their complete Mozart opera series for Signum Classics.

Mozart’s Requiem: Pierre-Henri Dutron Edition

The stories surrounding Mozart’s Requiem are well-known. Dominated by the work in the final days of his life, Mozart claimed that he composed the Requiem for himself (Landon, 153), rather than for the wealthy Count Walsegg’s wife, the man who had commissioned it in July 1791.

Schumann and Mahler Lieder : Florian Boesch

Schumann and Mahler Lieder with Florian Boesch and Malcolm Martineau, now out from Linn Records, following their recent Schubert Winterreise on Hyperion. From Boesch and Martineau, excellence is the norm. But their Mahler Lieder eines fahrenden Gesellen takes excellence to even greater levels

Hans Werner Henze : Kammermusik 1958

"....In lieblicher Bläue". Landmark new recordings of Hans Werner Henze Neue Volkslieder und Hirtengesänge and Kammermusik 1958 from the Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, with Andrew Staples, Markus Weidmann, Jürgen Ruck and Daniel Harding.

Elder conducts Lohengrin

There have been dozens of capable, and more than capable, recordings of Lohengrin. Among the most-often praised are the Sawallisch/Bayreuth (1962), Kempe (1963), Solti (1985), and Abbado (1991). Recording a major Wagner opera involves heavy costs that a record company may be unable to recoup.

OPERA TODAY ARCHIVES »

Recordings

Ignacy Jan Paderewski: Manru
26 Jan 2006

PADEREWSKI: Manru

Known for his virtuosity as a pianist, Ignacy Paderewski (1860-1941) is also known as a composer. While most of his works involve piano, he left a single opera, Manru, a three-act work that he composed between 1892 and 1901.

Ignacy Jan Paderewski: Manru

Taras Ivaniv, Ewa Czermak, Barbara Krahel, Agnieszka Rehlis, Radosław Żukowski, Maciej Krzysztyniak, Zbigniew Kryczka, Stanisław Czermak (violin solo), Chór i Orkiestra Opery Dolnośląskiej, Ewa Michnik (cond.).

Dux 0368/0369 [2CDs]

 

The opera was given its premiere in Dresden on 29 May 1901, and a measure of its success resides in the fact that it was given its New York premiere just a year later in 1902. Fully in line with the nationalism that Paderewski promoted, the libretto by Alfreda Nossig is based on Jósefa Ignacego Kraszewski’s 1843 novel Chaty za wsią (“The Cabin behind the Woods”). While this work is regarded as the first Polish music drama, the somewhat eclectic style that Paderewski used in this work is more than a slavish imitation of Wagnerian opera. The story itself resembles some of the narratives that attracted Verismo composers working at the same time as Paderewski. The plot concerns the ill-fated attraction between Polish woman Ulana and the gypsy Manru, which draws on some stereotypes to make its point about the clash of cultures. While the opera fell out of the repertoire, it is still considered to be Paderewski’s masterpiece, and this recording makes the work available again after years of being otherwise inaccessible.

As to the dramatic content of the opera, Paderewski used the first act to introduce the characters in the village, particularly Hedwig and her daughter Ulana, who has run off with Manru. Hedwig will have nothing to do with her daughter because of her association with a gypsy. Driven out of her family’s home, Ulana confides in Urok, a dwarf with a reputation as a sorcerer. While Urok longs for Ulana, he represses his desire for her when she asks him for a potion that will bind Manru to her. At that point the village girls encounter Ulana and try to tell her how faithless gypsy lovers can be, just as Manru returns to the village. Hedwig wants her daughter free of them, but when Ulana will not leave Manru, the mother treats the couple as pariahs as the act ends.

In the second act, Manru has left the gypsies to try to live in the village with Ulana, with whom he has a child. Despite his efforts, he is unhappy and Ulana fears Manru no longer loves her. Upon encountering Urok, Manru disdains the dwarf, who foresees something tragic for the couple. Suddenly violin music occurs in the distance, and upon hearing it Ulana realizes that Manru has run off to meet the gypsy tribe. Manru returns with the gypsy fiddler Jagu, who is responsible for the enticing music. Jagu tries to persuade Manru to leave Ulana, since a gypsy woman, Asa, still pines for Manru. Yet when Ulana asks about the conversation with Jagu, Manru claims that the fiddler is just a wandered and nothing more. Later, when Ulana is alone with Manru, she gives him Urok’s potion to restore Manru to her, and the magic seems to work on the gypsy, Manru declares his passion for Ulana as the conclusion of the act.

At the opening of the final act, Manru finds himself wandering in the forest, and wonders what kind of magic he encountered. The gypsies stumble on Manru, and Asa recognizes her former lover. Oros, the leader of the tribe wants to leave Manru, since he had abandoned them to live in the village. Asa tries to persuade Manru to join them, but Oros argues further with the woman until the fiddler Jagu intervenes. Seeing how Oros behaved in this situation, the tribe no longer want him as their leader and suggest that Manru take charge of the tribe, and as Manru hears Jagu’s fiddling, he decides to join them after all. In the final scene, Ulana realizes that she has lost Manru forever, and she drowns herself. Upon seeing this, Urok is enraged, and he exacts his revenge on the gypsy by throwing Manru into a chasm. The opera ends with Urok’s cries for Ulana and to God as he gets achieves his vengeance.

In setting this libretto, Paderewski adhered to the conventions of the late nineteenth century, with harmonies that reflect the influence of Wagner as well as the German composer’s approach to orchestration. The introduction to the third act is a telling point, in which various motifs may be seen to coalesce prior to the scene between Manru and the gypsies. It resembles in some ways the opening of the final act of Götterdämmerung, with its interplay between the solo tenor and the other male voices, which punctuated at times augmented chords and, at times, some brief dissonances in the orchestra. As to the melodic content, Paderewski’s approach resembles at times that of Smetana and Dvořák, whose opera Rusalka dates from the same time. Declamatory passages occur, with the kind of recitative associated with Italian opera virtually absent from the score. Rather, telling passages of dialogue that require attention to the text are rendered with relatively simple melodic lines with repeated tones to carry the text.

Some of the more expressive lines are given to the character of Manru, whose prominent role is evident Paderewski’s naming the opera after him. Manru’s part contains a number of poignant lines, especially in the touching scene between Ulana and him at the opening of the second act. While Ulana’s role had been more declamatory in the first act, her character is necessarily more reflective in the second act, where she and Manru are essentially living outside their respective communities and wonder if they have become estranged from each other. This scene is at the core of the work and sets up the emotional pitch that brings the opera to its tragic climax.

Suggestions of folk melodies and local color are part of Paderewski’s idiom, but nowhere does he lapse into formulaic numbers. This is an earnest work that draws effectively on folk elements in the larger context of a serious Polish opera. The sense of drama implicit in the text is underscored in the scoring that helps to suggest the emotional pitch of the action. At the same time Paderewski uses the orchestra deftly to underscore the text and suggest the action. The march of the gypsies later in the third act is redolent of orchestral colors without resorting to cliché, and the dramatic scoring in the final scene reinforces the action without overtaking it.

While Paderewski bowed to some nineteenth-century conventions in this work, with set pieces like the march of the gypsies, or the various male or female choruses that represent the peer groups of the protagonists, his extended scenes allow individual elements to work together well, an aspect of the score that is apparent in such a solid performance. Moreover, some aspects of the score point to developments of the time associated with Verismo, which is especially apparent in the final scene, with its highly evocative orchestral line.

For those interested in nineteenth-century opera, Paderewski’s Manru embodies various tendencies in an effective and masterful work. It is a powerful work that can be heard in this recent recording, which is performed convincingly by a cast who evidently know the music well. Taras Ivaniv is engaging in the demanding title role, with a focused sound that helps to deliver the text well. Likewise, the soprano Ewa Czermak brings a fresh, clear sound to the character of Ulana, which has its demands in the highly dramatic moments accorded her. Above all, the conductor Ewa Michnik creates a fine balance between the vocal and instrumental forces, while also establishing tempos that reinforce the emotions suggested in the text.

Sung in Polish, the performance is also convincing because of its rendering of the language clearly, particularly with the speech rhythms and idiomatic accents. For those unfamiliar with Polish, the detailed synopsis of each act is keyed to the tracks for each of the two CDs in the set, thus making it easy to follow the work. It would have been useful for the recording to include not just the entire libretto in Polish, but also a translation into German or English. While it is possible to appreciate the opera as presented in this recording, such a masterpiece of Polish musical culture deserves to be highlighted so that those familiar with other traditions can apprehend Paderewski’s accomplishments in this score. Poised between the operas of Moniusko and Szymanowski, Manru represents the strength of Polish music at the end of the nineteenth century, the very time when the generation of composers associated with the “Young Poland” movement was calling attention to national culture. At the same time, this recording makes available some of the finest music of Paderewski, who made a wonderful contribution to Polish culture with such an effective opera as Manru.

James L. Zychowicz
Madison, Wisconsin

Send to a friend

Send a link to this article to a friend with an optional message.

Friend's Email Address: (required)

Your Email Address: (required)

Message (optional):