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Ignacy Jan PADEREWSKI (1860-1941)
Manru - opera: a lyrical drama in three acts (1899-1900)
To a libretto in German by Alfred Nossig on Josef Ignacy Kraszewski’s novel ‘The Hut Behind the Village’
Taras Ivaniv (ten) - Manru
Ewa Czermak (sop) - Ulana
Barbara Krahel (mezzo) - Jadwiga
Agnieszka Rehlis (mezzo) - Aza
Radosław Żukowski (bass) - Jagu
Maciej Krzysztyniak (bar) - Urok
Zbigniew Kryczka (bass-bar) - Oroz

Dorota Dutkowska (mezzo) - A girl
Andrzej Kalinin (ten) - Voice from the Mountains
Stanisław Czermak - violin solo

Chorus of the Lower Silesian Opera in Wrocław/Małgorzata Orawska
Orchestra of the Lower Silesian Opera in Wrocław/Ewa Michnik
rec. live, Great Studio, Polish Radio, Wrocław, March 2001. DDD

world premiere recording
DUX 0368/0369 [68:44 + 41:27]


The people at the Polish company Dux have fought an uphill battle to produce this world premiere recording. They have had the digital masters on their shelves for three years awaiting funding. At last a benefactor has stepped forward to join the Polish National Commission for UNESCO and Opera Dolnośląwska - Institute of Culture.

Dux have already done more for Paderewski’s musical legacy than any other company but this set crowns their achievement. Their numerous Paderewski discs have been reviewed on this site.

First let’s set the scene .... Paderewski studied with Zelenski at the Warsaw Conservatoire before moving to Berlin where he worked with Kiel and Urban. His most important influence was Leschetitsky. Paderewski’s career was launched by his first Vienna concert in 1887. Well into the 1920s he remained the world’s most highly paid concert pianist. However he had political nationalist beliefs. In 1910, in Cracow, he raised funds for and implemented an imposing monument to the Poles’ victory over the Prussians in 1410 - I wonder if it survived the German occupation. Paderewski quickly let his interest in playing and writing music slip away as politics became the ascendant impulse. He was present at Versailles in 1919 as Head of State for Poland in the Treaty negotiations. Like many an artist since he made come-back tours; these taking place in 1922 and 1923. Sadly he lived only long enough to see the despoliation of his homeland by the Nazis. He died in New York voicing the Polish cause to the USA.

Paderewski did not write an enormous amount and Manru is his only opera. He had long cherished the idea of writing a grand opera; Manru is the fulfilment of that dream.

The plot of Manru: The Tatra mountains are the scene of this opera - the same Tatras portrayed by Vitezlav Novák in his tone poem In the Tatras and the scene of the death of the composer Mieczyslaw Karłowicz in an avalanche. Ulana, has eloped with Manru, a gypsy. She returns to her village, and implores her mother, Hedwig, mortified by the elopement, to forgive her. Hedwig will do this if she will abandon Manru. Ulana is having none of this and Hedwig throws her out. Ulana then troops off to see the dwarf wizard Urok. He gives her a magic potion to secure the love of Manru who now hankers for the open road.

In the next act Ulana sings a lullaby to her baby. Manru is there but still torn between love for Ulana and the wandering life. Urok pays them a visit to the sound of a gypsy violin. This is too much for Manru who disappears into the forest. The gypsy fiddler Jogu tries to lure him back and there is temptation in the shape of the beautiful gypsy Asa. Somehow Ulana finds him and Manru drinks the potion - which soon has the desired result though it is transient.

Act III, like Act II, is set in the mountains, this time near a lake. The troubled Manru wanders the moonlit scenery then falls asleep. He is woken by the arrival of the gypsy families. Asa intercedes with Oros, the gypsy chief, to be reconciled with the wayward Manru. The gypsies forgive Manru and make him their chief supplanting Oros who then makes off. Manru at last succumbs to Asa. Ulana, in despair drowns herself in the lake. Manru and Asa are idyllically happy but as they walk the mountains they are waylaid by Oros who pushes Manru to his death. Finis.

A fuller synopsis can be found at:-

Ulana, as sung by Eva Czermak, is an incendiary role with plenty of formidably volatile emotional singing. Czermak has a strong Slavonic voice with a sustained explosive power to impart to fricatives and set piece dramatics as in Scene VI - ‘Matko, matko moja’. The strain tells more clearly on her ‘Manru’ Ivaniv (e.g. in scene 1 of Act 2, tr. 11) who seems to be under pressure vying with the stormy instrument that is Czermak’s voice. In fact it is the role of Ulana that has real prominence and the opera might easily have been called ‘Ulana’.

We are told by Jacek Marczyński that Manru is ‘undoubtedly inspired by Wagner’s music’. Personally I do not hear this. More often I was reminded of Tchaikovsky both Iolanta and Onegin among the operas and Nutcracker among the other works. One of the main recurrent melodic cells instantly recalls the pendant part of the theme from the Onegin - Letter Scene. In this vein there is some flamboyantly romantic and dramatic music in Act 1, Scene VII between Ulana and Urok. The duet between Ulana and Manru in Scene VI of Act II blazes with a slow-blooming passion - wonderful stuff!

Vigorous and extremely attractive folk dances, voiced by the choir, look forward, through a glass darkly, to Szymanowski’s dances in Harnasie and to the early idyllic country estate scenes in Prokofiev’s War and Peace. This can be heard in Scenes VIII and IX of Act 1. Massed choral textures clothing dance figures recur for scene 2 of Act 3. This writing recalls the choral dances in Omar Khayyam, Bantock’s contemporaneous secular trilogy of carpe diem cantatas.

Ulana’s part is blessed indeed. Listen to the tenderly spun Śpij juź section of Act 2, scene 1. There is also some villainous cackling laughter from time to time but not too much and not desperately over the top.

I mustn’t ignore the orchestra as the extremely well-balanced recording emphasises that Paderewski intended it to be as much a character (the most complex and emotionally articulate of all) as any of the sung roles. It can be heard to brooding effect in the prelude to Act III, the only purely orchestral interlude, in the solo violin and in the anvil clangs that appear sparingly in all three Acts.

Stanisław Czermak’s solo violin puts in a substantial appearance, with predictably gypsy overtones, at Scene 2 of Act 2. As the scene proceeds the violin solo interweaves with the gypsy singing. In the same scene the cimbalom delectably cuts through the singing. The violin writing links with typically flammable fiddle writing as well as transiently reflecting impassioned Brahmsian gestures. Both solo instruments recur in Scene 3 of Act 3. In the final scene the mood darkens still further with Puccinian thunder and lightning coruscating in all directions preparatory to the tragic dénouement.

Manru was premiered in Dresden on 29 May 1901 with George Anthes in the title role. The orchestra was conducted by Ernst Schuch. The work was then given again, this time in Polish, on 8 June 1901, in the Lwow (Lemberg) opera house. There were national premieres of the work in Prague on 24 November 1901, Zurich on 30 January 1902 and Warsaw in May 1902. It was also given at Nice, Monte Carlo, Bonn and Kiev. The 1901-2 season saw four performances at the Met, the first of which was on 14 February 1902, with Alexander Von Bandrowski as Manru and Marcella Sembrich as Ulana. It is the only Polish work ever produced at the Met. There were also fixtures at Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Boston, Chicago and Baltimore.

Manru’s reception by the US media is documented in detail at:-

If you are at all interested there is a substantial essay on the Stylistic and Dramatic Features of Manru:-

Its later performance history is recounted in Dux’s chunky little booklet. Grand Opera Theatre in Warsaw revived the work in 1930 and gave a further run of performances in 1936. Poznán Opera launched a completely new production in 1938. Since 1945 there have been no productions outside Poland. The Polish performances included ones in Poznán and Warsaw in 1961 and another in Wrocław in 1990 to mark the composer’s 130th birthday. In 2001, this time to mark the 60th anniversary of Paderewski’s death, Wrocław Opera gave a concert performance. It is this version on which the present recording is based.

Unfortunately I could not find the libretto anywhere on the web but it is included in the sung Polish in the 70 page booklet. There are no word for word translations as part of the set. Instead we are given a detailed track-related synopsis in English. Still, it is a pity that the libretto is not also given in English translation.

The booklet, in addition to including the libretto and synopsis also offers profiles of all the artists involved, a full list of personnel of the choir and orchestra as well as Jacek Marczyński’s compact essay on the composer and the opera.

The set comprises an old-style double thickness case for the 2 CDs which is rather extravagant with shelf space, I am afraid. This and the booklet slip into a light card case decorated, as is the front of booklet, with Sir Lawrence Alma-Tadema’s striking 1898 portrait of Paderewski.

Part of Act III, Scene 4 survives on a 1902 Mapleson cylinder preserving in seemingly very poor sound the singing of Fritzi Scheff as Ase, Alexander Von Bandrowski as Manru and Adolph Mühlmann as Oros with the Metropolitan Opera Chorus and Orchestra conducted by Walter Damrosch. This apart the present set is Manru’s recording premiere.

Dux’s overwhelmingly confident Manru deserves wide publicity. I hope that this will happen. If you are at all open to Tchaikovsky, late-romantic folk-opera, Mussorgsky and perhaps partial to a little operatic Rachmaninov then this is for you. You will not be disappointed.

Demand this set from your record store if they do not stock it. Also a word to the wise: sets this attractive and rare often disappear at short notice. Do not let it slip away. Order soon.

Rob Barnett


Having just had a successful foray to the "Collector's Room" in Salisbury at the start of their annual sale, I was particularly excited to come across a copy of the DUX recording of "Manru", substantially reduced.

After reading your review in Musicweb, I set out to find an English version of the libretto, and came across the following web pages, I wonder if you are aware of them:

I expect the German version was published at the time and may be available through antiquarian booksellers. I was very lucky to come across a German libretto for Rozycki's "Eros and Psyche" published in the 1920s, which was a great help in listening to the CDs, not having had the LP version with its fuller documentation.

Now if only the Swedes would release even one of their recordings of Rangstrom's "Kronbruden", this really would be a good year!!

Robin Lim

(Salisbury Recorded Music Society)

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