MONIUSZKO (1819-1872) Halka (1857)
Borodina (soprano) - Halka; Oleh Lykhach (tenor) - Jontek;
Aleksandra Buczek (soprano) - Zofia; Mariusz
Godlewski (baritone) - Janusz; Radosław Zukowski
(bass) - Stolnik
Chorus and Orchestra of the Wrocław Opera/Ewa Michnik
rec. Wrocław Opera, 8 September 2005. DDD
Dolby Digital 2.5/5.0. 4:3 PAL. DVD9+1 DUX 9538 [136:00]
Although the booklet of this Polish DVD gives full orchestra
and chorus listings, it tells us nothing about the composer
or his opera, save a synopsis. Halka is a young girl who
had been seduced by Janusz; however, as the opera begins,
Janusz is in the process of engagement to Zofia, Stolnik's
daughter. Although in private Janusz admits his love for
Halka, he asks her to leave. Jontek, who has long been
in love with Halka, warns her off Janusz but she ignores
his good advice. Act 2 begins with the lovely aria for
Halka, “When the sun rises”. Jontek keeps on warning
her, trying to make her aware of Janusz's unfaithfulness.
She cracks and arrives
back at Janusz's manor house, making a scene. Janusz tries
to bribe Jontek to get rid of Halka. Act 3, a village scene,
gives plenty of chance for peasant dancing. At the beginning
of Act 4, Jontek has his big aria in which he vents his
resentment, but when Halka sees Janusz and Zofia together
at the altar she realises the futility of her situation.
At first she decides to set fire to the church, but on
hearing singing from inside the church she pardons Janusz
and throws herself into the nearby river and drowns.
I had heard CPO's CD version of Halka (999
032-2), it is this DVD that really brings home the opera's
stature. The only advantage the CD has over the DVD is
of the woodwind piping is more convincingly pastoral in
nature; other than that, the Dux wins hands down. This
is not least for the excellence of the heroine, Tatiana
Borodina. Borodina looks the part – pretty but vulnerable.
staging is very imaginative, making full use of available
space. There is a dream-like presentation of events prior
to the opera's action proper over the ten-minute Overture.
By emphasising the empty spaces of the stage and having
uniform white for the chorus, there is something of the
Greek drama about it all. The use of a split stage in the
latter part of Act 2, with the party up top and Halka,
outside and isolated, is most effective.
is no doubting the excellence of the Stolnik - the warm
of voice Radosŀaw Zukowski - in the opening
scenes, but the important part of Janusz is less happily
Oleh Lykhach. Everyone is upstaged by Tatiana Borodina's
vulnerable Halka, though. Fresh and young of voice, Borodina's
high register is a treat and her musicality beyond question.
This is something that is emphasised by her solo scene
in Act 2. Lykhach (Jontek) has a rather bleaty tenor, although
his best moment comes with his declaration of his love
The staging of the rustic third act is stunning in its use
of chorus even if a slightly unsteady camera threatens
to spoil one's enjoyment! The dances come off well in the
orchestra but I remain unconvinced that the choreography
reflects the earthiness of the music. Later in the act
it is Halka that is show-stopping, attaining her finest
moments so far with floated high notes that many a soprano
would die for. In contrast, Jontek seems to be even weaker.
Luckily, Lykhach pulls out all the stops for Jontek's big
arias in Act 4 (“The fir trees sigh
on mountain peaks”), bringing to it a real sense of longing.
Again, a split stage works well later in the act, emphasising
the separation of Halka from all around her. Her 'mad scene'
is most convincing; her call to Almighty God to extend
mercy to his people is probably her finest moment. She
is lowered beneath the stage to represent her drowning,
and there is a freeze on the crowd's action at the end.
and revelatory, then. Obscure opera rarely get a chance
to shine as this one has. It would be perfect to see this
opera at the Coliseum one day
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