(The Pariah) is the last of Moniuszko’s operas,
coming after The Haunted Manor
(1865) which is the best
worked on the opera for some ten years
and based it on a play by Casimir Dalvigne. In fact when he was
eighteem Moniuszko had made his own translation of Dalvigne’s
play but this has been lost; the libretto to the opera is by
Jan Checinski who wrote the librettos to Moniuszko’s two
previous operas (The Haunted Manor
and Verbum Nobile
It is puzzling as to why Moniuszko might have chosen the subject
matter. Its Hindu setting links it to such operas as The Pearl
, but Moniuszko’s treatment
lacks the perfumed exoticism of Bizet and Delibes. Moniuszko’s
music is no more Hindu than Verdi’s music for Aida
Egyptian. Interestingly another play by Dalvigne was the source
material for the libretto of Verdi’s opera Vêpres
which was premiered in 1855.
The opera concerns the love between Neala (Katarzyn Holysz) and
Idamor (Tomas Kuk)
She is a priestess and the daughter of Akebar (Janusz Lewandowski)
the high priest and head of the Brahmin caste. He is a warrior
who has recently defended the country against its enemies. Finally
Akebar agrees to their wedding, but the celebration is interrupted
by Dzares (Leszek Skrla) who is a pariah. Dzares demands to be
put to death according to the law, but Idamor realises that he
is his father. Idamor has already confessed to Neala that he
was born into the pariah caste. In the end Idamor dies in Dzares
It is difficult to get too worked up about the fate of the characters.
The plot relies too heavily on its exotic location and Moniuszko
rather fails to interest us in these people. The scenario relies
a little too heavily on ceremonial in the Brahmin temple and
the drama is driven by operatic convention and coincidence.
Though other European influences can be detected, it is German
Romanticism which seems to have influenced Moniuszko most, which
sits rather oddly with the opera’s subject matter.
The cast of Castle Opera give the work their best shot and the
performance is entirely creditable and enables everyone to come
to grips which the delights and problems of Moniuszko’s
grand opera. There are some lovely moments and Moniuszko’s
scene-painting is delightful, though this does not really add
up to a highly dramatic opera.
Katarzyna Holysz makes an attractive Neala, though her tone quality
is sometimes a bit more steely than is really necessary. Tomasz
Kuk makes a virile-sounding Idamor, though he rather smudges
the detail in the vocal line at times. Janusz Lewandowski makes
a strong Akebar and has probably the finest voice on the disc.
The other roles are all quite small but well taken.
The performance from the choir and orchestra has its limitations,
but under Warcislaw Kunc’s direction they give a performance
which does at least enable us to hear Moniuszko’s opera.
Frankly this release is for interested parties only. If you know
Moniuszko’s work and want to hear his final opera, then
this release enables you to do just that. But if you are just
curious, do try but you may wonder what all the fuss is about.