Stanislaw Moniuszko – Halka, opera in 4 acts
(b. Ubiel near Minsk, May 5, 1819 – d. Warsaw, June 4, 1872)
Polish opera was born on January 1, 1858, when the premiere of the opera “Halka” by Moniuszko, the “father of the Polish National Opera”, took place. It is even considered a role model for Slavic music at a time when Poland had disappeared from the European map due to its tripartite division (Russia, Prussia, Austria), so that national identity was only possible in artistic expression.1 As the New Grove puts it: “Like Glinka in Russia, Erkel in Hungary and Smetana in the Czech lands, Moniuszko is primarily associated with the concept of a national operatic style”.2
The Polish conductor and composer Stanisław Moniuszko was born in Ubiel near Minsk in 1819 and received his first private music lessons from Karl August Freyer between 1827 and 1830. Then he went to Minsk for further training. From 1837 to 1839 Moniuszko studied composition and choral conducting at the Berlin Academy of Arts with Carl Friedrich Rungenhagen. There he also had his first success with the composition of the “Three Songs”, based on the words of the Polish writer Adam Mickiewicz. After his return to Vilnius he worked as an organist and private piano accompanist. Through his acquaintance with the novelist Józef Ignacy Kraszewskin and the comedian Aleksander Fredro, he discovered his interest in dramatic music, and as early as 1840 he composed his first opera. On a trip to St. Petersburg, where he also met Mili Balakirev, Mussorgsky, and Alexander Serov, Mikhail Glinka and Alexander Dargomyshsky were enthusiastic about his talent. When Moniuszko was appointed chief conductor of the Opera Narodowa at the Teatr Wielki in 1858, he conducted his own operas almost exclusively during his fifteen-year tenure. From 1864 he taught harmony, counterpoint and composition at the Warsaw Conservatory and directed the choir there. Later he was appointed professor of composition and music theory. On June 4, 1872, Moniuszko died in Warsaw, and was buried in the Powatzki Cemetery. His well-known operas include “Flis” (The Raftman), „Hrabina“ (The Countess), „Verbum nobile“ and „Straszny Dwór“(The Haunted Castle).3
Typical of Moniuszko’s operas is that the libretti refer to Polish customs and traditions and encourage patriotic feelings.
The librettist of “Halka” is the Polish poet and translator Włodzimierz Wolski, who was born in Pultusk on October 9, 1824 and died in Brussels on July 29, 1882. He is best known as the librettist of Moniuszko’s Polish-language operas “Halka” and “Hrabina”. Wolski belonged to the artist group “Cyganeria Warszawska”, which dealt primarily with the social problems of the peasants. For the libretto, Wolski used elements of Polish romanticism, such as unhappy love leading to madness, and Warsaw positivism, who advocated the need for cooperation between nobles and people. …
Full preface / Komplettes Vorwort > HERE