The Haunted
Manor

Stanisław Moniuszko

  • Act 1

    40 min.

  • Intermission

    ca. 20 min.

  • Act II

    40 min.

  • Intermission

    ca. 20 min.

  • Act 3 & 4

    1h10 min.

Duration: ca. 3h15 min.

Opera in four acts
Libretto: Jan Chęciński
World premiere: 28 September 1865, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw
Premiere of this production: 8 November 2015, Polish National Opera, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw
In the original Polish with English surtitles
The Haunted Manor by Stanisław Moniuszko comes from the catalogue of PWM Edition 

Even though The Haunted Manor is considered Moniuszko’s most remarkable work, it is still hard to fathom the fact that the opera has been put before the Warsaw public over 1,500 times already. Written after Poland had been wiped from the map of Europe, the masterpiece enabled the desolate nation to go on a sentimental journey back to the time when its motherland was self-governing and free from external peril. A praise for family and native traditions evoking the happy days of yore won the hearts of the Polish audience yearning for its heritage. Before the tsarist censors realised the opera had been written to lift the Poles’ spirits and banned it after the third show in 1865, large portions of the public had managed to see the production and spread the word about the hope of restoring freedom that it offered. Unfortunately, Moniuszko did not live to see the next staging. A hundred years since its world premiere, the opera opened the first season at the newly restored Warsaw opera house following its destruction during the Second World War. It was no coincidence: in the course of the intervening decades The Hunted Manor became a symbol of Polish patriotism, Poland, and the strength of her nation that has risen from ashes many times it its history. 

It is also no surprise that this very Polish work was for years staged exclusively by Polish directors. In 2015, however, a British name was listed under ‘director’ in the credits of the Polish National Opera’s new production of The Haunted Manor. David Pountney, prominent regisseur and director of leading opera festivals and houses, had previously staged The Passenger and William Tell for the company. Fascinated by the mentality of the nations from behind the iron curtain, he accepted the challenge of staging the Moniuszko work on the familiar stage of the Warsaw opera house, equipped with his typical passion and commitment.

In Pountney’s opinion, Moniuszko deliberately set his opera in the 18th century as it had been the last period when Poland was independent before its collapse. That is why the British director moved his take on The Haunted Manor to another time of respite from historical turmoil, the 20th-century interwar period.  

While enjoying the atmosphere of the 1920s and 1930s with the escapism, hedonism, and gaiety inspired by the recovery of Poland’s sovereignty in 1918 pervading Pountney’s production, you cannot help but sense the looming spectre of the apocalypse to be brought on by the Second World War.

David Pountney approached the Moniuszko opera in a light and tongue-in-cheek manner. The love intrigue unfolds in the circles of Poland’s culturally thriving intelligentsia and nobility. It moves and amuses, although hinting that the atmosphere of carefreeness and joie de vivre may end as quickly as it started. The production prompts one to reflect on historic recurrence and the fact that nothing – not even the most fundamental things – should ever be taken for granted. The score is truly beautiful, charming, and pleasant. The middle acts enchant with the crystal-clear beauty of its ensembles, while the well-executed concept of connecting the different pieces together with recitatives very successfully propels the dramatic pace forward.

Cast

Credits

Chorus and Orchestra of the Polish National Opera
Polish National Ballet


Synopsis

  • ,

    Act I

    Two brothers, Stefan and Zbigniew, bid farewell to their fellow soldiers. They make a solemn promise to remain single so as not to be diverted by domestic issues should their country need them in the future (chorus and duet).

    Back at their country estate, the servants are preparing for the brothers’ arrival home (chorus), together with their faithful companion Maciej. The three men reflect nostalgically on their childhood home (trio). Their Aunt, Chamberlain’s wife, arrives – a notorious matchmaker. She has marriage plans for her nephews (trio) which the boys resist, planning instead to put the affairs of their estate in order by collecting their debts. She is horrified when they announce that they will begin at Kalinowo, a house which she claims is haunted. Undeterred, the three men set off (finale).

  • ,

    Act II

    New Year’s Eve in Kalinowo, the Manor House of the Sword-Bearer. A group of young girls including his daughters, Hanna and Jadwiga, are preparing entertainments for the traditional New Year party, and amuse themselves by telling one another’s fortunes (women’s chorus and dumka). Damazy, a lawyer with a taste for affected French fashion, makes a play for one of the sisters (duet), but the fortune-telling reveals that the girls are destined to marry soldiers (quartet). The Sword-Bearer expounds his idea of the perfect son-in-law, a Polish citizen and patriot characterised by courage and nobility (Polonaise aria).

    The Chamberlain’s wife has managed to get to Kalinowo before her nephews, and tries to dampen the family’s interest in them by describing them as weak and effeminate. Hanna and Jadwiga determine to punish them for their unworthy cowardice.

    The steward Skołuba arrives with huntsmen. He has just shot a wild boar, but at the same time it was hit by another bullet from a stranger in a passing coach: there are two bullets in the animal. Who can claim the prize? Zbigniew and Stefan are welcomed by the Sword-Bearer as the sons of his dearest friend. It was Maciej who fired the second shot, and he and Skoluba start a noisy dispute. The Sword-Bearer announces that at the New Year banquet the first toast will be to Stefan and Zbigniew’s father (finale).

  • ,

    Act III

    A room in the tower of Kalinowo Manor with a large grandfather clock and paintings on the walls. Maciej is terrified when Skołuba warns him about the apparitions that haunt the tower (aria). The two girls have secretly hidden behind the paintings. Maciej imagines everything to be a ghost, and Zbigniew and Stefan try to calm him down, commenting that the old soldier displays his courage only on the battlefield, and that the wine may be the cause of the ghosts he sees. In the moonlight Stefan is haunted by Hanna’s beautiful eyes, but then remembers his vow. The clock strikes twelve, and the chimes play a melody which his father used to sing (Aria with chimes). Zbigniew is also unable to fall asleep and the brothers confess to one another that they have fallen in love: Stefan with Hanna, and Zbigniew with Jadwiga. The two girls secretly observe these confessions from their pictures (duet and quartet). Damazy has hidden inside the clock, hoping to frighten the visitors, but Maciej captures him and Damazy now has to explain himself. Still intent on driving the brothers away, he tells them that the manor house was built with a reward for treachery, and so is cursed. Disgusted by this information, they decide to leave at once (finale).

  • ,

    Act IV

    Hanna is furious about thier perceived cowardice, and asserts that there is no conflict between marriage and duty to the fatherland (aria). Damazy reports that the two men are afraid of ghosts and are about to depart. The Sword-Bearer flies into a rage, accusing the two men of cowardice, but although the boys keep up a tactful silence, Maciej reveals Damazy’s scandalous accusation. The Sword-Bearer indignantly refutes this, and persuades the boys to stay.

    The ringing of bells is heard in the distance, and sleighs with guests arrive, including Damazy in disguise. He is eventually exposed, and the Sword-Bearer demands an explanation for his lies. Damazy makes one last attempt to gain the hands of one of the sisters, but now the brothers realise they must follow their hearts, and their proposals are accepted, but not before the Sword-Bearer has finally explained the true reason for the manor’s haunted reputation (finale).

Sponsors

  • Patrons of the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Partners of the Opera Academy

  • Partners of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Media patrons