1 h 10 min.
Duration: ca. 2 h 30 min.
Opera in three acts
Libretto: Jan Chęciński after Casimir Delavigne’s play
World premiere: 11 March 1869, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw
A Poznań Opera House production
The least frequently staged of Stanisław Moniuszko’s works, Paria scores international triumphs more that 150 years after its premiere. The Poznań Opera House production, staged to mark the composer’s bicentenary, won the International Opera Award for Rediscovered Work. This concert performance precedes the release of the Poznań opera company’s recording of the opera for Naxos.
The history of opera provides many examples of works which were not well received by the audience. In a survey conducted in 2019 – the Moniuszko bicentenary year – by the National Centre for Culture, only 5% of women and 9% of men in Poland said they had heard the title Paria (the question did not delve into the details of the libretto or score). Paradoxically, an opera about exclusion had been marginalised in the debate on Moniuszko’s legacy for years. It was considered an operatic Cinderella, an ugly sister of the more effective Halka or The Haunted Manor, an exotic but not very successful flight of the composer’s fancy.
Moniuszko spent long years writing the opera. It all started with Casimir Delavigne’s play, which captivated the composer. The story of Idamor, the eponymous pariah, who becomes the head of the warrior caste despite caste divisions by concealing his background must have resonated with Moniuszko’s revolutionary symphonies and liberal upbringing. The protagonist also defies social conventions when he takes a fancy with Neala, the daughter of archpriest Akebar, who consents to the young woman’s union with a representative of the warrior caste out of political calculation, not concern for his daughter’s happiness.
The history of opera provides many examples of works which won recognition years after their original staging. Looking at Paria from today’s perspective, we discover its relevance and originality. There were times when Paria was considered a poor imitation of Aida. Those who claimed that clearly did not care to check that Paria opened two years before Verdi’s work. As is the case of many Polish pieces, the fate of Moniuszko’s opera can be summarised in the famous words of poet Wincenty Pol, ‘you glorify the foreign, but don’t known your own’.
Chorus and Orchestra of the Poznań Opera House
A sacred grove near the city of Benares. Idamor, a brave chieftain who recently won the war, confides in his friend Ratef. Idamor is in love with the priestess Neala, the daughter of the high priest Akebar. The secret conversation of friends is interrupted by a tumult. A pariah has entered the sacred grove. He broke the law because no ‘untouchable’ can stay there. Death awaits him for such an act. The angry crowd chases the pariah (Chwytać go, chwytać go!).
Idamor stands up for him, which surprises the audience. The crowd disperses and Idamor is left alone. We learn about his next best-kept secret: he is a pariah himself. Long ago, he gave up on his family, abandoned his home and every day he pretends to be someone else. This long-held secret weighs heavily on him (Paria! – Jemu słońca żałuje swych promieni).
The first image. The choir of brahmins praise the sunrise (Spod gwiaździstej opończy). Neala walks among the women. She also loves Idamor. They both realise that their feelings break the rules of a caste society: a priest’s daughter is not allowed to associate with a warrior (Czystego ducha wznosić korne modły – I już to jestem pierwszą wśród kapłanek). Idamor appears. The lovers take advantage of the moment of intimacy and renew their love vows (Kochany, przy tobie tak błogo).
High priest Akebar gathers priests in the temple (O, Surja wspaniały!). He warns them that the warrior caste, especially after Idamor’s victories, is gaining more and more support from the people and wants to deprive the priests of power. Akebar is aware of Neala’s feelings, so he allows Idamor to marry his daughter, thus exempting her from priestly vows. This cunning move is designed to ease the growing conflict between the castes.
Akebar calls Idamor ‘the son’. This word brings back memories. Idamor lived in hiding for years and renounced his father and origin, fearing that someone would recognise him as ‘untouchable’. Tormented by remorse, he confesses his secret to Neala (duet: Czy cię kocham, pytasz mnie?). Neala is shocked by the words of her beloved, but despite increasing adversities, she decides to stay with Idamor until his death (Paria! On paria!).
Ratef announces that an old man Dżares has appeared in the city. He keeps asking about Idamor (Znam gród wspaniały). Neala decides to host a poor pilgrim and find out what brings him to Benares. He insists on seeing Idamor (Z rozpaczy szałem).
Idamor recognises Jares. It is his father, who has not been seen for a long time. Jares urges his son to return to his hometown (duet: Bez wsparcia, bez opieki). Idamor’s feelings for Neala make it difficult to make a decision.
The wedding ceremony begins (Już ołtarz gotów). Akebar leads Idamor. Jares breaks away from the crowd, pointing out the hypocrisy of Idamor. The participants of the ceremony sympathise with the rejected old man, who in a fit of grief confesses that he is a pariah. Akebar sentences him to death.
Idamor stands up for his father. He confesses in rage that he is also a pariah (Tak, ja jestem paria). Akebar kills Idamor. Neala shows up. Realising what happened, she announces that from now on she is the daughter of Jares (Pójdź, biedny starcze). Supressing the anger of the people, Akebar banishes Neala.
Patron of Poznań Opera House
Co-funded by the Ministry of Culture and National Heritage of Poland
Under the patronage of PWM Edition as part of the TUTTI.pl project that promotes performances of Polish music.
Patrons of the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera
Partners of the Opera Academy
Partners of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera