- Manru, opera, Op 20
Ignace Paderewski's "Manru" is generally considered the first Wagner-inspired Polish music drama, and it would be hard to dispute that claim: the score's free-flowing scenes, motivic organization, and symphonic orchestration (not to mention the love potion and the dwarf!) all hearken back to the works of the Romantic master. But those influences come together to form a wholly original work that in no way sounds or feels derivative. If anything, its plot and musical style align with later eastern European works, like Janácek's "Jenufa," and the Italian verismo tradition -- especially the way the plot focuses tightly, almost obsessively, on the central relationship between the two central characters (in this case the gypsy Manru and his lover, Ulana, who leaves her village to be with him). Although well-received in early productions, "Manru" has languished in the dusty bins of the repertory; the present recording is its first complete performance on CD. It is a quality production, conducted with both sweep and intimacy by Ewa Michnik, sung very capably by an all-Polish cast, and packaged with enough information to make it accessible to any audience. It should do a lot for the work's reputation. Taras Ivaniv sings the role of Manru with a straightforward brashness that suits the gypsy's roving spirit; his is not a conventionally attractive voice, but it's compelling in its energy and character, very much like Manru himself. Ewa Czermak sings on the low side of the pitch as Ulana; this sometimes makes her sound out of tune, but other times it lends her singing a doleful coloration that seems wholly appropriate for a character whose fortunes only go from bad to worse. Barbara Krahel is forceful in the role of Ulana's mother, Jadwiga (Hedwig), who expels Ulana from the village for her affair with Manru. She sings with an authority and presence that make Ulana's predicament seem completely real. But the show is decidedly stolen by Maciej Krzysztyniak in the role of Urok the dwarf; his stentorian voice and unflagging delivery bring this social outcast, whose only real tie to society is his affection for Ulana, to life vividly. He wins the audience's affection, even as he cannot win that of the villagers around him.
|Label:||Dux Recording Prod.|