One of Poland's most talented young directors delves into the sociological aspects of Moniusko's famous opera
The tale of "Halka" could well be likened to Puccini’s "Madama Butterfly". In both cases the story revolves around love doomed by the social norms of the time. Both operas tell the story of men coming from a higher social class who allow themselves to fall in love with women of lower social standing and father a child, at the same time choosing to marry someone of their own status. The abandoned women lose faith in the sense of their existence and commit suicide.
"Halka" is set in the 18th century, in the southern picturesque region of Podhale in Poland. A Highlander peasant girl named Halka falls for the rich nobleman Janusz and falls pregnant. He abandons her and marries a woman coming from the gentry. Halka comes to the wedding wishing to set fire to the church however she changes her mind. Having left the child in the roadside chapel, she commits suicide by drowning herself in a river. Despite the strong social-conflict background to the story, the motif is frequently abandoned for the sake of psychological drama. This is not the case for the production led by young director Natalia Korczakowska.
Korczakowska belives that
The success of this opera lies in the fact that it demonstrates a burning, current social problem whereby people are divided into better and the worse (…) I want to find this very division here and now. I agreed to stage this opera mainly because I recognized in it the dramatic potential which in my opinion has never been fully carried out. I am not interested in a 19th century anecdote, I am looking for more complex motives, a more universal key to it all in order to demonstrate that "Halka" is not just a local story and that it deserves a place in the international repertoire just like the works of the Czech composer Janaček (…)Some people are expecting a modern approach to "Halka", the others are expecting the same as usual. I was invited to refresh the drama. I don’t believe in the museum qualities of theatre.
Natalia Korczakowska is one of the most interesting and one of the youngest (born in 1979) contemporary young Polish theatre directors. So far she collaborated with Grzegorz Jarzyna’s TR Warsaw and the theatres in Wrocław, Wałbrzych and Jelenia Góra. This year Korczakowska made her debut as an opera director staging Wolfgang Rihm’s 1978 opera "Jakob Lenz".
The premiere performance of "Halka" is conducted by the world-renowned conductor Marc Minkowski. He accepted the National Opera’s invitation as he highly appreciates Moniuszko’s music and sees it as "full of amazing qualities" and abundant in " a whole range of nuances, extraordinary contrasts, (…)the melancholy, the passion, the extremely lively, pulsating rhythm, and at the same time a multitude of purely Slavic notes".
In Minkowski’s opinion the character of Halka is a controversial one,
Even when I talk to my Polish friends they admit that on one hand they find Halka a fascinating character, while on the other hand they reject her. I think it is because this character is very moving and indeed full of dignity but also somehow repulsive.
The first performance of the opera based on the libretto of Włodzimierz Wolski took place in Vilnius at a private gathering at the house of his parents-in-law in 1848. A concert version followed on January 1st, 1848. The opera was staged for the first time six years later at the building of a former town hall. It didn’t meet with the enthusiasm on the part of both the critique and the public due to the scandalous at the time motif of the extramarital affair between the peasant highlander girl and the nobleman.
The premiere is a part of the cultural programme of the Polish Presidency in the European Union.
A staging of "Halka" is also on stage in Kraków over the holiday season, directed by Waldemar Zawodziński.
"Halka". An opera in four acts. Libretto: Włodzimierz Wolski.Premiere of the four-act version January 1st 1858.
Premiere: January 23rd, 2011, 7PM. Repeats:Dec 27th &29th (7 PM), January 3rd , 5th , 7th , 25th (7 PM).
Conductors: Marc Minkowski (December 23rd, 27th, 29th, 2011), Łukasz Borowicz (January 3rd, 5th,7th, 25th, 2012).Direction: Natalia Korczakowska, Stage design: Anna Met, Costumes: Marek, Adamski, Choreography: Tomasz Wygoda, Lights: Felice Ross, Choir preparation: Bogdan Gola,Video: Kobas Laksa, Dramatist: Tomasz Kubikowski,
Cast: Soloists, Choir and Orchestra of the Grand Theatre – The National Opera, Polish National Ballet, actors and extras.
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