Viewpoint: Artistic Import
Anna Netrebko in Iolanta at the Met, 2015
© Beatriz Schiller
OPERA HAS BEEN PART of the cultural fabric of Poland since the early seventeenth century, when Italian works were first performed in Warsaw. When the Electors of Saxony moved their court to Warsaw in the 1750s, the brilliant musical life of Dresden had a profound impact on opera in Poland: composer Johann Adolph Hasse, who enjoyed the patronage of the Saxon royal family, was active in Warsaw and wrote an opera, Zenobia, that had its world premiere there in 1761.
The composer regarded as the creator of Polish opera was Stanisław Moniuszko (1819–72), whose most successful works were Halka and The Haunted Manor—both operas that are still performed in Poland, but which have been heard seldom in North America and Western Europe. Karol Szymanowski (1882–1937) was the most successful (and critically admired) Polish composer of the early twentieth century. Szymanowski’s spectacularly overwrought medieval romance King Roger, which had its world premiere in Warsaw in 1926, has had several high-profile modern productions, among them Kasper Holten’s 2015 staging at Covent Garden; Stephen Wadsworth’s production at Santa Fe Opera in 2012; and Krzysztof Warlikowski’s 2009 staging at the Bastille in Paris. One hopes that King Roger will eventually enter the repertory at the Met, which has (to date) produced just one Polish opera, Ignacy Jan Paderewski’s Manru, in 1902.
Opera from Poland—if not, strictly speaking, Polish opera—has been one of the most interesting recent developments at the Met. In 2015, the Met premiere of Tchaikovsky’s Iolanta was coupled with Bartók’s Bluebeard’s Castle as part of a compelling double bill staged by Mariusz Treliński, the Teatr Wielki’s artistic director and one of the most talked-about stage directors in Europe. Treliński returns to the Met next season for the company’s season-opening Tristan und Isolde—another coproduction with Teatr Wielki.
F. PAUL DRISCOLL
Editor in Chief
The opinions expressed in OPERA NEWS do not necessarily represent the views of The Metropolitan Opera Guild or The Metropolitan Opera.
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