Personalities | Stanisław Moniuszko | High Romantic | Opera

1819–72, Polish

Stanisław Moniuszko began by writing a series of operettas before producing Halka (1846–47), his best-known work, and the first of his three operas. After a revised version was given its first performance in Warsaw in 1858, Halka was hailed as the first important Polish national opera and Moniuszko acquired a place at the forefront of Polish composers. Moniuszko received his musical training in Berlin and, on his return to Poland, was appointed organist at St John’s, Vilnius. He also began teaching piano and conducted the theatre orchestra. Moniuszko came to opera by way of an interest in dramatic music, which was sparked off by contact with Polish writers. Nationalist composers had particular value at a time when Poland was under foreign, Russian, rule. Most of his operas depicted the world of the Polish nobility, and, as in Halka, showed the ordinary people as victims of cruel masters. The Polish atmosphere in Moniuszko’s operas derived from his use of folk-dance rhythms, such as the mazurka or the polonaise. However, the restrictions under which he worked – namely that large-scale public performances were not possible – were revealed in his 12 Songbooks for Home Use, comprising over three hundred songs published in the years 1843–59 and 1877–1910.

Introduction | High Romantic | Opera
Major Operas | Halka by Stanisław Moniuszko | High Romantic
Personalities | Modest Mussorgsky | High Romantic | Opera
Techniques | Operetta | Turn of the Century | Opera


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