Outstanding concert version of the Polish opera Halka at the Teatro Real

SpainSpain Moniuszko, Halka (concert version): Teatro Real Chorus and Orchestra / Łukasz Borowicz (conductor). Teatro Real, Madrid, 9.11.2023. (JMI)

(l-r) Corinne Winters, Piotr Beczała and Tomasz Konieczny © J. del Real

Halka – Corinne Winters
Jontek – Piotr Beczała
Janusz – Tomasz Konieczny
Stolnik – Maxim Kuzmin-Karavaev
Dziemba – Tomasz Kumiega
Zofia – Olga Syniakova
Bagpiper – Javier Povedano

In recent years, Teatro Real has staged concert versions of some unusual operas. The latest one is this Stanislaw Moniuszko work which is considered to be the Polish national opera par excellence. Halka premiered in a two-act version in Vilnius in 1848, with the four-act version, which is what was sung here, staged in Warsaw in 1858.

Halka is the young protagonist of the opera, a peasant girl who has been seduced by the nobleman Janusz and left pregnant. The opera begins with the engagement of the noble Janusz and Zofia, a ceremony at which Halka appears and demands the return of her lover. The aristocratic Janusz promises Halka he will be back, but he does not keep his word and marries Zofia. In Act II, the young peasant Jontek shows up. He is in love with Halka and tries to help her return to the reality of her life, but he fails. Finally, in Act IV, Halka, who has lost her son, commits suicide in despair.

The opera was conducted by Polish maestro Łukasz Borowicz, whose convincing reading reflected his knowledge of the opera. His control of it all was perfect, and a huge support to the soloists. The Chorus and Orchestra of Teatro Real did very well, although the choral part of the opera is not of great importance.

Halka was performed by American soprano Corinne Winters. She is known for her work in Czech and Polish operas, especially Jenůfa and Kát’a Kabanová, and she recently performed the role of Halka at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien. She has a pleasing voice and is a strong performer. I would highlight the success of her important aria in Act II.

Tenor Piotr Beczała as Jontek, the peasant in love with Halka, was brilliant, and his arias in Acts II and IV were intensely praised by the audience. He is an outstanding singer with a superb voice, one of the great tenors of today.

The third protagonist, the noble Janusz, was sung by Polish baritone Tomasz Konieczny, who is currently one of the leading Wotan performers in the major opera houses. I have had the opportunity to hear him on several occasions before and was not always impressed. That was not the case on this occasion – his important voice was marvelous.

The secondary characters were covered nicely. Bass Maxim Kuzmin-Karavaev as Stolnik, Zofia’s father, has a sonorous voice. Tomasz Kumiega as Dziemba, his assistant, and Olga Syniakova as Zofia both did well in their roles.

José M. Irurzun

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