In three acts by J. PADEREWSKI.
Text by ALFRED NOSSIG.
Dresden claims the honour of having first represented the celebrated
Polish pianist's opera.
The performance took place on May 29th 1901, and a closely packed house
showed its approbation in the most enthusiastic manner.
Those who will look out for reminiscences in every new piece of music
find of course that Paderewski is an imitator of Wagner, but though
Manru would probably not have been written without the composer's
intimate knowledge of the Ring of Nibelungen, the melodies and rythm
are entirely his own. The music is true gypsy music with very much
movement and highly phantastic colouring, reminding us sometimes of
Liszt and Bizet.
The best parts of the opera are the choruses of the village maidens in
the first act, the charming cradle song, the violin solo and the
love-duet in the second and the splendid gipsy music in the last act.
Nossig's libretto is very inferior to the music; its rhymes are often
absolutely trivial. The scene is laid in the Hungarian Tatra mountain
Manru a wandering gipsy has fallen in love with a peasant girl Ulana
and has married her against her mother's wishes.
In the first act mother Hedwig laments her daughter's loss. While the
village lasses are dancing and frolicking Ulana returns to her mother
to ask her forgiveness; she is encouraged by a hunchback Urok, who is
devoted to her, and who persuades the mother to forgive her child, on
condition that she shall leave her husband. As Ulana refuses, though
she is in dire need of bread, Hedwig sternly shuts her door upon her
daughter. Ulana turns to Urok, who does his best to persuade her to
leave her husband.
Urok is a philosopher; he warns the poor woman, that gipsy blood is
never faithful, and that the time will come, when Manru will leave wife
Ulana is frightened and finally obtains from Urok a love potion, by
which she hopes to secure her husband's constancy.
When she tries to turn back into the mountains she is surrounded by the
returning villagers, who tease and torment her and the hunchback, until
Manru comes to their rescue. But his arrival only awakes the
villagers' wrath, they fall upon him and are about to kill him, when
mother Hedwig comes out and warns them not to touch the outlaws on whom
her curse has fallen.
The second act takes place in Manru's hiding place in the mountains.
The gipsy is tired of the idyll. He longs for freedom and
quarrels with his wife, whose sweetness bores him. She patiently rocks
her child's cradle and sings him to rest. Suddenly Manru hears the
tones of a gipsy fiddle in the distance; he follows the sound and soon
returns with an old gipsy who does his best to lure him back to his
tribe. But once more love and duty prevail; and when Ulana sweetly
presents him the love-philtre he drains it at one draught, and
immediately feeling the fire of the strong and potent drug, he becomes
cheerful and receives his wife, who has adorned herself with a wreath
of flowers with open arms.
In the third act Manru rushes out of the small, close hut. His
intoxication is gone; he gasps for air and freedom. Wearily he
stretches himself on the ground and falls asleep. The full moon,
shining on him, throws him into a trance, during which he rises to
follow the gipsy tribe whose songs he hears. In this state he is found
by Asa, the gipsy queen, who loves him and at once claims him as her
But the tribe refuses to receive the apostate, and their chief Oros
pronounces a terrible anathema against him. However Asa prevails with
her tribe to pardon Manru.
Oros in anger flings down his staff of office and departs, and Manru is
elected chief in his place.
Once more he hesitates, but Asa's beauty triumphs; he follows her and
his own people.
At this moment Ulana appears. Seeing that her husband has
forsaken her, she implores Urok, who has been present during the whole
scene to bring Manru back to her.--Alas, it is in vain. When Ulana
sees Manru climbing the mountain path arm in arm with Asa, she drowns
herself in the lake.
But Manru does not enjoy his treachery; Oros, hidden behind the rocks
is on the watch for him and tearing Asa from him, he precipitates his
rival from the rocks into the lake.