by Aleksandra Konieczna [1]

translated by Maja Trochimczyk


Paderewski’s opera Manru has been singled out as one of the most important Polish operas composed after Moniuszko. Simultaneously, the work was criticized for its supposed reliance on Wagnerian models. In this paper, the range of Wagnerian inspiration is examined (with examples of the Leitmotifs, coninuous melodies and arioso singing, the use of instrumental introductions to each act, i.e. Vorspiele, characteristic stage props, characters, and musical textures). Paderewski’s usage of these element is more original, however, than that of other post-Wagnerians, such as Pfitzer, Schillings, or Siegfried Wagner. He uses an eclectic musical language in Manru in order to illustrate the setting and give detailed psychological portrayals of his characters, the Slavic sorrowful wife, Ulana, the tormented Gypsy husband, Manru, the crippled villain, Urok, and the seductive Gypsy Aza. The harmonic means range from simple triads and tonal relationships to extended sequences of parallel chords, and frequent use of augmented triads to accompany Urok. The melodic use of the “Gypsy” scale with its two augmented seconds serves to reveal the internal strife of Manru, who had rejected his nomadic life and his people for the new family, but abandoned his wife and child to return to the Gypsies. Manru has many common elements with French and Italian operas, especially Bizet’s Carmen and Verdi’s Othello. The treatment of the folklore from the Polish highlanders (the inhabitants of the Tatra Mountains) resembles that occurring in Moniuszko’s opera Halka, composed almost fifty years earlier. Despite the fact that the opera is based on a story by a Polish novelist (Kraszewski), and despite the presence of Polish elements in the music, Manru may not be considered a “national” opera in the sense assigned to this term through the 19th century. With its sombre theme of ethnic intolerance and the tragedy of the main characters, Manru is Paderewski’s voice in the great historical dialogue about the role of music in drama. The article was originally published in Warsztat kompozytorski, wykonawstwo i koncepcje polityczne Ignacego Jana Paderewskiego [Composers workshop: Performance and political conceptions of Ignacy Jan Paderewski]. Conference proceedings. Edited by Andrzej Sitarz and Wojciech Marchwica. Kraków: Musica Iagellonica, 1991, 134-148. Translated into English by Maja Trochimczyk.



I. Introduction

While surveying Polish operas composed after the death of Stanisław Moniuszko, Włodzimierz Pozniak [2] assigned a high position to Paderewski’s Manru, an opera he considered to be among the principal works of the period, beside Żeleński’s Goplana and Melcer’s Maria.[3] It is not clear in his remarks, though, whether this distinction results from the artistic value of the work itself, recognized by the scholar, or whether it is due to its historical value, a value that cannot be doubted. The latter would denote a significant achievement by this opera in its attempt to rescue Polish operatic production from stylistic stasis and provincialism. This achievement is of particular importance when seen from the broader perspective of the history of Polish music in the 19th century as a whole.

This elevated historical role makes Manru worthy of scholarly examination, especially considering it from two points of view: (1) the vantage point of the connection of Paderewski’s opera to European music culture and European music theater of the second half of the 19th century and (2) the vantage point of traits that are unrepeatable, unique and endow this work with its individual characteristics. Here, I should add that the longevity of Manru on the operatic stages may not be helpful as a measurement of the work’s artistic value.[4] It is well known that the presence of a work in an international repertoire is often decided by extra-artistic considerations; moreover, these external circumstances played an important role in the reception of Paderewski’s output.[5]

In the 1890s Ignacy Jan Paderewski enjoyed increasing international recognition as a piano virtuoso. As a composer he proved to be receptive to novel stylistic trends, both in opera, and in music as a whole. Consequently, his only dramatic work is filled with numerous associations and references to a multitude of artistic phenomena that are often distant from its subject matter. Several scholars, including Włodzimierz Poźniak and, before him, Henryk Opieński (in his monograph about Paderewski), placed Manru in the domain of Wagnerian influence.[6] While not undermining their statements, in this paper I will demonstrate that Paderewski also refers to traditions of Italian, French, and even Polish opera (though the latter to a small degree). I will review these connections in order, beginning with Wagner.

II. Wagnerian Traits of Manru

The influence of Wagner’s conception of music is expressed in Manru through a series of features relating to compositional technique and dramaturgical patterns.[7] These features are numbered and described in detail in the following discussion of the opera’s Wagnerian characteristics.

  1. The technique of Leitmotifs is applied in true Wagnerian style; i.e. these motives return at particular moments while meaning or referring to something. Moreover, they provide basic motivic material for extended segments of the music, constructed according to the principles of development in symphonic forms. Therefore, orchestral transformations of motives that have previously been associated with certain extra-musical elements serve to intensify emotional content and increase dramatic tension. In particular, configurations of these motives heighten dramatic action, especially in the area of musical symbolism.
  2. The replacement of ensemble singing by sung dialogues has Wagnerian origins. An exception to this principle (besides choral segments, of course) is the final fragment of the love scene between Manru and Ulana that provides a climax to the second act. Here, the dialogue is replaced by a duet. Even on this occasion, though, Paderewski remains faithful to Wagner’s conceptions; in order to appreciate this link, it suffices to compare Manru’s love scene with the great love duet from the second act of Tristan und Isolde.
  3. The principle of sung dialogue, though not articulated consistently, also influenced Paderewski’s rejection of traditional finales; that is, scenes of extensive duration, using large performing forces, and relying to a high degree on musical conventions, especially in their final segments. Act I concludes with a short scene of a curse (Jadwiga curses her daughter, Ulana), i. e., with a solo part. Act II ends with the aforementioned love scene; and in Act III, the suicide of Ulana is followed by Urok’s brief monologue, followed by revenge scene accompanied by orchestral music without vocal parts. Similar endings may be found in certain works by Wagner: for instance, Die Walküre ends with a symphonic segment, later entitled Magic Fire Music, and Götterdämmerung ends with a funeral march. [8]
  4. Another Wagnerian idea is to replace the overture with a brief instrumental introduction that precedes the raising of the curtain; in Manru this introduction lasts for a mere fourteen measures. We should note, however, that Wagner’s concept of the Vorspiel was also taken over by other famous composers, for instance by Verdi in Falstaff. [9]
  5. Typical for Wagner are also longer, purely symphonic segments that appear in the operatic work as introductions to subsequent acts, but not only in that function. Again, such introductions are used by many other composers already in the 1880s and 1890s. Such an extended Vorspiel precedes, for instance, Paderewski’s Act III. In Manru however, this Vorspiel continues well into Scene 1 of Act III, in the form of an orchestral accompaniment to a mimed scene without vocal parts. This is the sequence of Manru’s dream – i.e. his peculiar, nonverbal “dialogue” or “duel” with the moon, which in this scene symbolizes Manru’s desire for wandering. [10] From musical viewpoint the orchestral accompaniment brings in a recapitulation of the main motives of the opera, appearing in juxtaposed and intertwined patterns which also denote the internal struggle that Manru dreams about. This music may at times carry associations with the Magic Fire Music or the The Ride of the Valkyries from Die Walküre. The analogies extend to instrumentation: fluttering, brilliant figuration in the strings and woodwinds provides a background for fanfare motives in brass instruments, i.e. the choir of horns and trumpets.
  6. A fascination with Wagner’s theory is also revealed in the structure of certain fragments from the libretto of Manru; obviously this remark relates in greater measure to Alfred Nossig (the author of the libretto), than to Paderewski. The Wagnerian influence may be noticed in the use of alliteration, for instance in the scene of Manru’s dream mentioned above. “Wallen, wallen, wollen wir” [ ] calls a distant voice, which seems to be the voice of the conscience, the main hero’s “call of Gypsy blood.”[11] Soon after, similar alliteration may be heard in a developed form in the singing of the Gypsies: ” Wie die Wellen wir beln wallen, die Zigeunerlieder schallen” [ ] Soon after they sing: “Nur das Feuer, das wir schuren, ist uns Heimath, Herdu und Hort. Zu ferfuhren, zu gefallen wallen wir von Ort zu Ort” [] The multiplication of the consonant “w” amplifies the sound from which the key notion of this drama begins: “wandern” or “wallen.” [] Another multiplied consonant is “h” which is associated with the contrasting notions of “Haus” and “Heim” []. An analogous example from the work of Richard Wagner may be found in his Tristan und Isolde, where in the culminating moment of the first act, we hear a multiple consonant “T” in Tristan’s part:[12]
    • Tristans Ehre hochste Treu!
      Tristans Elend huhnster Trotz!
      Trug des Herzens! Traum der ahnung!
      Ewiger Trauer, einziger Trost:
      Vergessens gutiger Trank,
      dich trink’ ich sonder Wank.
    • This whole sequence of words beginning with “t” is associated in the drama surrounding Tristan with a family of interconnected concepts related, by association, with the word “Tod” [death]. Tristan utters these words when he is convinced that he has to drink poison and kill himself.
  7. In following Wagner, Paderewski seems to have gone as far as using in his work such characteristic Wagnerian symbols and props as the love potion mentioned earlier, and a blacksmith’s hammer and anvil. However, the similarity here is only apparent, purely external. In Wagner’s Tristan und Isolde the drinking of the love potion is a stage symbol for the changed self-awareness of both protagonists, resulting in their conscious liberation through death. In Manru, however, the love potion, made by Urok and served to Manru by Ulana, seems to be a true aphrodisiac with a strong narcotic impact; this love potion is, in its far-reaching consequences, a means that deepens the protagonists’ frustration. Manru is a victim of deceit by the despairing Ulana; through her mediacy he is also the victim of a partly impure, partly dishonest, and partly despairing ploy by Urok (to be discussed later). In this case it is hard to share the opinion of Opienski who found both love scenes in Tristan and Manru to be very similar.
  8. Paderewski used the second stage prop, or rather set of props, characteristic of Wagner – i.e. the hammer and anvil – differently than his German predecessor. In Das Rheingold Wagner introduced anvils (as many as eighteen, in three different sizes) in order to characterize the supernatural kingdom of the Nibelungen, thus treating these sound-producing objects as sources of instrumental timbres and the “local color.” In contrast, Paderewski used the blacksmith’s hammer not only as an attribute of a Gyspy Gypsy a blacksmith – but also as a means to express feelings. Manru hits the anvil in fits of powerlessness, irritation, and rage. With these powerful strikes, he seems to want to destroy the home that he had built for himself and crush the family ties that he had earlier longed for so intently. Finally, the hammer in Manru’s hands is also a sign of his unusual physical strength which contrasts with the meagre stature of Urok.

After reviewing all these examples we may conclude that in most cases Richard Wagner’s dramatic conceptions provided Paderewski merely with inspiration; only occasionally do they give him a model to follow. Nonetheless, after the American premiere of Manru at the Metropolitan Opera in 1902 Paderewski encountered accusations that he had followed Wagner’s ideas too closely.[13] The critics cited the similarity between Paderewski’s Vorspiel to Act III and the fragments from Die Walküre mentioned earlier. In response, the composer stated, “in music absolute originality does not exist . . . If a great genius, such as Wagner introduces a method which leads to the ideas finding a better expression, it is not only not a sin to apply this method, but indeed, there is a duty of its application.”[14] In any case, there are more links between Manru and Wagner’s oeuvre than Chomiński was willing to admit in his History of Music[15] in which he reduced the Wagnerian traits of Paderewski’s opera solely to the use of Leitmotifs.

We need to emphasize that Paderewski, despite the fact that he was educated in Berlin in the years of the greatest dominance of Wagner’s music, did not become an epigone or a follower of Wagner to such a strong degree as did Hans Pfitzner, Ernst Schillings, or Siegfried Wagner.[16] Of the traits of Wagner’s musical language, Paderewski did not accept the late-Wagnerian harmonic style, i.e. the purposeful balancing in the borderline sphere of the major-minor tonal system, the style which – even in the most innovative fragments of Tristan und Isolde – still could be placed within the realm of an expanded tonal system. In Manru Paderewski uses a style that might be called – without undue reservation – eclectic. Depending on the dramatic needs, he introduces:

  • simple triadic harmony with modal melodies,
  • conventional tonic-dominant relationships,
  • extended dominant relationships, and
  • far-reaching means related to the impressionist style of Debussy or Ravel (these four categories will be discussed below).

The triadic harmony is marked by the occasional presence of parallel connections between chords, which, in conjunction with modal melodies, serves to express folk simplicity and roughness (e.g. the first monologue of Manru in Act 2, in the Aeolian mode, typical of this character). In fragments based – without much sophistication – on links typical for the major-minor system (i.e. the classic, close relationships of tonic-dominant), Paderewski often uses a regular, tertian structure of chords. Such harmonic means appear in the Lullaby of Ulana from Act II and the monologue of Manru in the same act, starting with the words “Wie im Sonnen scheine” [ ]. The lyric-sentimental expression of both fragments calls to mind the operas of Gounod. [17]. The harmony based on extended dominant relationships in the style of early Wagner appears in the love duet of Ulana and Manru from Act II. Finally, the score of Manru features many fragments where the music is located at the borderline of the major-minor system, but with a tendency to reach beyond that system. These fragments deserve more attention, since they indicate, rather than German models, French ones, and of a generation younger than Gounod. These “modernist” harmonic means may be summarized in the following list:

  1. Chords, including diminished tetrachords, shifting along the chromatic scale. This coloristic effect was very popular at the turn of the century. It was disseminated by the impressionists, but was used earlier by such composers as Richard Strauss in Don Quixote, as well as – and I will return to this point later – in the later operas of Verdi. Paderewski used such a progressions moving up and down for the scene in which Manru drinks the love potion.
  2. Pedal-tone sounds or complex sonorities appearing at times in connection with the parallel movement of triads in the first inversion.
  3. Rhythmic-melodic ostinati, often co-existing with the pedal-tone sonorities, exposing the movement of intervals foreign to functional harmony, e.g. the music characterizing Urok in Act II, Reh. No. 20. These ostinato figures at first expose the tritone of C – F-sharp set against the sustained tone of F-sharp; soon the repeated pattern shifts to the diminished fourth D-sharp – G resounding against the sustained sonority of B.
  4. Of great significance (in the dramatic sense, that will be described later), are augmented triads. Paderewski uses them most typically in the forms of(a) a series of augmented chords (for instance in Act II, 14 measures after no. 20),(b) a string tremolo (as in Act II, 8 measures before no. 22), or(c) a figuration (e.g. in Act I, 14 measures after no. 32).
    During each appearance of these augmented chords the tonal relationships are obliterated for short periods of time.
  5. Chords of the eleventh and chords that do not have a conventional intervallic structure, for instance- the pentachord of the ninth with the fourth replacing the third (e.g. in Act II, 6 measures before No. 29),- the tetrachord with a raised fifth and a major seventh (in Act II, 13 measures after No. 30).
  6. Connecting chords set in the relationship of the tritone, e.g. A-sharp – E in the conclusion of Act I, Scene 3.

III. Paderewski’s French Connection

The associations with French music, and in particular with one work, Bizet’s Carmen, may also be detected in features of the plot and ethnic characteristics (or pseudo-ethnic), even though Manru is not the only opera attempting to deal with a Gypsy subject after Carmen.[18] Before Manru there was a youthful work by another great piano virtuoso Sergey Rakhmaninov, entitled Aleko and based on The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin.[19] This opera, similarly to Manru, did not enter the standard international repertoire.[20]

In the dramatic conceptions of Carmen and Manru there are more differences than similarities. There are close parallels in the outlining of the female Gypsy subjects, i.e. the title-heroine in Bizet’s opera, and the figure of Aza in Paderewski’s work. Both represent the same psychic type, rather popular in opera at the turn of the century – the domineering and seductive woman, independent and cruel, la femme fatale. While for George Bizet and Prospero Mérimmée the personality of Carmen was the central issue of the opera, Paderewski was interested mostly in the Gypsy mentality, the sense of freedom and the desire for wandering, passions also close to the heart of the virtuoso. It is worth noting that such a presentation of the issues in Paderewski’s Manru was not faithfully copied from Kraszewski’s novel which provided the source for the libretto.[21] Kraszewski’s purpose was to describe the doomed fate of a man aware of his double ethnic belonging, a man condemned by fate from the beginning. Tumry (the model for Manru in Kraszewski’s story) is only half-Gypsy; furthermore, the veins of Motruna (the model for Ulana) also partly contain Gypsy blood. The author of Chata za wsią [A hut beyond the village], also emphasized the phenomenon of ethnic intolerance to a much stronger degree than Paderewski or Nossig. According to Kraszewski, such intolerance was brutal, degrading, and murderous in its final result.

In Paderewski’s Manru, in contrast to Carmen, the young and seductive Aza is a character of secondary importance. She provides the final motivation for the fatal decision of Manru, but she is not its main cause. This limitation, however, did not prevent Paderewski from building an extensive scene, excellent in terms of the gradation of dramatic tension, in which Aza seduces Manru. She does so, appropriately for a Gypsy woman, through song and dance. This scene may carry associations with the analogous scene from Carmen in which Bizet’s main protagonist, Frasquita, and Mercedes dance at an inn. In both cases, the music takes the form of a strophic song with a refrain in which the dancing gradually becomes more intense and vivid. In both operas, the dance involves a group of performers and is accompanied by a tambourine. Moreover, the instrumentation of both segments is similar, with the leading role of the harp and string pizzicato imitating the sonority of the guitar. We should note here one more similarity (but also a difference) between the operas Carmen and Manru; this similarity pertains to the “local color,” coleur locale, of the music. Obviously, the designation “local” or “local color” frequently used in reference to such stylistic and dramatic phenomena, may seem quite inappropriate when it is applied to the nomadic – not “localized” – Gypsy culture.

Local color is created through the use of characteristic instrumental sonorities as well as through the introduction of specific modal traits. Bizet based the main theme of Carmen on the so-called “Gypsy” scale filled with augmented seconds; this theme is presented and recurs only in the orchestra.[22] Successive phrases of the underlying melody contain augmented seconds, which are supposed to identify the ethnic origins of the main heroine of the opera. Bizet, however, limits his usage of this scale to the orchestra; it does not permeate any of the solo parts of Carmen, even in the “Gypsy song” that I mentioned earlier. Paderewski went much further in this respect. Firstly, the augmented second appears frequently in the vocal parts of the Gypsies – Aza, Oros, Jagu – as well as in the choral parts. The augmentation may occur on the sixth, second, or third step of the scale. The frequency of the occurrence of this interval, which is not always presented between the adjacent sounds of a melody results in endowing the vocal parts of the Gypsies with an individual “local color,” which is easily noticeable and clearly distinguishes them from the vocal utterances of the other prominent ethnic group in the opera, i.e. górale (highlanders).[23] Let me illustrate this point by two music examples. Example 1a-d presents four phrases from the part of Jagu in Act II, scene 4 (see Example 1a-b).

Example 2 includes a fragment of the curse cast on Manru by Oros in Scene 2 from Act III (see Example 2).

In addition to this role as “ethnic identifier,” the melodic interval of the augmented second also serves a significant dramatic function. Despite the fact that Gypsies appear in the action of this opera only at the end of the second act (with the exception of Manru, of course), the presence of the augmented second in the melody from the beginning marks the ethnic distinction of the Gypsies and their alienation from the Polish villagers. Therefore, the augmented second may also be heard when the ethnic difference of the Gypsies is the subject of lament, mockery, satire, and imitation by the village populace. For instance, when the village girls laugh at Urok by associating him with Ulana, the wife of a Gypsy, their musical laughter is based on a segment of the Gypsy scale. Similarly, the singing of Jadwiga [in the German libretto: Hedwig], the mother of Ulana, who bemoans the unwise decision of her daughter to marry Manru, is accompanied in the orchestra by a melody with an augmented second (in Act II, 8 measures after No. 1). It is worth adding that the same melody without the augmented second is sung several measures earlier by a group of young górale women who are getting dressed to attend a folk celebration.

The Gypsy scale, and to be more precise, the augmented second, also plays an important role in expressing by musical means the internal restlessness permeating the troubled soul of Manru. In this context, the absence of this interval in the part of the main protagonist until the end of Act II, scene 2 is particularly surprising. An explanation of this fact may only be found on the pages of Kraszewski’s novel, since in the opera the earlier events of the story have been removed and are not referred to directly. Tumry (i.e. the opera’s Manru) abandons the Gypsy tabor not only because of his love for Motruna (i.e. Ulana), but also in order to realize his dream of settling down – a dream of building a house, a blacksmith’s shop, a dream of creating a family and joining a “local” community of the village. He makes an enormous psychic effort to forget his earlier way of life and to adjust to the new one, but his effort proves to be futile in the end. He does not find acceptance in the eyes of the inhabitants of the village. Even worse, the village reacts to him with hostility and hatred: they boycott their new neighbor and do not allow him to join them as an equal. Paderewski’s opera begins at a time when Manru, filled with bitterness, becomes aware of the fact that he is unable to penetrate this wall of unfriendliness and rejection, and that this inability to assimilate means his ultimate defeat, or, as one could say, psychological death, from which even his love to Ulana cannot save him. This state of suspension, of cutting off one’s past and the inability to realize one’s dreams is expressed musically through the absence of the “Gypsy” dialect in Manru’s vocal part. A transformation takes place in his soul only under the influence of Gypsy music, which he hears resounding from afar. In contrast to Bizet, Paderewski drew here from musical patterns created by the Hungarian – Balkan line of the Gypsies. He assigned the leading role in the instrumental group to the violin, used with characteristic virtuosity and brilliance. These virtuosic “Gypsy” elements of the violin part include scalar passages, arpeggios, fast figuration in high registers, and rich ornamentation of the melody with trills, mordents, runs and other textural gestures which are not as difficult in terms of performance technique as they are effective in terms of their vivid sonorities. Paderewski is capable of creating excellent imitations of the performance style of Gypsy violinists, as well as teary-eyed and nostalgic expressions of their music. Again, the Gypsy scale appears here; the composer brings it back several times in scalar passages spanning two octaves.

This Gypsy “violin recital” causes the scales to fall from Manru eyes; the music awakens his longing for the past, for his kin. His desire to wander comes back to life, after being subdued for years. Immediately, an augmented second appears in his vocal part; this interval seems to symbolize the transformation taking place in his soul.

IV. Manru and Italian Opera

Among the compositions that may be associated with Paderewski’s opera we find the masterpiece of Italian operatic literature, Othello by Giuseppe Verdi.[24] In this case, as in reference to Wagner, we should not talk about Paderewski’s borrowing of gestures or ideas. In his Memoirs Paderewski does not even mention whether he attended the famous Parisian premiere of Othello in April 1894, an event that was attended by the Italian composer himself – Verdi travelled to France especially for this occasion. It is not certain at all whether Paderewski knew the score of Othello before embarking upon the composition of Manru. By the end of 1893 he had completed the first version of two acts of his opera. Moreover, the year of 1894 was for Paderewski a period of intense compositional effort, since he wanted to use in a creative fashion the forced interruption of his concertizing schedule caused by an injury to his hand. In the Memoirs Paderewski remembers that he avoided socializing at that time, in order to leave time to compose.[25] Throughout this year the major portion of the score of Manru was composed. Regardless of detailed circumstances we may be allowed to assume that the similarities between Manru and Othello that I will discuss are a part of a more general phenomenon, proof the an increasing interest of operatic composers in the dramatic structure of their works and in the psychological depth of characters portrayed on the stage.

There are similar characters in Manru and Othello; the strongest analogy, both in the dramatic conception and in the structuring of the music, may be found between the figures of Jago (in Othello) and Urok (in Manru). Fritz Noske, while analyzing the dramatic-musical structure of Othello[26] singled out a group of motives and even particular intervallic or rhythmic structures from the motivic material of this work. According to him, these musical signifiers provide the musical counterpart to the poison, the venom, or infection with which Jago infected Othello and which continued to develop in Othello’s soul. These signifying elements include: a chromatic passage descending along the scale, occasionally in parallel-sixth chords, a four-note passage based on a semitonal ascending motion followed by a leap downwards to the initial pitch, and the rhythmic pattern of the triplet. Noske noticed that these melodic and rhythmic structures appear in the earlier phases of the work only in the vocal part of Jago, or in the part of the orchestra that accompanies him and that, gradually, along with the development of Jago’s intrigues, these elements begin to permeate vocal fragments of the part of Othello. One should add that the action of this “musical poison” differs from the Wagnerian conception of Leitmotifs which typically from the beginning have a fully crystallized shape in terms of melody, rhythm, and expression. In the Wagnerian model, these traits may undergo transformations or variations in the further course of the work, however each subsequent version is related to, and compared with, the initial form of the motif.

In contrast, in Verdi’s work the first appearances of the motives singled out by Noske as melodic-rhythmic structures endowed with a specific meaning are not clearly noticeable by the listener. For instance, chromatic passages are often woven into broader, more expansive phrases and are not singled out as distinct motives. Moreover, the gradually coalescing extra-musical meaning often remains at odds with the explicit meaning of the text being sung at the moment of the motives’ occurrence. Therefore, our conclusion about the strength of motivic connections between the parts of both protagonists of Othello is, at least during the first encounter with the work, rather vague. This, however, seems to have been the intention of the composer: the actions and intentions of Jago are also initially veiled and hidden. Thus, the dramatic sense of Othello was perfectly transferred into musical signification.

Paderewski approaches the musical-dramatic structure in a fashion similar to Verdi’s. In this context, it is important to emphasize that the character of Urok is not a direct copy of the figure of Janek from Kraszewski’s novel, Chata za wsią. On the contrary, the modification of this figure in Paderewski’s opera went much further than in the case, for instance, Manru. In the novel, Janek is a youth who seems to be handicapped both physically and mentally. In fact, however, he is an intelligent man, with a depth of feeling and true sensitivity. One could say that he is the only person in the whole village who is sensitive to human sorrow and suffering; he is someone inclined to help others unselfishly, even though his humanitarian impulses are frequently hidden behind a mask of irony and bitterness. In the opera, Urok is a darker character, resembling Verdi’s Jago to a greater extent than his literary model, Kraszewski’s Janek. Urok is portrayed as a village sorcerer or a “medicine-man” [znachor]. Moreover, Nossig and Paderewski add to his set of features the extremely important motive of a tragic love for Ulana. Urok loves Ulana hopelessly, with despair, almost without any chance of being loved in return. He suffers terribly while witnessing her unhappiness and misfortune. The only ray of hope for Urok is in the possibility of Manru’s departure, if the Gypsy man would abandon his wife. Because of this state of affairs, all of Urok’s actions are morally ambivalent. It seems that he is favorably inclined towards Manru and helps him. Simultaneously though, and without his actions being recognized as hostile, Urok gradually inspires Manru’s longing for the Gypsy caravan: “I have ears and strong eyes, and I see each mistaken step, I see how your blood boils, I know better than you know it yourself. Because the lightning that is to strike from this storm is so close!” It is Urok who turns Manru’s attention to the sound of the violin heard from afar:[27]

Hi, wonderfully resounds the song, it is magic, it is paradise; wait, I advise you wait / Nobody plays like that in our village, / if you know tell me who plays like that? / Let you wandering take you from here,/ let love and woman be rejected / I know they will come here, there is an expected moment of return, they do not want to lose a gypsy man from their midst /

Later, Urok pretends to be fascinated with the Gypsy woman, Aza, clearly enjoying the aggravation and annoyance that his admiration causes Manru. Finally, he gives Ulana the love potion – a mixture that he created; only he is fully aware of its power. His sly, deceptive behavior is evil, though motivated by love. Urok’s deceptive designs have parallels in musical structure. As mentioned earlier, the augmented triad appears in the accompaniment of Urok’s vocal part already in Act 1 of the opera.[28] The triad assumes different melodic and rhythmic forms, both as a chord, and projected horizontally, as a melodic fragment. Augmented triads recur in Act II with the appearance of Urok on stage – they are not present in Scene I of this Act. One may observe how motives based on augmented triads are suggested by Urok and taken over by Manru (Act II, No. 20-22). The climax of this process takes place in the orchestral introduction to Act III and to the symphonic passage accompanying the miming scene of Manru’s dream and nightmare. Here we may notice clearly the oscillations between chords of a conventional tertian structure and a series of augmented triads. Moreover the Leitmotif of Urok is strikingly similar to the second motive of poison from Verdi’s Othello: a semitonal passage with a downward leap at the end. Urok’s part has an ascending four-note scalar passage (in Verdi’s motive there are three steps), followed by a larger descending leap.[29] Paderewski also highlights chromatic passages in this work, expanded to chromatic sequences of parallel chords in first inversion, or to a series of diminished tetrachords – these chords constitute the musical representation of the love potion.

V. The Polish Perspective

In the last section of my study I will examine Paderewski’s Manru from the Polish perspective. As is well known,[30] Paderewski was one of the earliest enthusiasts of the górale folklore that he knew in the original, having repeatedly travelled to the Tatra Mountains. Nonetheless, the górale dance in Act I of Manru does not include any quotations from authentic folk music and is, in its general character, similar to the Highlander Dances from Stanisław Moniuszko’s opera, Halka.[31] In both operas the composers wrote sequences of dances in the rondo form; the music is lively and exuberant, with an emphasis on the element of rhythm. Similarly to Moniuszko, Paderewski uses in Manru only segments of the górale scale, either the lower segment, identical to the Lydian mode (see Example 3),

or the higher segment, identical to the upper section of the Aeolian mode. In certain parts of these dances the Phrygian mode may also be distinguished (see Example 4):

A new gesture in the dance scene is the interspersing of purely instrumental segments which accompany the dance with sections that include singing and dancing; this pattern is closer to the authentic performance practice of górale music. In addition, Paderewski attempts to imitate górale heterophony, by leading the male voices from octave doublings to three-part textures, and ending a given strophe again with the octaves. However, besides these manipulations of the material, quasi-górale melodies undergo standard symphonic treatment, which increases the emotional temperature of the music, but undoubtedly also increases the distance from the folk models and transforms the music into a kind of fantasy on quasi-górale themes.

VI. The Final Question

Instead of ending this study with a summary of findings and a proper conclusion, I would like to pose a question that emerges from the series of comparisons presented in this paper. This question might be controversial; it pertains to the “national status” of Paderewski’s Manru. Is this work a Polish opera in the sense in which this term functioned in the 19th century? I am not inclined to answer this question definitely, however it seems to me that more arguments support an answer of “No” than “Yes.” Beyond the folk dance described in the previous section, Manru’s connection to Polish operatic traditions is rather weak. A superficial overview may observe associations with Moniuszko’s Halka in terms of the plot and dramatic structure: the relationships between the main characters of both works, Halka – Janusz – Jontek being the models for Ulana – Manru – Urok. However, the more detailed and insightful psychological analysis presented here indicates that this similarity is more virtual than real. In Manru, Paderewski did not adopt a “tone” of pro-Polish sentiment, or address the issue of national pride – which was characteristic of Polish operas from the times of King Stanisław Poniatowski, and was particularly emphasized by the creator of The Haunted Manor, Moniuszko. The content of Manru and its main issue – i.e. ethnic intolerance – are not inseparably bound to Polish social conditions. On the contrary, these issues are so universal and supra-temporal, that the highlanders [górale] could be replaced by any other ethnic group without causing any significant damage to the integrity of this work.

A separate problem, especially current for Polish producers of the opera, not its interpreters and critics, is caused by the libretto of this work, written for the Dresden premiere and, therefore, in German. While a Polish version of the text exists – it was prepared by Stanisła Rossowski for the subsequent premiere of the opera in Lwów – the meagre quality of this translation makes it inappropriate for the needs of contemporary stage practice. On the other hand, it is well-known that ideal translations of operatic libretti do not exist. Music is connected in a natural fashion, without conflicts of phrasing or expression, solely with its original verbal layer – in the case of Manru, with the German libretto.

Therefore, after considering numerous stylistic and dramatic aspects of Paderewski’s Manru as well as the opera’s content, it is possible to regard this opera as Paderewski’s significant contribution to European music culture and to the repertoire of European music theaters. The work is a result of the composer’s dialog with the artistic tendencies and preoccupations of European music at the turn of the century; it also presents a highly individual solution to the perennial problem of connecting music with drama. The strengths of this work include an unconventional representation of a serious social problem – something that did not occur too frequently in the operas of the time. In conclusion, we are faced with one task: to popularize Manru on Polish operatic stages.


[1]. Original publication data: Aleksandra Konieczna, “Manru Ignacego J. Paderewskiego – Kilka uwag o stylu i dramaturgii” [Manru of I.J. Paderewski – Some remarks about the style and drama] in Warsztat kompozytorski, wykonawstwo i koncepcje polityczne Ignacego Jana Paderewskiego [Composers workshop: Performance and political conceptions of Ignacy Jan Paderewski]. Edited by Andrzej Sitarz and Wojciech Marchwica (Kraków: Musica Iagellonica, 1991), 134-148. Except where indicated [AK] for author, the notes have been added by Maja Trochimczyk. [Back]

[2]. Włodzimierz Poźniak, “Opera po Moniuszce,” [Opera after Moniuszko], in Z dziejów polskiej kultury muzycznej [From the history of Polish musical culture], vol. 2 (Kraków: PWM, 1966), 307-310. [AK] Stanisław Moniuszko (1819-1872) composed Poland’s best known national operas of the 19th century.[Back]

[3]. Władysław Żeleński (1837-1921), was a composer, pianist and teacher; he studied philosophy (with a doctoral degree from Prague University in 1862) and composition in Prague, Vienna, and Paris. He was professor at the Institute of Music in Warsaw since 1872, and, since 1881, was active as a music teacher and concert organizer in Kraków. Żeleński composed two symphonies, several large-scale symphonic works, a piano concerto, choral and chamber music, songs, and four operas based on Polish themes. Goplana, to a libretto by L. German based on a drama by Polish romantic poet, Juliusz Słwacki, was composed and premiered in 1896; the score was published in 1897 in Leipzig by Hofmeister, the libretto in 1899 in Prague.

Henryk Melcer-Szczawiński (1869-1928) was a pianist, conductor and composer, educated at the Warsaw Conservatory (composition with Noskowski, piano with Strobel), and in Vienna (piano with Leschetitzky). He was a professor at the conservatories in Helsinki, Vienna, Łódź, Vienna and Warsaw. In 1910-12 he was the director of the Warsaw Philharmonic, in 1915-16 the director of the Warsaw Opera, and in 1922-26 the rector of the Warsaw Conservatory and professor of composition. Melcer was the author of one symphony, two piano concerti, choral and chamber music, as well as two operas. Maria in three acts was composed to Melcer’s own libretto based on a poem by Adam Malczewski; the work, completed in 1904, was premiered the same year in Warsaw. [Back]

[4]. Manru received a series of performances in several countries following its Dresden premiere in 1901, appearing through 1902 in Lwów, Kraków, Warsaw, Budapest, Cologne, Prague, London, and New York. After that triumphant debut, the opera inexplicably disappeared from the repertoire and was rarely revived. Its most recent Polish performance took place in 1962 in Poznań. See Małgorzata Perkowska, Diariusz koncertowy Ignacego Jana Paderewskiego [Paderewski’s concert diary], (Kraków: PWM, 1990), 89-100. [Back]

[5]. According to Andrzej Piber, the Dresden premiere of Manru provided an occasion for anti-Paderewski propaganda motivated by German resistance to his patriotic actions on behalf of Poles living under German government in the Western part of the divided country. For more about this issue see Trochimczyk, “Rediscovering Paderewski,” in this Journal and Piber, Droga do sławy: Ignacy Paderewski w latach 1860-1902 [Road to fame: I. P. in the years 1860-1902] (Warsaw: PIW, 1982), 466-468.[Back]

[6]. Poźniak, op. cit.; Henryk Opieński, Ignacy Jan Paderewski (Kraków: PWM, 1960), 65-72. [AK] [Back]

[7]. Manru (1893-1901) is a lyrical drama in 3 acts to a libretto by Alfred Nossig; it is based on Józef Ignacy Kraszewski’s Chata za wsią [A hut beyond the village], a novel in three volumes first published in 1854-1855. The full score of the opera was published in 1901 by Bote and Bock in Berlin; the piano reduction was issued in the same year by Schirmer in New York, together with the libretto in German and an English translation by Henry E. Krehbiel. This edition is the basis for the libretto and its translation published in this Journal. [Back]

[8]. Richard Wagner (1813-1883); both fragments are frequently performed and recorded independently, among other orchestral selections from his operas. [Back]

[9]. Giuseppe Verdi (1813-1901) composed Falstaff to a libretto by Arrigo Boito, completing the work in 1893 when the full score was published by Ricordi in Milan. The opera was performed in two versions, in Milan (original version) and in Paris (revised).[Back]

[10]. The sinister or symbolic moon features prominently in the pages of turn-of-the-century vocal works, including Richard Strauss’s Salome op. 54 and Arnold Schoenberg’s Verklärte Nacht, and Pierrot Lunaire. Strauss’s opera in one act, with a libretto by the composer based on the tragedy by Oskar Wilde was completed in 1905 and published in the same year in Berlin (A. Fürstner, c1905). The German composer was fascinated with Manru and asked for its score to be sent, while composing Salome. Therefore, it is possible that Paderewski’s “moon scene” in Manru and other traits of the Polish opera may have influenced the conception and scoring of Salome – a much more famous work with a fixed place in the international operatic repertoire. This connection has not been researched by Paderewski or Strauss scholars. [Back]

[11]. In the second half of the 19th century ethnicity was often discussed in terms of “race” and links of actual, physical kinship, symbolized by blood. Thus, all members of the same ethnic group, such as Gypsies, were thought to be linked not by culture and language, but by being each other’s “next of kin.” The main conflict in the libretto of Manru is based on this assumption. For a discussion of ethnicity as race in Polish music see Maja Trochimczyk, “Chopin and the ‘Polish Race,’ On Political Dimensions of Chopin Reception,” forthcoming in Halina Goldberg, ed. The Age of Chopin.[Back]

[12]. See Richard Wagner, Tristan und Isolde, ed. John Nicholas (London: Calder, 1981); libretto with English translation by Andrew Porter. [Back] Also see Helmut Reichenbacher, “Richard Wagner’s Adaptation of Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan,” University of Toronto Quarterly 67 no.4 (fall 1998): 762-773. [Back]

[13]. For details see the article by Andrzej Piber in this Journal. [Back]

[14]. Ignacy Jan Paderewski, words cited from Charles Phillips, The Story of a Modern Immortal (New York: Da Capo Press, 1978), 269. [AK] [Back]

[15]. Józef Chomiński, Historia muzyki [History of Music] (Kraków: PWM, 1988), vol. 2, 166. [AK] [Back]

[16]. Hans Pfitzner (1869–1949) was a German conductor and composer writing in a conservative idiom. The author of the opera Palestrina (1917) and the cantata Von deutscher Seele (1921), among other works. Max von Schillings (1868-1933) was a German composer and conductor greatly influenced by Richard Strauss; mostly writing operas. His early work Ingwelde imitated Wagner’s style from the Ring; his next opera Pfeifertag was modelled on Wagner’s Die Meistersinger. Siegfried Wagner (1869-1930) was the oldest son of Richard Wagner and a grandson of Franz Liszt. His operas are typically based on German fairy tales, for instance by Brothers Grimm; the musical style is indebted to Richard Wagner. [Back]

[17]. Charles Gounod (1818-1893), French composer of lyric operas, best known for his Faust. While emphasizing the similarity of expression we should add that Paderewski highly respected Gounod both as a man and as a composer of operas; his statements about Gounod may be found in his Memoirs, op. cit., vol. 1, 183-185. [AK] [Back]

[18]. George Bizet (1838-1875) composed Carmen to a libretto based on a story by Prospero Mérimmée in 1873-74; the opera was premiered in 1875. See Susan, McClary, “Structures of Identity and Difference in Bizet’s Carmen,” in The Work of Opera: Genre, Nationhood, and Sexual Difference (New York: Columbia University Press, 1997), 115-129.[Back]

[19]. Sergey Rakhmaninov (1873-1943) composed Aleko in 1892 to a libretto by V. Nemirovich-Danchenko, based on Pushkin’s The Gypsies. The opera was premiered at the Bolshoy Theater in Moscow in May 1893. The timing indicates that there might be a connection between this work and Paderewski’s Manru. Nossig wrote the libretto in 1893 and Paderewski started composing the opera at that time; his work was completed in 1901. [Back]

[20]. Both operas are discussed by James Parakilas in “The Soldier and the Exotic: Operatic Variations on a Theme of Racial Encounter, Part II,” The Opera Quarterly 10, no.3 (spring 1994): 43-69. [Back]

[21]. Kraszewski’s Chata za wsią [A hut beyond the village] is a novel first published in 1854-1855, with numerous reprints. It is possible that the libretto of Manru was based on a 1872 edition, revised by the author (Lwów: W księg. Gubrynowicza i Schmidta). Józef Ignacy Kraszewski (1812-1887) was a prolific writer of novels following the ideals of Balzac-style realism; his portrayals of folk culture were devoid of idealization a la Sienkiewicz. Kraszewski’s representations of often shockingly cruel peasants serve as a social critique of Polish communities and a warning about the dangers of intolerance and ignorance. [Back]

[22]. The Gypsy scale is usually described as consisting of: C – D – E-flat – F-sharp – G – A-flat – B – C. The augmented seconds are between E-flat and F-sharp and between A-flat and B. This scale is also referred to as the “Hungarian scale” because of its prominence in Hungarian romantic music. [Back]

[23]. The term “górale” is the plural masculine form of the word “góral,” i.e. the male inhabitant of the Tatra Mountains. In using this term in reference to the whole ethnic group, as an adjective, I follow the linguistic pattern established by Timothy J. Cooley in “Authentic Troupes and Inauthentic Tropes: Performance Practice in Górale Music,” Polish Music Journal 1 no. 1 (summer 1998).[Back]

[24]. Giuseppe Verdi’s Othello, a lyrical drama in four acts to a libretto by Arrigo Boito, was completed in 1887 and premiered at Milan’s La Scala.[Back]

[25]. Ignacy Jan Paderewski and Mary Lawton, Memoirs. Published in Polish as Pamiętniki, trans. Wanda Lisowska, Teresa Mogilnicka (Kraków: PWM, 1986, 6th ed); cited from vol. 2, 97-103. [Back]

[26]. Fritz Noske, “Otello: Drama Through Structure,” in the Signifier and the Signified. Studies in the Operas of Mozart and Verdi (The Hague, 1977), 147-157. [AK] [Back]

[27]. The part of Urok in Act II of Manru. English translation by Henry E. Krehbiel; published in Manru; vocal score, (New York: Schirmer, 1902), reprinted in this Journal. [Back]

[28]. Augmented triads are dissonant and consist of two major thirds; they are among the harmonic means used to characterize supernatural elements in the opera, along with diminished tetrachords (used in the early 19th century) and octatonic scales (used in the late 19th century, especially by Rimsky-Korsakov). [Back]

[29]. The similarity of both motives may be considered a reflection of the common musical “signifiers” in the rhetorical language of the 19th-century opera – including chromaticism and “altered” chords denoting supernatural or evil occurrences, repeated ascending passages to increase tension, etc.[Back]

[30]. See Opieński, op. cit., 21. [AK] [Back]

[31]. Moniuszko composed Halka in 1846-48 in Wilno (Vilnius) and Warsaw as a two-act work; the opera was expanded to four acts in 1857 and premiered in 1848 (two-act version) and 1858 (four-act version). At that time Tatra folklore was not yet discovered by musicians. According to Timothy J. Cooley, however, the folklore witnessed by musicians and visitors to the region at the end of 19th century was to a large extent a conscious cultural product, shaped by the visitors’ expectations as much as by the musical talents of the górale. See Cooley, “Constructing an ‘Authentic’ Folk Music of the Polish Tatras,” in Maja Trochimczyk, ed. After Chopin: Essays in Polish Music (Los Angeles: Polish Music Center, 2000), 243-262. [Back]

Aleksandra Konieczna obtained her Master’s degree in 1979. She currently works at the Institute of History and Theory of Music, Jagiellonian University, Kraków. She authored articles devoted to opera in the 19th and 20th centuries: “O autorstwie i cechach gatunkowych libretta opery Miłosc do trzech pomarańczy Sergiusza Prokofiewa,” (Muzyka vol. 36 no. 4 (1991): 25-57), “Manru Paderewskiego: Kilka uwag o stylu i dramaturgii” reprinted here; “Postać, przestrzeń i czas w finałowym akcie Gracza Sergiusza Prokofiewa,” (Muzyka vol. 28 no. 3 (1983): 31-52), “III symfonia Sergiusza Prokofiewa: Jej geneza a interpretacja,” in: Muzykologia krakowska (Kraków: Uniwersytet Jagiellonski, 1987, 107-20). Additionally she published a book Piotr Swierc: Bibliografia (Opole, Wojewodzka Biblioteka Publiczna, 1990), and an article about German Musik in der Woiwodschaft Schlesien (Music in Silesian Province, on the internet).