Natalia Rubis, Przemysław Borys, Sebastian Szumski; Capella Cracoviensis/Jan Tomasz Adamus
Deutsches Harmonia Mundi 19439900642 80:39 mins (2 discs)
Stanisław Moniuszko’s Halka is a paradox, a national opera but not nationalist in any way. Rather than being Polish in its symbolism, Halka’s plot is universal in its appeal and typical of the 19th century’s wider interest in the Giselle stereotype. Yet one of the opera’s most famous (and justly celebrated) numbers is the invigorating mazurka that closes Act I in the revised, four-act version of the opera as given in Warsaw in 1858; that and several other of the score’s hits are absent from the two-act version premiered in Vilnius a decade earlier, on New Year’s Day 1848. This earlier edition – recorded for the first time on period instruments – is a much slenderer work, but one in which the drama flows with poignant directness.
Such an impression is certainly reinforced by this welcome recording, in which the freshness of Moniuszko’s inspiration shines through. The soprano Natalia Rubiś brings radiance to the title role, Przemysław Borys’s dusky tenor is distinctive as her loyal Jontek, and the baritone Sebastian Szumski is suitably aloof as the betraying nobleman Janusz. The warm playing and singing of the Capella Cracoviensis under the baton of Jan Tomasz Adamus is beautifully captured, drawing the listener into the pathos of the piece.