Our rating 
4.0 out of 5 star rating 4.0

COMPOSERS: Moniuszko
WORKS: The Haunted Manor
PERFORMER: Adam Kruszewski, Iwona Hossa, Anna Lubanska, Krzysztof Szmyt, Stefania Toczyska; Polish National Opera Chorus & Orchestra/Jacek Kaspszyk
CATALOGUE NO: 5 57489 2
Moniuszko occupies much the same role for the Poles as Smetana does for the Czechs. In fact, where opera was concerned, he was a good deal more prolific if not as distinctive. Composed in the early 1860s, The Haunted Manor has much the same status in Poland that The Bartered Bride has in the Czech Republic. The complex story involves two brothers who renounce all thoughts of matrimony while their nation needs them and the machinations, including a night in the eponymous haunted manor, that eventually lead to their betrothal. Moniuszko’s score is effortlessly melodious and there are numerous exquisite orchestral touches. Notwithstanding the use of Polish dance rhythms, Moniuszko, like Smetana, builds his operatic style from a number of European models, with Verdi a perceptible influence. Though primarily light-hearted, not all is divertissement: the sword-bearer’s nostalgic arioso at the end of Act II prompts music of depth and distinction, and the succeeding finale is superbly judged. Unsurprisingly, the opera proved hugely successful at its premiere, in fact so successful that a jumpy Russian censorship pulled the plug on it and Warsaw did not hear it again until the 20th century. Jacek Kaspszyk directs the large cast in a fine ensemble performance. The orchestral playing is vivid and, if there are no truly outstanding voices, there are certainly no weak links in the cast. At times the chorus sounds a little fragile, but overall this well recorded performance does this iconic work full justice. Jan Smaczny