Wexford Festival Opera, 22, 28, 31 October, 4 November.
An old tale with contemporary relevance: a father who wants power and wealth rather than a happy marriage for his son tries to change the course of events through murder. True love that reaches beyond death and outwits evil.
Roman Statkowski is regarded as one of the most important Polish composers before Szymanowski. He was a composition teacher in Warsaw when he entered a competition in 1903 to compose an opera inspired by Antoni Malczewski’s 1825 epic Romantic poem Maria (Ukrainian Tale). Statkowski wrote his own libretto as well as composing the music, and won the competition with Maria. Although it was successfully performed in Warsaw in 1906 it has been performed only a few times since then. The music is in the grand symphonic style of the 19th century Russian masters, but with an almost Wagnerian use of leitmotif that connects characters, action, emotion and memory. Statkowski studied with Rubinstein at St Petersburg and was influenced by Mussorgsky, Richard Strauss and Pfitzner.
The love that Maria and her husband Waclaw share is opposed by Waclaw’s father who causes Maria to be murdered in order that Waclaw may marry a woman of much greater wealth and status. This is contrasted with the love that Maria’s father has for his child. Waclaw determines to kill his father for ordering his wife’s death, but Maria’s ghost appears, to stay his hand. Waclaw kills himself instead, and musically this enabled Statkowski to transform the gothic ‘Ukrainian Tale’ of the original poem into an operatic Liebestod, with Waclaw dying for love.