• August 8, 2014
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Stanisław Moniuszko in Vilnius

„Stanisław Moniuszko in Vilnius” is the title of the newest book by a Vilnian historian Liliana Narkowicz. The publication is devoted to the life and artistic activity of one of the most outstanding Polish composers and the creator of the Polish National Opera. The author of the book presents first and foremost the 28 years Moniuszko has spent in Vilnius between 1840 and 1858. At that time Moniuszko wrote the opera “Halka” which won him recognition.

After the introduction Narkiewicz describes connections of the Moniuszko family with Lithuania and the life of Moniuszko before he moved to Vilnius. However, The main part of the book consists of chapters devoted to the life of Moniuszko in Vilnius. We learn about his difficult beginnings in the city upon Neris, about the atmosphere of high society salons, about the music and theater scene at that time and about the artistic activity of the composer.

Particularly interesting is the chapter including the comments of Moniuszko on Vilnius which were taken from his correspondence. In Vilnius he could always find solace after tiring journeys to Berlin, Köningsberg, Saint Petersburg and other European cities where he gave concerts: “I’m going back to Vilnius like a bear is going to its burrow. It seems that there, despite many problems, the burden isn’t that onerous” – wrote Moniuszko.

Since Moniuszko moved to Warsaw in 1858 he stressed his longing for the life in Vilnius many times and planned to return to the city after retirement: “Sooner or later we will return to Vilnius. It would be a real pleasure to go back to own piece of land, especially that I have so many great memories from that place”.

The book ends with chapters describing personality characteristics, posthumous reputation and the confusion about constructing a monument of Moniuszko in Vilnius near the Church of St. Catherine Church in 1922.

The book’s artwork is distinctive. A hard cover, high quality paper, a lot of photos and scans of pictures and graphics (almost on every second page) enhance the pleasure of reading of the book. The family trees at the end of the book presenting the Moniuszko family bearing the Krzywda coat-of-arms shows the family ties of Stanisław Moniuszko. The bibliography is also worth noting. The large number of archival sources, press titles and studies indicates that the author has done an arduous and valuable work.

It is hard to find any fault with the book. It is written in a style that should satisfy all kinds of readers. The book’s contents are interesting not only for aficionados of the Polish music and opera and its history or even of the life of the composer, but also for those who are interested in the XIX century Poland and Vilnius.

Liliana Narkiewicz, “Stanisław Moniuszko in Vilnius”, Wydawnictwo Polskie, Vilnius 2014

This article was written thanks to the courtesy of the library „Elephas” in Vilnius.

Translated by Maciej Jóźwiak within the framework of a traineeship programme of the European Foundation of Human Rights, www.efhr.eu.

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