Flis (The Raftsman)

FLIS (The Raftsman)

Opera in one act

LIBRETTO: Stanisław Bogusławski

World premiere: 24 September 1858, Teatr Wielki, Warsaw

Antoni: Jan Stysiński, bass; Zosia: Paulina Rivoli, soprano; Szóstak: Wilhelm Troszel, bass; Franek: Julian Dobrski, tenor; Jakub: Alojzy Żółkowski, baritone; Feliks: Jan Koehler, baritone (tenor)

Synopsis. After a stormy overture, the skies clear out and the residents of a village situated on the banks of the Vistula river thank the Providence for sparing their life and property (chorus: Pędzą chmury, ścichły grzmoty – Dzięki Ci, przedwieczny Panie). Antoni, a wealthy peasant, has finally managed to sooth his crying daughter Zosia, who had her own reasons to be upset: her beloved craftsman Franek was on the water when the storm broke out. Yet, the father is more fearsome than the storm and has no intention of letting his daughter marry a common raftsman when Jakub, a Warsaw-based hairdresser, would make a much better son-in-law. While Zosia is still shivering at the thought of the calamity (Okropny ten poranek – Ach! tyś może wśród tej burzy), Szóstak, an old hand, informs her that Franek is alive and on his way back home; what is more, he promises the girl that he will use his tricks on Jakub and discourage him from the marriage (duet: Wiadomość dam ja). Jakub is, however, very pleased with himself (Odkąd żyję w tem tu mieście), bravely withstands the pressure from the old-timer (duet: Sługa pański, gdzie tak śpiesznie? – Jestem fryzjer salonowy) and has no intention of backing down. Yet, when Franek is seen approaching from a distance (chorus: Dzisiaj mamy już pogodę – Płyną tratwy po Wiśle – Ej, przybywaj, miły flisie), the hairdresser remembers suddenly that he has something urgent to deal with and vanishes hurriedly, afraid to confront his hearty rival. Frank and Zosia fall into each other’s arms (duet: Znowu cię przy sercu pieszczę – Pod Twoją obronę, Panie) and – soon after – throw themselves at Antoni’s feet to ask for his mercy. Antoni is indeed inclined to change his mind to make his daughter happy but cannot find it in himself to break his promise (quartet: Ach, jej zapomnieć!)? While Franek is absent, Jakub tries to convince Zosia that she will lead a happy and cheerful life with him in the city (Nie mów tego, Zosiu miła). Devastated, Franek decides to go on a journey to search for his missing brother (finale: Otóż i biedny chłopak – duet: Żegnam cię, Zosiu droga). The news should alert any seasoned opera lover, for the brother’s name is – yes, you guessed – Jakub (Co on plecie o Jakubie?)… A short conversation between the rivals is enough (Pozwól, chłopcze, jeszcze chwilę) to disperse these clouds too: Jakub stupid back in favour of his newly found brother and everybody praises the Lord’s goodness (Bo jego dobroć wielka, niepojęta – Teraz, kiedy mamy gody).

HISTORY. Set on the banks of the Vistula river, the opera was written in Paris, purportedly over four days. This might be true of the general draft which Moniuszko hurriedly brought to Warsaw, where_Halka_’s recent success opened up new opportunities for him. Once finished and staged, the work proved a success. In the words of Moniuszko's 1859 letter, Halévy’s The Jewess was the only opera other than Halka and Flis to have ‘fetched any money’. The piece was regularly revived, oftentimes along with Verbum nobile (Łódź 1908). In Lviv (1919), Poznań and Katowice (1930) it was shown at municipal ‘Moniuszko festivals', tempting quasi-professional troupes with its undemanding texture. In 1932, to mark Piłsudski’s name day, Flis was performed at a gala concert at the Teatr Wielki. After World War II, the opera was staged seven times (Poznań 1949, Wrocław 1952, Bytom 1954, Wrocław 1955, Bydgoszcz 1988, Poznań 1997, Szczecin 2003).