Verbum nobile


Opera in one act

LIBRETTO: Jan Chęciński

WORLD PREMIERE: Teatr Wielki, Warsaw, 1 January 1861

Serwacy Łagoda: Wilhelm Troszel, bass; Marcin Pakuła: Jan Koehler, baritone; Zuzanna: Bronisława Dowiakowska, soprano; Stanisław / Michał: Adam Ziółkowski, baritone; Bartłomiej: Adolf Kozieradzki, bass

SYNOPSIS. Two spirited noblemen, Mr Serwacy Łagoda and Mr Marcin Pakuła, once made a solemn promise to each other that their children would marry, each giving a nobleman’s word (verbum nobile). This did not make their children’s life easy, as young Zuzanna Łagoda and Michał Pakuła have not yet met. Meanwhile, Serwacy’s whole staff led by old Bartłomiej, young Michał’s servant, is preparing a song to celebrate Zuzanna’s name’s day (introduction: Owoż każdy niech pamięta – Jak lilija co rozwija). Serwacy thanks everybody profusely, pondering the joys of fatherhood (Zanim strudzone oczy). But how has Bartłomiej ended up in the Łagoda household? According to the old servant’s account, fate intervened on the two fathers’ behalf: Michał fell off his carriage nearby the Łagoda estate. Greatly injured, he was taken care of by Zuzanna just like Isolde once attended to wounded Tristan (song: Aj, co to będzie). Eager, however, to keep the accident secret from his strict father, Michał introduced himself to be Stanisław before winning her heart. Bartłomiej would like to leave as soon as possible, yet ‘Stanisław’ does not want to hear of it (Zakaż, niech ożywcze słonko): he prefers to exchange tender vows with Zuzanna (duet: Gdym prawie już z tym życiem hożym). Having discovered their fondness for each other, Serwacy is forced to inform the couple that because of the word he once gave to his friend this liaison has no future (tercet: To wielka szkoda, dzieciaki moje). When the young people insist on their right to follow their heart, Serwacy vows never to let Zuzanna marry Stanisław. On hearing that Stanisław decides to leave the Łagoda household, while Zuzanna is crying her eyes out (Stacho odjeżdża – Jak tu ująć żal na wodzie). Right there and then, Marcin Pakuła arrives at the Łagoda estate to offer Zuzanna a beautiful name’s day gift: his son (oration: Śliczna dzieweńko, ufam – Dam ci ptaszka, jakich mało). Serwacy warmly welcomes his friend, yet his spirits dampen when he learns of the purpose of the visit. After all, he values his daughter’s happens more than an old pledge. Deeply offended by the host’s prevaricating, Marcin raises his voice (duet: Gdzież jest waścine verbum nobile). That is when the pretend Stanisław enters the stage and is immediately identified as Michał (finale: Kto zbroił figla, niech tłumaczy). The problem is Serwacy vowed not to let his daughter’s marry Stanisław… Fortunately, Zuzanna ascertains that her heart belongs to Michał, not some Stanisław. (Zakończone nasze troski).

HISTORY. Jan Chęciński (1826–1874) went down in history as the librettist of Moniuszko’s last three operas, although writing librettos was more of side job for this reasonably good actor and excellent stage director whose theatre credits included plays by Shakespeare, Schiller and Słowacki. Chęciński met Moniuszko when he was engaged for the first time by the Warsaw Governmental Theatres. Their meeting resulted in a one-act comic opera which was in fact a prelude to their future masterpiece. Welcomed enthusiastically by the audience and critics, the piece saw many stagings (Warsaw 1867, 1874; Lviv 1872, 1900; and around a dozen post-war productions). As it does not require an elaborate stage setup, it was shown in Kraków and Warsaw right after the end of World War II, in June and December 1945, respectively.