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Lottery for Husbands or Fiance No. 69
Composer: Karol Szymanowski
Original synopsis and lyrics Julian Krzewiński-Maszyński
Contemporary adaptation Wojciech Graniczewski
World premiere 5th and 12th October 2007
- Music Director Piotr Sułkowski
- Director Józef Opalski
- Set and Costume Designer Agata Duda-Gracz
- Choreographer Jacek Badurek
- Lighting Piotr Pawlik
Exquisite costumes by Agata Duda-Gracz, an intriguing production by Józef Opalski, enthralling plot scripted by Wojciech Graniczewski and Karol Szymanowski’s surprising music – here is the staging of a work which remained unstaged for nearly a hundred years. Lottery for Husbands came as a great surprise to the audience, for who would have though that in his youth the decent, solemn Karol Szymanowski authored a frivolous operetta, with waltzes, quadrilles and sambas. The libretto to this composition, completed in 1909, was written by Julian Krzewiński-Maszyński, a Lvov operetta artist, popular author of many a comic and operetta libretto. Unfortunately, the complete libretto has not been preserved: spoken texts, which came in between music numbers, have been lost – that is why Wojciech Graniczewski wrote the theatre play specially for the premiere.
Writing his Operetta, Witold Gombrowicz admitted: “I was delighted by the operetta form; in my opinion one of the happiest ever discovered in theatre – the heavenly idiocy, the divine amnesia, perfect theatre, and perfectly theatrical”. Szymanowski, too, was always attracted to theatrical games, theatrical fun, the elements of parody, grotesque, and the conventionality of events, jokes, and humour. In 1920, asked by Leon Schiller to provide music to Molière’s Le Bourgeois Gentilhomme, the composer displays a most elegant sense of humour, and shows that he can laugh as no-one before him in the history of Polish music.At that time, the pantomime Mandragora was written – a minor masterpiece of instrumental humour.
Laughter and fun accompanied Szymanowski through his childhood and youth. The young man from Tymoszówka, together with a multitude of musical cousins, gave voice to his sense of humour by organising artistic cabarets and comic living pictures, which parodied people, situations, and even whole opera performances. “I remember,” recalls Jarosław Iwaszkiewicz, “a beautiful Italian quartet singing folk songs and accompanying themselves on tennis racquets; the quartet comprising, Karol, Nula, and Zioka Szymanowski, and Kruszyński. The high point of the whole performance was to be Salome's dance from Strauss’ opera, performed by Feliks Szymanowski, accompanied by Artur Rubinstein. Unfortunately, the car he was travelling in stalled in a puddle during a storm which broke out that evening. Karol substituted for him, performing the scene from the Strauss opera. At one moment during the dance, a platter with Jonathan’s head, deftly made from a pumpkin by Nula Szymanowska, was placed on the stage. Feliks, in a corvine wig and a beautiful costume, also in large measure the work of Nula, lived his role, and I remember that the dance didn’t seem to me to be a caricature – quite the opposite, and I enjoyed it greatly.” The Tymoszówka “circus” also performed a marvellous parody of Gounod’s Faust. “The opera was performed in greatly abridged form, but almost error-free, with Feliks as protagonist and Nuno Zbyszewski as Marguerite, who, in an indispensable golden wig sang the aria next to the spinning wheel in a high falsetto, with all its ornamentation - not missing out one coloratura - while the audience howled with laughter."
“What does laughter mean?” asked Henri Bergson in his essay on laughter. “What is the basal element in the laughable? What common ground can we find between the grimace of a merry-andrew, a play upon words, an equivocal situation in a burlesque and a scene of high comedy? What method of distillation will yield us invariably the same essence from which so many different products borrow either their obtrusive odour or their delicate perfume?” With Szymanowski, this mysterious substance, laughter, is present in his entire oeuvre in the most various of forms. It appears as musical jokes, pastiche, grotesque, parody, buffonade, and irony. It shines through in his early waltz (the ninth variation in his Opus 3 for piano), it is apparent in the minuet of his Piano Sonata No. 1, in The Hermit from his Colourful Songs, in all the scherzando e buffo or scherzando e capriccioso fugues in his piano sonatas, and in the polytonal concept of his String Quartet No. 1. In Masques, the clownery and laughter are joined by a tragic grimace, whereas in Children’s Rhymes there is a sunny, joyful smile. Even the lyrical Harnasie has humorous grotesque in the shape of the Widow.
In 1906, after the debut concert of the Young Poland in Music composers, the critics hailed the young Szymanowski as a genius. Later, the elation died down somewhat, and the young composer’s flirtation with German poetry and music was regarded with suspicion. The composer, meanwhile, was searching for his path, and jealously protected his right to artistic independence. Until the moment of writer's block and a lack of creative energy, when his first successes had passed. Things went considerably better for Grzegorz Fitelberg, whose fame as a conductor spread ever more widely – the Berlin critics loved him, and Richard Strauss entrusted his own concerts to him. Among his “Young Polish” colleagues, Fitelberg was regarded as the greatest authority – a maestro of instrumentation.
In spring 1908, Karol journeyed to Italy, and then spent some time in Vienna with Ficio (Fitelberg), where amidst the fun and social escapades they “spent extravagantly”. It was then that they had the idea to collaborate on “something lighter”, some music to fill their empty pockets. The demand for operetta in Vienna seemed insatiable. In the years before the First World War, operetta was in fact living through a great boom, and not just in Vienna and Berlin, but also in Warsaw and Lvov. During his return from Vienna to Tymoszówka, Karol stopped over in Lvov – he was well-acquainted with the opera singer Michał Prawdzic-Leyman (a compatriot from the Ukraine), who put him in contact with a talented young comic actor at the Lvov operetta, Julian Maszyński, who performed under the stage name of Krzewiński (he was the son of composer Piotr Maszyński). Karol’s peer – they were both 26 at the time – was characterized by a unique wit, and in the near future he would become the author of many comic and operetta libretti, as well as song lyrics. He and Szymanowski understood each other perfectly from the outset. Things came together rapidly. Krzewiński had not one, but two libretti in mind, and Szymanowski chose The Lottery for Husbands – a somewhat lunatic story which takes place “in our times in America”. The excited composer invited Fitelberg to Tymoszówka for the summer “to come and join us because we have to write an operetta”. And presently: “I will tell you in secret that I have brought two operetta libretti with me. Don’t tell anyone. This will be the making of us.” Ficio did not come, however, and so Karol spent the whole summer of 1908 composing the operetta himself, joyfully and with gusto.
First he called it The Top Prize, then The Lottery for Husbands, and finally The Lottery for Husbands (Fiancé No. 69). An Operetta in 3 Acts. His mind was full of memories of famous Viennese, Berlin, Lvov, Varsovian and Cracovian cabarets, vaudeville, and music hall. Scenes from café-chantans, both real and those parodied during the entertainments in Tymoszówka, came to life before his eyes. He wrote full of curiosity, and had a whale of a time doing it. But when, in the autumn, he arrived in Warsaw, he was met by bitter disappointment – Fitelberg was not in the least interested in working with him on the operetta. The new artistic director of the Warsaw Philharmonia, Henryk Melcer, had entrusted twelve concerts in the 1908/1909 season to Fitelberg. It was a grand and ambitious challenge – the road to a real career.
Szymanowski was alone, but since he could not bear to leave anything half finished, he continued working on Lottery. By the beginning of 1909, the piano score was ready, with the solo voices and chorus parts. Unwillingly, the composer began working on the full score, which in line with his earlier plans Ficio was supposed to help him with. “The misfortune with the operetta so chagrined me, but I feel that I must finally finish it.” On October 28th 1909 he completed the final page of the 396-page score. He did not reveal his authorship either in the piano score in the full score, however, using instead the pseudonym “Whitney”.
At the same time, the “empty” period in Szymanowski’s work drew to a close – once he had completed the score for Lottery, his imagination was filled by a grand new work – the 2nd Symphony. Soon, the magnificent Piano Sonata No.2 would appear, and great artistic successes in Warsaw, Berlin, Vienna, and Leipzig would come – a true career as a composer. It was no longer necessary to support himself with the trivial operetta. And so Lottery, instead of having two fathers, was orphaned. Not quite completely, however. Szymanowski knew that it would be difficult to compete with Strauss, Lehar, Zeller, or Kálmán with his Lottery; however, he felt that he had written some decent music. He was strengthened in his opinion by the experienced composer, Piotr Maszyński, who did not hide his enthusiasm on seeing his young colleague’s score.
Karol’s success as a composer in Vienna, and Fitelberg’s success as a conductor, supported by his patron Duke Władysław Lubomirski, who was well-connected in the imperial court, meant that in time the friends moved to Vienna. The Duke had two great passions: horseracing and ambitions as a composer. He was an amateur, however, and needed assistance with his music - ably provided by Fitelberg. And so it was in April 1912, in the Raimund Theater, that the premiere performance of Duke Lubomirski’s operetta, no less, entitled Die liebe Unschuld, took place. An operetta which Fitelberg had helped him to write. Temptation and hope returned: Szymanowski ordered a German translation of his Lottery in the hope that Ficio and his Duke would put his operetta on at one of the Viennese theatres. Sadly, instead of this they passed him the libretto of the solemn and hopelessly serious opera, Hagith. The dream of the “trivial mischief” dispersed with no hope of return, and Lottery was engulfed by an uninterrupted silence. Not a word of this work will be found in the composer’s correspondence or in his interviews, and Szymanowski did not list it among his works in any of the records of his compositions.
Lottery was only resurrected after Szymanowski’s death, when Polish Radio even ordered a copy of the full score, perhaps with the intention of a broadcast performance. The musical reviewer and employee of Polish Radio, Karol Stromberger, wrote: “The music of The Lottery for Husbands is preserved in an authentic score. All that is missing is the prose text linking the musical sections. The author of the libretto, Julian Krzewiński, no longer recalls the precise details 32 years after writing it.” And he added: “It is worth looking at this ‘frivolous’ work now, when Radio, ‘the theatre of innumerable premieres’, can at any time add The Lottery for Husbands to its repertoire.” Unfortunately, Stromberger wrote these words in June 1939, just three months before the Second World War broke out. Fitelberg, who knew the score of Lottery intimately, never broke his silence, believing that this “bit of fun” was unworthy of Karol’s greatness. And yet, the operetta must have troubled him, since three months before his death he took the forgotten score and, on December 30th 1952, performed three fragments – a duet and two romances, sung by Natalia Stokowacka and Bogdan Paprocki – with the Polish Radio Grand Symphony Orchestra at Polish Radio in Katowice.
The three act libretto of Lottery comprised spoken text and lyrics linking the scenes together with musical pieces. Unfortunately, only the sung lyrics, written beneath the notes, have been preserved. How did Krzewiński and Szymanowski want to entertain the audience, in reality? Here is a brief sketch of the idea. American industrialist Helgoland has two sons, Charly and Darly, keen photographers and ne’er-do-wells, of whom Darly is the more sentimental. The ingenious “impresario of public entertainments” decides to organise a lottery for husbands in which the main prize will be the young man. Understandably, the lottery arouses the interest of the Spinsters’ Club, but alongside them there also appears Mrs. Troodwood with her daughter, Sara, who is worried about her unmarried status. Helgoland’s two fun-loving sons appear, and Darly, enchanted by Sara’s beauty, registers himself on the list of lottery “prizes”. There is push-and-pull and equivocation between the brothers, but at last, after a chain of vicissitudes, the happy couple, Sara and Darly, are engaged.
Everything takes place in an atmosphere of apparent exaltation of marital bliss, longed for by the members of the Old Spinsters’ Club, and sentimental Miss Huck who, overcome by the vision of the top prize, humorously sings of her sweet dreams, while the members of the Merry Widowers’ Club shatter these naïve dreams, grateful that fate has returned their freedom to them. The ambiguity of this idealised marital happiness is very clear to the widower Williams, who sings of it in humorous couplets. Tobias Helgoland is also not without scepticism – quoting appropriate proverbs, he warns his sons against naïve gullibility. Sincere lyricism appears when love blossoms between Sara and Darly.
Of course, it is not the simple plot which defines the character of Lottery, but rather the way Szymanowski found himself in this new world. And the composer entered it eagerly, looking around with tongue in cheek to discover what his operetta would be like. He is a little shy, but above all amused. Everything here is half-comedy, half serious. Szymanowski does not quite believe himself: he has only just completed Symphony No. 1, which he contemptuously called “a harmonic and contrapuntal monster”, and here he can see that he is capable of writing music which is clear, lucid, humorous and danceable. The waltzes evoke the ambiance of Vienna; and there are marches, at that time one of the more popular carnival quadrilles; the feel of the New World is introduced by Szymanowski with a mischievously treated quotation from “Yankee Doodle” (the dumb yank – a reference to Helgoland’s sons), and after some time the latest thing from across the Ocean makes an appearance – an African American cakewalk – and a humorously “stylised” Indian ballad. There is even an immodest machicha, born in the underworld of the Brazilian samba. All this is presented in the form of classical ensembles, romantic duets, and grand finales with chorus and dance. But what is most unique and surprising is the way in which Szymanowski uses the large symphony orchestra, complete as it is with clamorous horns, trombones and trumpets, double woodwind, and expanded with a harp and numerous percussion instruments. In place of the expected harmonic pandemonium, there is a charming orchestral accompaniment which flows in broad, gentle arcs, spiced up every so often with piquant harmonies, colourful humorous orchestral ideas and witty polyphony.
hout knowing the spoken text linking the successive scenes, we do not know the role played by Sherlock Holmes’ humorous and amusing coupling couplets, or the street tinker’s song about the queen’s affair with the page boy, in Krzewiński’s libretto. But one thing is certain: the fun that both young artists were having began with the very moment of the libretto’s conception. Writing the lyrical text of Sara’s Romance, Krzewiński gives us a knowing wink, incorporating within the sentimental and simple lyric a reworked quotation from Kazimierz Przerwa-Tetmajer's poem:
“Pójdziemy cisi, zamyśleni, [We’ll go silent, lost in dreams],
wśród żółtych przymgleń i promieni,” [amid the golden haze and beams]
With the Serenade, sung by the chorus beneath Sara’s windows (“Piękna, miła, cna panienko, przychodzimy pod okienko powinszować ci wygranej” [“Beautiful, lovely, worthy lady, we come to your window to congratulate you on winning”]), both men maintained a conscious pastiche, if not parody, of Moniuszko’s Verbum Nobile. Szymanowski faultlessly switches to Moniuszko's idyllic style by passing an unambiguous musical allusion to Chęciński’s and Moniuszko’s chorus from the first scene (Introduction) of Verbum Nobile: "Jak lilija, co rozwija z wiosną świeży kwiat, z łaską Bożą wzrosłaś hoża, obok naszych chat.” [“Like the lily which unfurls its fresh bloom in spring, you grew comely in God’s mercy, by our cabins”] The benevolent mockery even encompasses Wagner’s leitmotifs – comically parodied, they accompany the brothers Charly and Darly, and also the Merry Widowers.
It is not hard to observe the echo of the Tymoszówka musical jokes in Lottery, and perhaps Krzewiński’s crazy, grotesque, and not always logical ideas – the aforementioned “heavenly idiocy” of operetta – so effectively aroused Szymanowski’s musical imagination. It most certainly aroused his curiosity about the play of form, and set him on the path of playing with elements of grotesque, humour, pastiche, parody, the old world and the new. Play which displayed Szymanowski’s theatrical instinct; his feel for the stage. He “furnished” it with vivid, unconventional music, and filled it with handcrafted musical characters, all immersed in an untameable mobility of dance.
The plot skeleton of the operetta is formed by the spoken texts which link the scenes, welding them into a logical whole. The lack of Julian Krzewiński's spoken texts for Lottery made it necessary not so much to reconstruct the original libretto but rather to create a new stage framework for the existing score. The new theatre concept and plot proposed by Wojciech Graniczewski is his own original piece of drama, created for the operetta’s first performance, and incorporating, of course, the original lyrical and musical material.
Translated by Wojciech Graniczewski and Robin Gill
Eccentric Uncle Charly’s heiresses – Sara from Vienna, Caroline from Chicago and Ewa from Warsaw – go to the attic in his villa together with the Notary. There, and in accordance with his last wishes, his will is read out. It turns out that Uncle has given his inheritance to the Merry Widowers’ Club and the Old Spinsters’ Club, while his relatives have merely been given the right to take family mementoes from the attic. After the reading, the Notary leaves the attic, locking the hatch behind her. Sara, Caroline and Ewa remain imprisoned in the room, which is filled with remnants of their mysterious Uncle’s past.
The first scene of the operetta's original libretto. The Impresario together with the choir of Spinsters announces a lottery for husbands, which will provide a lasting solution to the problem of spinsterhood. At the end, the Notary appears among the audience, and advertises the legal services of the firm of Troodwood & Holmes, which has been in charge of the lottery's legal side.
The attic. Sara, Caroline and Ewa search through every nook and cranny of the attic in the hope of finding something valuable. Then, Sara comes across a love letter sent to Uncle Charly by a woman named Sara and believes that this woman may be her grandmother.
The next fragment of the operetta. Sara performs an aria in which she dreams of a great love.
The attic. Sara, Caroline and Ewa find an old camera – a present for Uncle Charly from his brother Darly. The stage. A duet between Charly and Darly about their photographic adventures during their travels round America, and about their plans to open a photographic studio. Meanwhile, Sara, Caroline and Ewa look at the photos they have found in the attic.
The next fragment of the operetta. Tobias Helgoland is Charly and Darly’s father. Jack, Tobias Helgoland’s butler, informs him about his sons’ roistering escapades while they are somewhere unknown in the city. Helgoland calls the police to look for them and finds out more about their excesses. Soon, Charly and Darly appear at their father’s house, laugh at his reservations about their happy-go-lucky lifestyle and decide to head off to their next drinking spree. Their father, on the other hand, decides to punish them.
The attic. Sara finds a portrait of her grandmother as a young girl and decides to keep it.
Charly and Darly’s photographic studio. Mrs. Troodwood brings her daughter, Sara, here to have a portrait taken which will immortalise her beauty and increase her chances of marriage. The photographer, Darly, after an all-night drinking session with his brother Charly has difficulty with the photograph as he is trying to work in spite of a massive hangover. A duet between Sara and Darly, from the operetta, during which Darly falls in love with his beautiful client and begins his courtship. Sara thinks her admirer is somewhat deranged.
The attic. Caroline finds and old newspaper from 1909, and within it an article about a peculiar event: a lottery for husbands organised by the New York industrialist Tobias Helgoland with the Merry Widowers’ Club and the Old Spinsters’ Club, in which the main prizes are eligible bachelors.
The next fragment of the operetta. The President of the Spinsters’ Club, Miss Eveline Huck (Ewa’s grandmother), performs couplets concerning the joys of having a husband.
Caroline finds a bottle of fine cognac from 1909 in the attic. The women enjoy a drink or two, which loosens their tongues. The family memories and personal confessions begin.
The next fragment of the operetta. A duet – Charly and Darly’s farewell. Enchanted by Sara’s beauty, Darly decides to finish with his carousing lifestyle. Charly mocks his brother’s sudden conversion and sends him to the madhouse.
The attic. Among some old documents, Caroline finds the nomination of Tim Williams for the presidency of the Merry Widowers’ Club.
The next fragment of the operetta. The President of the Merry Widowers’ Club, Tim Williams, performs an aria with a chorus of his colleagues from the club which contains warnings against remarrying. Tobias Helgoland joins the club members and performs couplets with warnings about the traps inherent in male-female relations.
The attic. Caroline finds documents concerning the lottery for husbands, prepared by the legal firm of Troodwood & Holmes.
Molly, and Sara’s other friends, advise her on how best to cheat on a husband.
The Notary, now playing the charter of the lottery’s legal counsellor, provides tickets for the ladies who have arrived in force for the lottery in the hope of winning an eligible bachelor. The Impresario begins the ceremonial first draw, assisted by the Counsellor, who ensures the event is carried out correctly.
Charly appears as the first candidate for a lottery prize and makes his presentation. His performance of the Indian Ballad makes a great impression on Sara.
The lottery. Charly is won by the President of the Spinsters’ Club, Miss Huck. Sara is greatly disappointed.
Darly, head over heels in love with Sara, begs his father to release him from his participation in the lottery. Helgoland is merciless, however, and forces the son to perform his presentation, which turns into a confession of love dedicated to Sara. His wish comes true, for it is Sara who wins him in the lottery. Sara, infatuated with Charly, is inconsolable.
Sara, Caroline and Ewa, imprisoned in the attic, try without success to escape from the trap.
The President of the Merry Widowers' Club, Tim Williams, makes his presentation as the third candidate to be won in the lottery. Darly invites everyone to his engagement party. Terrified by the prospect of marrying Miss Huck, President of the Spinsters’ Club, Charly plans his escape. It turns out that Molly has the ticket which wins her Tim Williams for a husband.
The attic. Caroline finds her grandmother’s favourite book – “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes”. Sara realises the legal firm that prepared the lottery contact was called Troodwood and Holmes and gets suspicious.
Another scene from the operetta. Sara comes to the photographic studio to collect her portrait. Convinced that she is dealing with Darly, she decides to free him from his lottery obligations because she loves another. It turns out, however, that she is talking to Charly. When he discovers that he is the object of the beautiful woman’s adoration, he immediately falls in love with her. What follows is the duet in which Darly’s portrait sings of his love for Sara and Sara, torn between, sings of her love for Charly.
The Tinker appears and performs a song about a queen who falls in love with a page.
The attic. A further unsuccessful attempt to open the locked hatch. And what is more, the mobile phones cannot get a signal.
The engagements of the lottery winners. The three ladies who won the main prizes appear.
Charly takes his fate into his own hands, bids farewell to his brother, and makes his escape to protect his freedom.
Tobias Helgoland discovers his son’s, Carly’s, escape and finds out about the arrival of a famous detective.
The next fragment of the operetta. Sherlock Holmes appears, and performs couplets about his adventures with his clients.
Sherlock Holmes appears and provides the solution to the puzzle. It turns out that Sara, Caroline and Ewa are Charly’s granddaughters.