Libretto by Maksym Rylskyi based on Ivan Franko’s drama of the same name
The blood thunders when the music of Hutsul dances kolomyika or arkan sounds… One of the most famous Ukrainian operas is “The Stolen Happiness” by Yulii Meitus, based on the famous drama by Ivan Franko. The twist of fate and personal tragedies of Anna, Mykola and Mykhailo are consonant with the melodies of Hutsul folklore, with their fierce rhythms and dissonances, which the composer constantly uses in his work.
Sung in Ukrainian
Igor Latsanych People’s Artist of Ukraine and People’s Artist of Republic of Tatarstan
Myron Yusypovyсh People’s Artist of Ukraine
Fеdіr Strygun People’s Artist of Ukraine, laureate Shevchenko National Prize
|Сhief сhorus master||
Orest Kurash Honored Art Worker of Ukraine
Tadey Ryndzak People's Artist of Ukraine
German Isupov People's аrtist of Ukraine
One winter evening neighbours got together for evening-party in precarpathian peasant Mykola Zadorozhnyj’s house. Owner himself hadn’t returned from work yet. His wife Anna is disturbed — it is already late time and husband hasn’t come. Afterwards young people go away.
Neighbour Nastia told Anna, that Mykhailo Gurman, who was by all considered to be lost, appeared in this land. Once Anna swore to love him till the end of life. News about Mykhailo’s appearance sowed an alarm in her, because she is married, and at the same time gladness — her beloved is safe and sound.
Mykola returns beaten to blood by rural starosta. Mykola damns his offenders. His complaints come not deep to Anna’s consciousness, because she is under the influence of the news about Mykhailo. Everyone, thinks about it’s own.
A gendarme Mykhailo Gurman enters. He looks suspiciously at Mykola. He asks why there are blood marks on his body. When Mykola went out, Mykhailo reminded Anna about the past. He does not accuse her, because he knows that her brothers married her by deception. Mykola’s appearance breaks their talk.
Mykola and Anna set to work in the morning. Anna is alarmed by bad dreams. Mykola consoles her. Starosta and gendarme, Babych and Nastya enter the house unexpectedly. All owners were killed this night in a tavern. Mykola is accused of murder and arrested. Anna is in despair. Mykhailo goes back to the house. He pulls out Anna’s declaration of love and word obeys him.
A summer has passed already, but Mykola is not here. Strange gossips about Anna and gendarme twirl over a village. Neighbours has hated her for adultery. Music is heard, and young people begin fun. Mykhailo is also here and he invites Anna to dance. Starosta tries to further in merriments. But suddenly music stops. All present people noticed Mykola’s appearance who returned from prison. Mykhailo declares in public, that he rescued Mykola, because he caught the real criminals. Without a word Mykola went home. Anna went timidly after him under the hateful look of peasants.
A week passed from Mykola’s returning, but all Anna’s thoughts are about Mykhailo, who she loves more than life. Gurman suddenly appears in her house. Woman in love, falls in Mykhailo’s embrace losing sense of shame. Mykola finds them in this situation. Mykhailo runs out from home and Mykola entreats wife not to trample down his honour. Mykhailo returns in a few minutes and offers vodka to owners. Anna and gendarme’s faces beam with happiness of love.
Mykola realizes it. He loses the last hope to adjust the family life and return his happiness. He can’t make it up with this situation. Mykhailo rudely packs off Mykola from his home and stays with Anna. Offended and dishonored, Mykola decides to sink the grief in vodka — invites guests on a “goblet for lost happiness”. Appearance of Anna and her beloved becomes reason of brawl which results in a tragedy. Mykhailo behaves as if he is the owner of this house: beats Mykola and drives out his guests from home…” Mykola asks a gendarme ”How did you dare to drive out my guests?”. Mykhailo answers, that he has such right, because Mykola had stolen his happiness.
The cruel quarrel between Zadorozhnyi and Gurman ends in murder of gendarme… Mykhailo thanks him while dying, because life turned in torture for him long time ago.
Since its world premiere in 1960 on the stage of Lviv Opera and Ballet Theatre, the opera “The Stolen Happiness” has been one of the most famous and most performed Ukrainian operas of the 20th century. Its author, Yulii Meitus (1903-1997), is a Ukrainian composer who wrote 17 operas. His works, considering the time and circumstances in which the composer lived and created, appear distinctly different. Along with the artistically valuable pieces, many were created under the influence of political and ideological restrictions of the Soviet era.
The composer revealed his talent at a young age: his works were highly appreciated, in particular, by Béla Bartók. At the age of 23, Meitus received an excellent musical education as a pianist at the school of Gustav Neuhaus in his native Yelysavetgrad (now Kropyvnytskyi) and as a composer at Kharkiv Conservatory in the class of Semen Bohatyriov and started writing music for theatrical performances.
Since 1926, he collaborated with the famous Berezil theatre of Les Kurbas and wrote music for 13 plays, in particular, “Dictatorship” and “Prologue”. According to the composer’s memoirs, the score of “Dictatorship” consisted of more than 400 pages. Kurbas used to play to the composer some recitative melodies, which preserved the free rhythm of spoken language, while Maitus recorded and processed these musical sketches. The prohibition of the Berezil theatre and the execution of Les Kurbas by order of the Soviet authorities threatened the young composer with repression. He had to (probably under pressure and threats) condemn the activities of the famous Ukrainian director in his articles for the magazine “Soviet Music”. After such treachery, avoiding the Soviet repressions and agreeing to cooperate with the authorities, the composer had to create politically correct works. However, he also composed original works, which are characterized by unfolding a psychological drama, showing local colouring and searching for new nuances of expressiveness.
Among the 17 operas of Yulii Meitus (some were written in collaboration with Soviet authors), “The Stolen Happiness” is a unique example of a lyrical and psychological drama.
The opera “The Stolen Happiness” (libretto by Maksym Rylskyi) was based on the play of the same name by Ivan Franko. Franko’s work was chosen not accidentally. At that time, Lviv Academic Opera and Ballet Theatre, for which Meitus wrote his opera, was named after the Ukrainian poet.
The drama’s plot is based on the love triangle concept and the life story of ordinary people with no happy end.
It induced the composer to create an opera close to the verismo style: the same passionate feelings of the character as in the operas “Pagliacci” by R. Leoncavallo and “Cavalleria rusticana” by P. Mascagni. The monologues and dialogues of the characters are full of dramatic culminations, imitating such naturalistic effects as shouts, whispers, monotonous repetition, sigh, etc.
And at the same time, the opera “The Stolen Happiness” has a unique Ukrainian colouring due to the masterful use of Ukrainian and Carpathian folklore. It is widely used in choral and dance scenes, creating a picturesque and, at the same time, contrasting background to emphasize the personal drama of the characters.
The three main characters – Anna, her husband Mykola Zadorozhnyi and her lover, the gendarme Mykhailo Hurman, have bright individual musical characteristics: melodic, prayerful and enlightened intonations in the part of Anna, pastoral, as if playing the flute, melodies of Mykola, and trumpet march in the part of the gendarme are combined with modern expressive music. The opera consists of elaborate scenes, but bright solo arias can be distinguished, such as Anna’s monologue “And I prayed, and bowed down” from Act I and Mykhailo’s couplet “We must live as we live” from Act III.
The world premiere took place on the stage of Lviv Opera on September 10, 1960. The creators were conductor Yaroslav Voshchak, director Serhii Smiyan, and set designer Oleksandr Salman. The premiere cast: Viacheslav Kobrzhytskyi (Mykola), Valentyna Herasymenko (Anna), Pavlo Karmaliuk (Mykhailo). After the Lviv premiere, the opera was presented in Poland (Gdansk), the Czech Republic (Prague, Brno), Hungary (Budapest), Korea (Pyongyang), China, Bulgaria, Romania, Estonia, Germany, etc.
The opera “The Stolen Happiness” was revived at Lviv Opera in 1989 (premiered on May 29). The creative team included conductor Ihor Latsanych, director Fedir Stryhun, set designer Tadei Ryndzak, choirmaster Orest Kurash, and choreographer Herman Isupov. Nina Tychynska and Liudmyla Bozhko (Anna), Volodymyr Ihnatenko (Mykola), Ihor Kushpler (Mykhailo), Nataliia Svoboda (Nastia) and Vasyl Dudar (Wójt, a senior civil administrative officer) were the unparalleled performers of the new production. The play was presented on tour, in particular, at the Grand Theatre in Warsaw.
The music of Yulii Meitus subtly and profoundly reproduced the brilliant work of Ivan Franko so that it touches even the modern listener.
Oleh Lykhach People’s Artist of Ukraine
Vitaliy Rozdaihora winner of the international competition
|Anna, his wife||
Lyubov Kachala People’s Artist of Ukraine
Lyudmyla Savchuk People`s Artist of Ukraine
Olesia Bubela winner of the international competition
|Mykhailo Gurman, gendarme||
Petro Radeyko winner of the international competition
Tetyana Vakhnovska Honored artist of Ukraine
Nataliya Datsko People’s Artist of Ukraine
Yuriy Trytsetskyy Honored artist of Ukraine
Vitalij Zagorbenskyj winner of the international competition
Yuriy Shevchuk winner of the international competition
Anastasiya Kornutyak winner of the international competition
Veronika Kolomishcheva winner of the international competition
Nataliya Velychko Honored Artist of Ukraine
Roman Kovalchuk Honored Artist of Ukraine
Andriy Benuyk winner of the international competition
Vitalij Zagorbenskyj winner of the international competition
Mykola Kornutyak winner of the international competition