The Grand Theatre - National Opera in Warsaw


Plac Teatralny 1
Warszawa, Poland

No places connected.

Opera was imported to Poland by Prince Ladislaus IV Vasa (Wladyslaw IV Waza) a mere twenty years after this art form first appeared in Florence. In 1628 he invited an Italian opera troupe to perform in Warsaw. When he ascended to the Polish throne in 1632, he created a theatre at the Royal Castle and commissioned an Italian troupe under the direction of Marco Scacchi to offer regular operatic performances there.

Towards the end of the 17th century, John III Sobieski (Jan III Sobieski) revived presentations of operas, and these were subsequently supported by King Augustus II, known as "The Strong", and by King Augustus III, who commissioned the construction in Warsaw of the city's first operatic building, the so-called Opernhaus. Opera, theatre and ballet then truly flourished in Poland during the reign of King Stanislaus Augustus Poniatowski (Stanislaw August Poniatowski – 1764-1795).

Beginning in 1774, productions of operas, theatrical plays and ballets were mounted at the Radziwill Palace on Krakowskie Przedmiescie (currently the Presidential Palace). It was there that on July 11, 1778, the first-ever premiere of a Polish opera featuring Polish actors took place. This was a production of Maciej Kamienski's NEDZA USZCZESLIWIONA / MISERY MADE HAPPY, with a libretto by Wojciech Boguslawski based on a comedy by Franciszek Bohomolec. This is considered the moment at which the Polish national opera was born.

In the years 1779-1833 performances were held on Plac Krasinskich (Krasinski Square) in a newly erected theatre that in time came to be called the National Theatre. It was on this stage that exceptional actor, singer, director, playwright and entrepreneur Wojciech Boguslawski developed his craft and talents. Boguslawski is now considered the father of the national theatre. It was also here that in 1785 the Polish ensemble Tancerze Jego Krolewskiej Mosci (The Dancers of His Royal Highness) initiated its activities under the guidance of ballet masters Francois Gabriel Le Doux of Paris and Daniel Curz of Venice. This Warsaw-based ballet troupe achieved pan-European renown a short time later.

The Grand Theatre has been Poland's representational operatic and ballet stage for over one hundred sixty years. This building, constructed in the years 1825-1833 according to a design by Italian architect Antonio Corazzi of Livorno, was intended as the seat of the national opera, ballet and theatre ensembles already active in Warsaw. The first performance in the newly opened theatre, held on February 24, 1833, was a production of Gioacchino Rossini's THE BARBER OF SEVILLE.

The building was subsequently modified a number of times. While Poland remained partitioned between its three neighboring powers, Russia, Prussia and Austro-Hungary (1795-1918), the edifice played a significant cultural and political role. It was home to productions of works by Polish composers and choreographers and the site of the world premieres of two exceptional operatic works by Stanislaw Moniuszko: the full version of HALKA (1858) and STRASZNY DWOR / THE HAUNTED MANOR (1865). It was also here that Italian choreographer Virgilius Calori first staged the ballet PAN TWARDOWSKI / MASTER TWARDOWSKI (1874). Initially according to a musical arrangement by Adolf Sonnenfeld and later one by Ludomir Rozycki, this ballet went on to dominate the national ballet repertoire for many years. The building was also home to productions of the operas of Wladyslaw Zelenski, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Karol Szymanowski and other Polish composers, as well as the ballets of Roman Turczynowicz, Piotr Zajlich, Feliks Parnell and other Polish choreographers. For many years, the Grand Theatre also hosted guest productions of the most important titles from the world opera and ballet repertoires. The most exceptional Polish and foreign singers and dancers performed on its stage.

From 1945 the 1965 the ensemble of the Grand Theatre performed on other stages while the building, destroyed during World War II, was rebuilt and expanded according to a design by Bohdan Pniewski. Reconstruction proceeded under the eye of Arnold Szyfman. A gala concert inaugurating the re-opening of the theatre was held on November 19, 1965. In its new form, the Grand Theatre proved to be one of the most impressive and best-equipped theatres in Europe, its machines and devices were seen as the peak of innovation in the realm of theatre technology.

The National Opera continues to cultivate its legacy of more than two hundred year at the Grand Theatre, mounting productions of the works of Polish composers from Karol Kurpinski, through Stanislaw Moniuszko, to Krzysztof Penderecki. The classical world repertoire is represented at the institution by productions of the most admired operas by such composers as Beethoven, Bellini, Berg, Bizet, Borodin, Czajkowski, Donizetti, Gounod, Massenet, Mozart, Offenbach, Prokofiew, Puccini, Rossini, Richard Strauss, Szostakowicz, Verdi and Wagner (including his famed PIERSCIEN NIBELUNGA / RING CYCLE).

Warsaw's ballet troupe has worked under the eye of such masters as Adret, Alicia Alonso, Béjart, Butler, Cullberg, Grigorowicz, Lacotte, Lazzini, Lifar, van Manen, Massine jr, Méndez, Messerer, Neumeier, Rodrigues, Siergiejew, Walter, Winogradow, Yuriko, as well as many excellent Polish choreographers, from Leon Wojcikowski, Stanislaw Miszczyk and Witold Gruca to Emil Wesolowski.

Polish Music Information Center
Polish Composers' Union
January 2002



Teatr Wielki - Opera Narodowa
pl. Teatralny 1
00-950 Warszawa
Region: mazowieckie
Phone: (+48 22) 692 02 00
Fax: (+48 22) 826 04 23
Email: [email protected]



Aktualne wydarzenia

Boris Godunov, Grand Theatre - National Opera poster

Mariusz Treliński is staging Modest Musorgsky's "Boris Godunov" at the Grand Theatre - National Opera in Warsaw. In Treliński's interpretation this monumental work becomes a contemporary story about the mechanisms of power. Read more »


In their productions Treliński and Kudlička enchant the public with stunningly beautiful stage images and departure from opera conventions. The director skillfully initiates a dialog with contemporary spectators, encouraging them to look for their own life reflections in the opera world... Read more »

Facebook Twitter Reddit Share
envelope culture

Did you like our article? English newsletter here

Sign up for newsletter

  • 0 subscribers
  • In accordance with the law from August 29, 1997, relating to the protection of personal data (consolidated text, Journal of Laws, 2002, no. 101, Item 926), I am hereby giving my formal consent to the Adam Mickiewicz Institute, located at 25 Mokotowska Street in Warsaw (00-560), to process my personal data.
  • Email Marketingby GetResponse
Zobacz także:
Zandari - plakat

Thanks to the initiative of, for the second time Polish bands under the brand "Don't Panic! We're From Poland" will take part in the Zandari Festa - South Korea's largest music showcase festival held in Seoul. This time, Polish musicians will also debut at the music industry conference MU:CON. Read more »

Poland is a landlocked Eastern European country somewhere in the polar circle. It is a former member of the USSR inhabited by Russian speakers...or is it? Have a look at these six real-life misconceptions about Poland and don’t hesitate to share those you've heard! Read more »

Wuzhen Theatre Festival - logo

18 Shifo Nan Lu
Wuzhen, China

Read more »

Five Polish films are on the programme of the 59th BFI London Film Festival. Three of them will participate in prestigious competitions: 11 Minutes by Jerzy Skolimowski, The Here After by Magnus von Horn, and Something Better to Come by Hanna Polak. Read more »

A frame from 11 minutes - directed by  Jerzy Skolimowskie, 2015. On the photo: Wojciech Mecwaldowski, photo: Robert Jaworski / Kino Świat

The form of Jerzy Skolimowski's 11 Minutes is impressive but its banality is disenchanting. It just the shell of a film, effective yet empty.Read more »

Andrzej Chyra, Paweł Mykietyn and Małgorzata Sikorska-Miszczuk. Photo: Agata Schreyner / Malta Festival press materials

The international jury has recognised the 12 most trend-setting European festivals of 2015 from a pool of 760 festivals from 31 countries. One of those awarded was Malta Festival in Poznań. Read more »

Śląsk Group performing a “zbójnicki” dance. Photo: Jan Morek / Forum

From salon gavotte, to a casual oberek and the noble polonaise. The history of Polish dances – traditional, old and national – is now being covered in detail on a new cultural website. Read more »

A still from The Cabaret of Death by Andrzej Celiński. Photo: press release

A documentary directed by Andrzej Celiński has won Best Artistic Film at the 67th Prix Italia, said to be the oldest and most prestigious international festival devoted to TV. Read more »