Opera was brought to Poland just thirty years after it first appeared in Florence, by Royal Prince Ladislaus IV Vasa. In 1628 he invited the first Italian opera troupe to Warsaw.For over 170 years the Teatr Wielki has been Poland’s grandest opera and ballet theatre. It was built in 1825–1833 to a design by the Italian architect Antonio Corazzi of Livorno.The building was converted several times. It was bombed during the siege of Warsaw in 1939 and almost completely ruined. Only the original classicist façade survived.
In 1945–1965 the company performed on other stages while the theatre building was being restored and expanded according to designs by Bohdan Pniewski.The Polish National Opera at the Teatr Wielki continues its over 200-year tradition, producing works by Polish composers as well as world classics.The Teatr Wielki has a main stage in the Moniuszko Auditorium which seats 1,828, and a small stage in the Młynarski Auditorium seating 248. The former Ballrooms (Redutowe Rooms) on the first floor house Poland’s only Theatre Museum.
In 2002 the Teatr Wielki’s façade was crowned with a magnificent sculpture of Apollo’s Quadriga, as originally envisaged by architect Antonio Corazzi 180 years before. The sculpture is a contemporary design by Adam Myjak and Antoni J. Pastwa.
In the 1998–2002 seasons and then again from October 2008, the general director of the Teatr Wielki has been the great culture manager Waldemar Dąbrowski, who was Poland’s minister of culture in 2002–2005. The Polish National Opera’s artistic director is the great stage director Mariusz Treliński, who first occupied the post in the 2005/06 season and was reappointed in October 2008. His opera productions constitute highlights of operatic repertoire not only in Warsaw, but also in Washington, Los Angeles, St. Petersburg, Tel Aviv, Vilnius, and Bratislava.