Beyond Aida: Egyptomania on Polish stages

Set to open in the 2021/22 season

The exhibition presents theatrical fascinations with the culture of ancient Egypt, in particular the story of its last queen, Cleopatra, who was portrayed by Poland’s brightest stars: Helena Modejska (Modrzejewska), Helena Sulima, Maria Majdrowiczówna, Irena Eichlerówna, Nina Andrycz, Kalina Jędrusik and  Aleksandra Śląska, as well as Danuta Stenka for Polish Radio’s radio drama. Egyptian motifs first emerged in Polish theatre at the turn of the 18th and 19th centuries, owing partly to Antoni Smuglewicz’s beautiful sets for Mozart’s Magic Flute. In the course of the next two hundred years, different Egypt-related themes recurred inspired by foreign fashion and popular performances such as Verdi’s Aida or Wiktor Herbert’s The Wizard of the Nile. Eduard de Reszke (originally Edward Reszke) made his debut as Pharaoh in Aida at the Théâtre des Italiens, while his sister Josephine (born Józefina) was successful in the title role at La Scala. Apart from numerous adaptations of and references to Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Polish audiences were treated to adaptations of Bolesław Prus’s novel Pharaoh. The theme has not lost its relevance up until today as evidenced by the Teatr Wybrzeże’s production of Pharaoh of 2015 and the staging of Elton John’s Aida by Warsaw’s Roma Theatre in 2019. The exhibition presents documents, photographs, set designs, costumes, props and memorabilia from museum collections and theatre prop storages. 

Pictured: Helena Modrzejewska as Cleopatra in Shakespeare’s Antony and Cleopatra, Teatr Wielki in Warsaw, 14 January 1880. Photo:. Jan Mieczkowski, Theatre Museum Collection


Organised by

Theatre Museum in Warsaw


Set to open in the 2020/21 season


Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

Downstairs foyer. Use the main entrance.