1965-2020

55 Years Since The Reconstruction of the Teatr Wielki

Reconstructon of the Teatr Wielki, view from Senatorska and Bielańska streets, 6 August 1956

At the onset of 1950, a decision was made by the state authorites to reconstruct the Teatr Wielki building. Based on an ordinance of the Minister of Culture and Art of 28 February an enterprise by the name of Teatr Wielki Opery i Baletu w Warszawie (The Grand Theatre of Opera and Ballet in Warsaw) was established. On 1 March Arnold Szyfman was appointed its director and tasked with running the reconstruction. The general plan was devised by architect and conservator Piotr Biegański, who later penned Teatr Wielki w Warszawie (1961). In July the workers began to dismantle the ruins, while experts were preparing photographic documentation of the remains. The only part that was fit for reconstruction was Corazzi’s facade. (Text by Professor Małgorzata Komorowska)

Archive photo: Archive of the Polish National Opera
Contemporary photo: Adam Kozal

The Moniuszko Auditorium under construction, 11 October 1958

The Teatr Wielki, as we know today, was not built entirely anew (besides the highly important main façade, imparting amonumental dimension to the whole building, also preserved are the beautiful Ballrooms, the cloakrooms of the Teatr Narodowy and the elevation on the Wierzbowa Street side, albeit expanded with three additional axe, with adjoining rooms), but the auditorium, foyer and dozens of rooms of the opera-ballet theatre, the orchestra pits, and so on, were newly built). […] Ultimately, the auditorium was elaborated by Krystyna Król-Dobrowolska, under the direct supervision of Pniewski. The designs were changed many times, from the shape of the hall to the number of balconies – from the original one to the ultimate three. (Jerzy Miziołek, ‘The Grand Theatre in Warsaw’, 2015)

Archive photo: Jerzy Kotarski
Contemporary photo: Adam Kozal

Construction works on the terrace overlooking Teatralny Square, 13 June 1958

Corazzi’s facade was the only part of the building that had survived the war and was fit for reconstruction. The rest had to be built practically from scratch. There are hundreds of photographs of chipped columns, fragments of sculptures and stone faces, lyre in the attic, remnants of a banister and stage equipment, and the headless statue of one-time darling of Warsaw, the singing actor Alojzy Żółkowski. These precious relics were shipped to the conservation studio as models for copies. (Text by Professor Małgorzata Komorowska) 

Archive photo: Jerzy Kotarski
Contemporary photo: Adam Kozal 

The Box Office lobby: moulding and preparation for stucco application, 17 March 1959

‘In any case, one could write volumes about the masonry in the Theatre. It’s magnificent work. The marble floors, the rich, elaborate floral ornaments are excellently arranged, the various kinds of stone are combined so precisely that aphotographer, for example, couldn’t place his tripod on them: it kept slipping, because there was nothing to catch on. That is hardly surprising, since Pniewski was one of our greatest experts in masonry. The floors were designed by his ateliers’. (Interview with Tadeusz Gronowski for ‘Ruch Muzyczny’ magazine [in:] Jerzy Miziołek, ‘The Grand Theatre in Warsaw’, 2015)

Archive photo: Jerzy Kotarski
Contemporary photo: Adam Kozal 

Construction of the Teatr Wielki: view from Wierzbowa Street and Zwycięstwa Square (now: Piłsudskiego Square), 4 February 1960

‘The completion of the investment was planned for 1955, but due to continual revisions of the design, delays in the construction work, numerous doubts raised by the daily press and the huge costs of the undertaking, the construction drew on for ten more years.’ (Jerzy Miziołek, ‘The Grand Theatre in Warsaw’, 2015)

Archive photo: Jerzy Kotarski
Contemporary photo: Adam Kozal

Installation of the colonnades: view from Zwycięstwa Square (now: Piłsudskiego Square), 3 June 1961

In his first design, Professor Pniewski wanted arich sculpted decoration for the south elevation, but the need to economise forced us to forgo twelve full sculptures and the bas reliefs on the side walls. Also the beautiful line of the wall on the Victory Square side was to have been adorned with acolour mosaic; but not everything can be done at once, and it was rightly decided to leave the embellishment of the building to posterity. In any case, eight thousand square metres of masonry were built into the edifice and eight thousand square metres of facing; it was one of the biggest masonry jobs in Poland’ (Jerzy Miziołek, ‘The Grand Theatre in Warsaw’, 2015)

Archive photo: Jerzy Kotarski
Contemporary photo: Adam Kozal 

The Upstairs Foyer with the entrance to the Opera Gallery visible further down on the left 

‘There is no doubt that the interior decorations in Pniewski’s design were to strike the public with their richness and lavishness. The idea was that the closer one got to the foyer, the more embellishments, decorations and colourful elements there were. Accordingly, the greatest wealth of decorative elements can be found on the first floor, and in that foyer. The candelabras, lamps, chandeliers, fabrics, tapestries, furniture and ceramics were chosen very carefully.The most commissions went to Tadeusz Gronowski, already mentioned here, an artist of the inter-war period specialising mainly in posters, who imparted to alarge part of the furnishings an art deco character.’ (Jerzy Miziołek, ‘The Grand Theatre in Warsaw’, 2015)

Archive photo: Jerzy Kotarski
Contemporary photo: Adam Kozal 

The Upstairs Foyer

‘That the foyer resembles Roman baths? The Roman frontage does that as well, out of keeping with the time and atmosphere in which it was produced, although in accordance with the tradition of the site, as it employs Aigner’s old “columned building” for the theatre’s left wing. Of course, bare white walls and modest lighting, as in the rebuilt National Theatre, could have been given instead of marble floors, stucco walls and pillars, and glass candelabras. […] where is the place in our times for marbles and chandeliers if not in the foyer of the Opera?’ (Władysław Kopaliński, ‘Życie Warszawy’ newspaper, [in:] Jerzy Miziołek, ‘The Grand Theatre in Warsaw’, 2015)

Archive photo: Archive of the Polish National Opera
Contemporary photo: Adam Kozal 

The last finishing touches are being put in the foyer at the amphitheater level, 1965

Józef Szczublewski, the long-time director of the Theatre Museum (1964–1981) and author of the monumental chronicle Teatr Wielki w Warszawie 1833–1993, established that starting from 1956 twelve different opening dates had been set. Only the thirteenth deadline was met. It was Friday, 19 November 1965. The day marked two anniversaries: of the first theatre performance staged in Polish in Warsaw (1765) and the placing of the cornerstone for the original theatre building designed by Antonio Corazzi (1825). (Text by Professor Małgorzata Komorowska)

Archive photo: Andrzej Zborski
Contemporary photo: Adam Kozal

The opening of the reconstructed Teatr Wielki in Warsaw: the curtain goes up on the inaugural concert, 19 November 1965

The programme of the concert of Polish music and poetry performed by the orchestra, men’s choir and soloists of the Teatr Wielki, Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, and leading Polish actors, featured an overture by Karol Kurpiński, the Theatre’s first director, fragments of Moniuszko’s Halka and The Haunted Manor, excerpts of Szymanowski’s Harnasie, works by Władysław Bogusławski and Leon Schiller, as well as a poem by Władysław Broniewski Ballada o Placu Teatralnym (Ballade of Teatralny Square). Conductors: Mieczysław Mierzejewski, Zdzisław Górzyński, and Witold Rowicki. (Text by Professor Małgorzata Komorowska)

Archive photo: Wacław Kapusta
Contemporary photo: Adam Kozal

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