Casanova in Warsaw

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart / Krzysztof Pastor

  • Act I

    55 min.

  • Intermission

    20 min.

  • Act II

    45 min.

Duration: 2 h

Ballet in two acts
Idea and libretto: Paweł Chynowski, based on the memoirs of Giacomo Casanova
World premiere: 28 May 2015

The legendary lover spent a few months in Warsaw in 1765–1766. He moved in the choicest company, including that of King Stanisław August. He took part in Warsaw’s theatre life, finding special enjoyment in the royal ballet company. He was witness to official and behind-the-scenes events during the first season of the Polish public theatre at Operalnia Saska [the Saxon Opera House]. He showered his attentions upon the rival Italian ballerinas Anna Binetti, Caterina Gattai and Teresa Casacci. He applauded the young Charles Le Picq who was dubbed by the European ballet scene’s ‘Apollo of Dance’. He engaged in a conflict and a duel with a favourite of the king’s, Count Franciszek Ksawery Branicki. And he described all this vividly in his notorious memoirs. Is this not enough to arouse interest in the Warsaw episode of the adventures of Giacomo Casanova as shown in the spectacular ballet by Krzysztof Pastor with the fabulous set design by the Oscar-winning Gianni Quaranta?



Polish National Ballet
Orchestra of the Teatr Wielki  Polish National Opera


  • ,

    In Warsaw I lived calmly and peaceably, and still look back upon those days with pleasure.
    Giacomo Casanova


    The action takes place in Warsaw in 1765-1766

    Act I

    Casanova: At Warsaw I hoped to meet Campioni. He kept a dancing school, and had many good pupils. He told me that Tomatis, the manager of the comic opera, had made a fortune, and had in his company a Milanese dancer named Gattai, who enchanted all the town by her charms…

    Having arrived to Warsaw Giacomo Casanova met an old friend, Italian dance master Vincenzo Campioni. Thanks to him and letters of recommendation from St. Petersburg he quickly blended into local artistic and social circles.



  • ,

    1. Mlle Gattai

    Casanova: My man told me that there was a public rehearsal of a new opera at the theatre, and I accordingly spent three hours there. All the actresses were pretty, but especially the Gattai.


    At the opera house, rehearsals of the opera-ballet “La Toilette de Vénus are in progress with Mlle Gattai in the leading role. The prima ballerina is the lover of manager Carlo Tomatis and a favourite of the court, so ballet master Cambi, ballerina Mlle Casacci and the other dancers have to put up with her whims. The administrator of the royal theatre, Count August Moszyński, and the dancer’s other courtly admirers led by Count Franciszek Ksawery Branicki, also give in to her. They even stay with her during rehearsals. Campioni brings Casanova to the theatre. They observe her sulking with amusement, but Casanova clearly finds the spoilt beauty attractive. When prima donna Mlle Ristorini arrives to practice her part, Casanova takes this opportunity to spend time alone with Mlle Gattai. He succumbs to her charm and his prize falls easily into his grasp. The manager reproaches his lover, Count Branicki treats Casanova like a rival, too. To avoid a conflict, Campioni and Moszyński lead him away from the theatre. Mlle Gattai is disappointed while Tomatis and Branicki do not conceal how much they dislike Casanova.

  • ,

    2. The Brothers

    Casanova: A well-born young man who wishes to travel and know not only the world, but also what is called good society, who does not want to find himself, under certain circumstances, inferior and excluded from participating in all their pleasures, must get himself initiated in what is called Freemasonry.


    A ritual meeting is in progress in the secret Masonic temple. Count Moszyński turns out to be the master of the lodge. Those present include Princes Czartoryski and Lubomirski, Count Poniński, Branicki and his trusted Colonel Byszewski. Also there are Tomatis, ballet master Cambi and other gentlemen. Casanova’s affiliation is to take place today, and the man introducing him to the Warsaw lodge is its member and his friend, Campioni. The master calls the Italian brother and reads his letters of recommendation. Casanova wins over most of the men taking part in the ritual. Only the distrustful Count Branicki, his confidant Byszewski and the offended Tomatis keep their distance. The others fraternize with Casanova while Prince Czartoryski invites him to a ball at his palace.

  • ,

    3. Princess Izabela

    Casanova: My first call was on Prince Adam Czartoryski… He was married to a very pretty woman, but had not yet had a child by her because she was too thin for his taste… I was very pleased with her. A few moments after a fine-looking gentleman came into the room. Prince Adam pronounced my name, and turning to me said, coolly: That’s the king.


    Prince Czartoryski is playing host to Warsaw’s social elite. The theatre’s artists have also been invited: prima donna Ristorini, Mlle Gattai with Tomatis, Mlle Casacci and her admirer Count Poniński. Casanova is there too, with Campioni. Giacomo already knows most of the men from the lodge meeting. Czartoryski introduces to him his young wife Izabela. When Mlle Ristorini begins her aria Casanova tries to seduce Izabela but his hostess’s hauteur quickly puts him off. Prince Czartoryski welcomes the approaching King Stanislaus Augustus. Princess Izabela is the king’s mistress so he expresses special affection to her. When Stanislaus Augustus meets Casanova, Count Branicki keeps on adoring Mlle Gattai and tries to focus the company’s attention on himself.

  • ,

    4. Diana and Endymion

    Casanova: The dancer Binetti, whom I had last seen in London, arrived at Warsaw with Le Picq the dancer. Le Picq arranged a ballet. The couple gave such satisfaction that they were engaged. The Gattai was furious, as Mme Binetti threw her completely into the shade, and, worse still, drew away her lovers. Franciszek Ksawery Branicki, the king’s friend, was the chief adorer of Binetti.


    Count Moszyński announces the arrival of some new dancers he wishes to introduce to the company. He brings in the alluring Anna Binetti and the handsome Charles Le Picq. The king loves ballet so he welcomes them, intrigued. Casanova recognizes Anna as his former rejected lover. Mme Binetti is also surprised by his presence and avoids him, offended. The couple present the duet “Diana and Endymion”. It is the story of a hunter, beloved of the goddess Diana, whom Zeus has endowed with beauty, eternal youth and eternal sleep, thanks to which his lover can visit him every night. The king is delighted with the dancers. Count Branicki throws himself at Mme Binetti with cries of admiration. Gattai is irritated by her rival’s appearance, so Tomatis tries to appease her anger. Branicki asks Binetti to dance with him and she accepts gracefully, wanting to show Casanova how much he lost by abandoning her years before. The king leaves the gathering, giving Casanova the contract for new dancers while Branicki becomes engrossed in his adoration of the new beauty.

  • ,

    5. Mme Binetti

    Casanova: The king said he should like to keep them in Warsaw and see them dance. I went to see Mme Binetti and to give her the good news the next morning. She was very much surprised to meet me in Warsaw.


    Early in the morning Campioni leads Casanova carrying a royal contract to the residence of Mme Binetti and Le Picq. Casanova again feels attracted to his former lover. He finds her still in her bedchamber. The dancer seems to be sulking but in fact is happy to see him. She calls Le Picq to share the good news about the king’s proposal. When Casanova is left alone with the ballerina their old feelings are revived. Meanwhile, Count Branicki arrives unexpectedly, entranced with his new acquaintance from last night’s ball. Le Picq runs to warn his partner and quickly takes her place next to Casanova while the vigilant Campioni tries to stop the intruder. Binetti does not want to anger her new admirer. The jealous Branicki, however, is mistrustful and searches for the proof of her infidelity. He sees in bed none but Casanova with… Le Picq.

  • ,

    Act II

    Casanova: The king asked me if I intended going to the theatre. This was too flattering an invitation to be refused.


    Out front and backstage at the Saxon Opera House preparations are under way for the premiere of „Judgement of Paris”, a ballet featuring Le Picq and the royal company’s three leading ballerinas.

  • ,

    1. Mlle Casacci

    Casanova: I only knew the dancer Casacci by sight. She had some talents. Her principal admirer was Count Poniński, who was always reproaching me for visiting the other dancers to the exclusion of Mlle Casacci. I thought of his reproach at the time, and determined to pay her a visit.


    Backstage, the dancers are preparing for the performance. Mlle Gattai is assisted in her dressing room by manager Tomatis, Mme Binetti is accompanied by Branicki, while Mlle Casacci is with Poniński. Le Picq is getting ready as well and Mlle Ristorini is about to practise her vocal part. Casanova also appears, searching for Mlle Casacci whom he wants to meet before the performance. Count Poniński welcomes him joyfully, introduces him to his mistress and discreetly leaves them alone. Hoping for his support, she succumbs to him completely while Casanova gladly takes advantage of her weakness. The returning Count Poniński is delighted that his protégée has won the appreciation of the king’s new favourite. He is counting on the man furthering his beloved’s career. Campioni takes his friend to the auditorium.

  • ,

    2. The Judgement of Paris

    Casanova: I obeyed the royal command and came to king’s box. A ballet was given, and the dancing of Mlle Casacci so pleased His Majesty that he went to the unusual pains of clapping her.


    The theatre staff are ending preparations in the house. The manager Tomatis is waiting for the honourable guests. The king comes along with the Czartoryski, Lubomirski, Poniński and Branicki. When Stanislaus Augustus notices Casanova he calls for him, pushing aside the disappointed Branicki. The ballet „Judgement of Paris” begins. It tells the story of three goddesses competing for first place on Olympus. Zeus (Cambi) brings in the apple for the fairest one. A row over the reward erupts among Hera (Mlle Gattai), Athena (Mlle Casacci) and Aphrodite (Mme Binetti). Zeus calls on Paris (Le Picq) to settle the goddesses’ dispute. Paris succumbs to Aphrodite and awards her with the prize. During the performance the king and Casanova exchange remarks. At the end, upon his discreet advice Stanislaus Augustus takes back the Paris’ prize from Binetti and unexpectedly rewards Mlle Casacci.

  • ,

    3. The Row

    Casanova: I determined to pay Mlle Casacci a visit after the ballet to congratulate her on her performance and the king’s applause. On my way I passed by Madame Binetti’s dressing-room, and seeing the door open I stayed a moment. Count Branicki came up, and I passed on to Mlle Casacci’s dressing-room. Just as I embraced her, it was Branicki who came.


    The dancers return to their dressing rooms. Binetti and Gattai are outraged at the king’s decision. On the other hand, Casacci celebrates her success. Prima donna Ristorini cannot conceal her jealousy either. Passing by the furious Mme Binetti’s dressing room Casanova tries to explain himself to her. Finally, he goes up to the happy Mlle Casacci and congratulates her affectionately. Both her rivals watch filled with gloom and the vengeful Binetti conspires with Branicki. The count has long been waiting for an opportunity to impress his lover and pay back Casanova for his humiliation. When the worried Campioni and Byszewski rush up, Branicki brutally shoves Casanova whose sense of honour got the better of him. The count, sure of himself, accepts his challenge. Mme Binetti is delighted to have found an executor of her revenge on her ungrateful lover. Mlle Gattai and Tomatis are also pleased, perceiving Casanova as the cause of their own failures. 

  • ,

    4. The Duel

    Casanova: Branicki’s carriage stopped at the door of a large garden. We got down and, in the company of the retinue, reached a green arbour…


    Morning at the edge of a park. Casanova is waiting for Branicki. Their witnesses Byszewski and Campioni are also present, in the company of a doctor. The opponents choose the arms. A fierce duel begins. Lightly injured in the hand, Casanova deals Branicki a terrible blow. Gravely wounded count forgives Casanova. Campioni flees with his friend while the faithful Byszewski takes care of Branicki.

  • ,

    5. The Nuns

    Casanova: I got at last to Warsaw, and went to the house of Prince Adam Czartoryski to beg him to shelter me, but there was nobody there. Without delay I determined to seek refuge in the convent, which was handy…


    The nuns are gathering for their morning prayer when the wounded Casanova unexpectedly arrives at the convent with Campioni, asking for refuge. The prioress takes pity on the outcast. One of the novices gently presents to him special care. Casanova feels like Endymion in the hands of the goddess Diana. The returning prioress disciplines her charges, chastens the inveterate Casanova and encourages him to reflect on his life.

  • ,


    Casanova becomes dreamy in the heavenly care of his innocent nurses. He sees them now as the ideals he has been always seeking. In his dream he rejects the memory of the women who disappointed him and leaves, longing for the unattainable…


  • Patron of the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Partners of the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Partner of the Polish National Ballet

  • Media patrons of the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Logo Gazeta Wyborcza
  • Logo Co jest Grane 24