A Miracle, or Cracovians and Highlanders

Jan Stefani / Wojciech Bogusławski

Vaudeville in four acts  
Libretto: Wojciech Bogusławski
World premiere: 1 March 1794, National Theatre, Warsaw
Premiere of this production: 13 March 2015, Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera
In the original Polish 

First there came the miracle. Only later was it dubbed ‘apparent’. An Apparent Miracle, or Cracovians and Highlanders is the full title finally settled on by Wojciech Bogusławski, the librettist behind the first Polish opera – the music for which was composed by a Czech, Jan Stefani. The world premiere took place at the National Theatre in Warsaw, on the eve of the Kościuszko Uprising. It was applauded enthusiastically. ‘Live freely - and multiply…’ – this and other verses from the opera were hummed on the streets of the city after the shows. However, only after several performances Cracovians and Highlanders, saturated with national metaphors, was cancelled. Many years passed until Leon Schiller, the reformer of Polish theatre, brought it back from obscurity. What is it today – the classic work that in the era of insurgent fever aroused so much emotion with its libertarian content? Full of youthful spirit, Jarosław Kilian’s staging sparkles with humour and plays with tradition. Variations on costumes from Bogusławski’s times spin in the rhythm of old Polish mazurkas and polonaises. A Miracle, free from pathos, captivates with this finesse and lightness.


Participants of Opera Academy, the Young Talent Development Programme of the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera 
Opera Academy Baroque Orchestra 
Władysław Skoraczewski Artos Youth Choir

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    A Miracle, or Cracovians and Highlanders: a special production of the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

    Wojciech Bogusławski’s A Miracle, or Cracovians and Highlanders set to music by Jan Stefani is considered to be the first Polish national opera. Written and staged shortly before the third partition of Poland (1795), it employed a light-hearted musical form and brilliant text to carry a very clear patriotic message, so important to Polish audiences at that time. Today, when this aspect has only historical significance, Cracovians and Highlanders is still an attractive opera show with a universal message stemming from folk wisdom, as well as a rewarding learning material for young performers.

    It is precisely with them in mind that the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera is preparing to put on a new production of this opera in 2015. Most of the cast will be young, talented singers who participate in or have graduated from Opera Academy, a programme run by the Teatr Wielki since 2009 to support the professional development of young opera artists, mainly singers. Opera Academy offers its students a chance to take part in regularly organised workshops and master classes; individual voice, acting and language mentoring; as well as continual professional support. Participants can also benefit from workshops held by members of the European Network of Opera Academies, or ENOA, which gathers eleven cultural institutions from ten countries. The Teatr Wielki joined the network in 2009. 

    The new staging of Cracovians and Highlanders is special because its musical setting is supposed to be as close to the 18th century original. An orchestra will be put together specially for the production comprising young musicians who play period instruments or contemporary copies. The ensemble will work under the direction of Władysław Kłosiewicz, Grzegorz Lalek and Tytus Wojnowicz. Władysław Kłosiewicz, a leading interpreter of early music, is the musical director of the whole production and will teach the young musicians the arcana of period performance. His arrangement of the score draws on source materials, including Jan Stefani’s manuscripts.

    Besides a longer rehearsal period than is customary, work on the production will include workshops for the singers and instrumentalists conducted by leading teachers and artists specialising in historically informed performance. The singers will be able to take advantage of vocal consultations, lessons in elocution, acting, and stage movement. Workshops for musicians will include playing period instruments and learning how to get period sound out of contemporary instruments.

    The show will be directed by Jarosław Kilian, the sets and costumes will be designed by Izabela Chełkowska, while the choreographer is Emil Wesołowski.

    Set to premiere at the Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera’s small stage, the show is being designed to tour across the country, including places without an opera house or a large theatre stage. Performances will be preceded by talks on the work’s historical and social contexts, its performance tradition, and reception from its original premiere in 1794 until today.

    The Warsaw premiere was preceded by an extensive educational programme for adults and young people. As well as providing a background for the watching the show, the programme marked 250 years of public theatre in Poland. 


  • Patron of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

  • Partners of Teatr Wielki – Polish National Opera

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