The Warsaw Chamber Opera is a music institution with over 50 years of history. It was founded in 1961 by Stefan Sutkowski, its later long-standing Executive and Artistic Director, Joanna and Jan Kulma, Zofia Wierchowicz, Andrzej Sadowski and Juliusz Borzym. The inaugural stage premiere of this group was G. B. Pergolesi’s opera buffa La serva padrona/The Servant Turned Mistress, performed on September 4, 1961. The Chamber Opera’s repertoire is characterised by a huge variety of musical styles and genres of the presented works: from medieval mystery plays, through early and late Baroque operas, classical operas, 18th century pantomimes, operas by Rossini and Donizetti, to contemporary stage works, several of which were created on request of the Warsaw Chamber Opera. Opera artists also successfully perform chamber, oratorio and symphonic music of various epochs.
Since October 15, 1986, the Warsaw Chamber Opera has performed in its own theatre situated in a historic building dating from 1775 at al. Solidarności 76b. The seat of the Opera, with an intimate interior and excellent acoustics, is listed in the Register of Warsaw’s Historic Monuments.
The Warsaw Chamber Opera is the organiser of many festivals, which include among others Mozart Festival, Baroque Opera Festival, Claudio Monteverdi Festival, Gioacchino Rossini Festival or Polish Contemporary Opera Festival. Over the period 2000–2001 the institution organised the celebration of the 400th anniversary of opera as a genre. 57 stage works from various epochs (including 7 premieres) were performed at this “festival of festivals”, ranging from the first fully preserved opera in history – Jacopo Peri’s Euridice, to contemporary operas commissioned by WCO. As part of the celebration, 125 performances were held at the WCO Theatre in Warsaw. To mark Poland’s accession to the EU, a series of events was organised under the heading Ode to Europe, which consisted of festivals, opera performances and concerts presenting the music of 25 countries of United Europe. In 2011, WCO celebrated its 50th anniversary under the Honorary Patronage of the President of the Republic of Poland Bronisław Komorowski and the European Parliament.
The Mozart Festival, which has been taking place for 30 years, is the flagship artistic event of the Warsaw Chamber Opera. Its inauguration took place in 1991 to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the death of the Viennese composer. The originators of this initiative were the co-founder and long-time director of WCO Stefan Sutkowski and director Ryszard Peryt. From the very beginning of its existence, the Festival has been the only one in Europe where the entire stage output of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart has been presented – and was organised by the artistic group of one opera theatre. Each year in Warsaw, we present composer’s operas, his oratorios, symphonies, instrumental concerts and chamber pieces. Performances and concerts take place every year in June and July at the Warsaw Chamber Opera Theatre and other historic buildings of the capital of Poland.
The Warsaw Chamber Opera successfully presents its achievements in Poland and abroad, during prestigious international music festivals. So far, the performances were held in 16 European countries, as well as in Japan, Lebanon, USA and Canada.
The Warsaw Chamber Opera is a cultural institution that addresses a wide range of repertoire to music lovers.
The central pillar of our repertoire consists of opera performances staged in the WCO theatre, with particular attention to Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s operas, which have been the key repertoire for three decades. WCO’s repertoire also includes baroque operas (George Frideric Handel, Jean‑Baptist Lully, Jean-Philippe Reameau), as well as the canon of Gaetano Donizetti’s and Gioacchino Rossini’s works. A separate specific repertoire line are contemporary operas composed at the special request of the Warsaw Chamber Opera (i.a. “Tango” by Michał Dobrzyński) and premieres of reconstructed Polish works (including “New Don Quixote”, “Halka” – Vilnius version, “Die Schwiezerhütte”/”Swiss Chalet” by Stanisław Moniuszko).
The Warsaw Chamber Opera participates in a series of artistic events under the banner “Youth Stage” in which singers – graduates, or even students of music universities – are presented on stage. As part of its involvement in this initiative, WCO started a project accompanying the Mozart Festival – Cafè Mozart – where young singers perform a series of recitals.
The primary undertaking of the Warsaw Chamber Opera is the summer Mozart Festival. For the past 30 years, at the turn of June and July, Mozart’s stage works as well as his symphonic, oratorio and chamber music have been presented comprehensively. Each time it is complemented by an offer dedicated to children.
Offer for children and youth
The institution is also involved in extensive educational activities, implemented through a special offer addressed to children and young people (i.a “Good morning Mozart”, “Mozart-off” and Family Opera Mornings). It consists of special adaptations of classical opera works (including Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Gioacchino Rossini and Gaetano Donizetti), reduced in time to forms perceptually available to young viewers (about 60 minutes), complemented by commentary and animation to make the form more interesting. The main goal of the offer addressed to children and youth is both education and creating potential future music lovers – WCO’s regular audience. The latest offer for the youngest music lovers is the Mozart Junior Festival accompanying the Mozart Festival in Warsaw.
The Warsaw Chamber Opera runs extensive concert activity in various locations throughout Warsaw. Symphonic works and music concerts are usually presented in the Royal Castle in Warsaw and in the Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of Polish Radio. The soloists of the presented works are world-renowned foreign artists (including Giuliano Carmignola, Charlie Siem, Charles Owen, Alexei Lubimov) and Poles, including Konstanty Andrzej Kulka, Hubert Rutkowski, Marek Bracha). Among WCO’s great assets it is also worth mentioning stage opera galas with the participation of remarkable soloists (including Veronica Cangemi) and stage performances of opera works, both classical and Baroque ones (i.a. “Don Giovanni” by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart with Artur Ruciński at the National Philharmonic in Warsaw) .
The Warsaw Chamber Opera is based on an orchestra, which members are artists specialising in playing on period instruments, so-called HIP specialists, or Historically Informed Performance – The Ancient Instruments Ensemble of Warsaw Chamber Opera – Musicae Antiquae Collegium Varsoviense, which in a great way enables WCO to perform oratorio music. Numerous presentations held in the holy temples of Warsaw (i.a. Seminary Church, Archcathedral Basilica of St. John the Baptist, Church of the Holy Cross) and in the Witold Lutosławski Concert Studio of Polish Radio permanently entered the WCO repertoire. Most often presented works include those of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (“Requiem”, “Great Mass in C minor”, “Vespre solennes de confessore”/”Solemn Vespers for a Confessor”, “Coronation Mass”), Johann Sebastian Bach (“St Matthew Passion”, “Weihnachtsoratorium”/”The Christmas Oratorio”) and Italian masters of Baroque (Antonio Caldara “Maddalena ai piedi di Cristo”/”Magdalene at the feet of Christ” – Fryderyk Award 2018 and Phoenix Award 2018). Concert presentations (such as Requiem) are broadcast and rebroadcast by radio and TV stations.
Both, concerts and oratorio concerts programmes often present forgotten or rediscovered works, reconstructed for the needs of the Warsaw Chamber Opera.
The Warsaw Chamber Opera performs a regular series of concerts at the King Jan III Sobieski Royal Palace at Wilanów, where are mainly presented chamber works, special transcriptions of symphonic forms reduced to quartets and string quintets as well as arias and songs. In that venue, there also sound the music of Frederic Chopin, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Dmitri Shostakovich, and the Strauss family. The repertoire naturally fits into the calendar and is adapted to the carnival period, Lent and Holy Week, the seasons, or is an element of the programme line of festivals (i.a. the Mozart Festival). The concerts take place in the White Hall or in the Orangery Garden.
Baroque Opera Festival
The Baroque Opera Festival is the only Polish festival where the early music is presented on stage. Baroque operas, which were not yet exhibited in our country delight with its virtuoso and contemporary staging, using modern technologies and multimedia that bring closer to the Polish audience this music-vocal art genre, which has its roots in Florence. The inauguration of the festival took place in 1993 and through subsequent editions it presented the masterpieces of numerous composers of the era. During the last year’s 9th edition of the festival with its subtitle – French Baroque, there was presented Jean-Baptiste Lully’s opera “Armide” (cooperation with: Musikfestspiele Potsdam Sanssouci, Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik, Center de Musique Baroque de Versailles), as well as Jean -Philippe Rameau’s “Pigmalion” and “Dardanus”. The festival was complemented by concerts given by the outstanding violinist Sirkka-Liisa Kaakinen-Pilch and the Ancient Instruments Ensemble of Warsaw Chamber Opera – Musicae Antiquae Collegium Varsoviense.
Stanisław Moniuszko Festival in Warsaw
Scheduled for the 200th anniversary of the birth of the creator of the Polish National Opera – Stanisław Moniuszko, the festival will be a cross-sectional presentation of his stage works. “Halka” will be resumed in the so-called Vilnius version, which musical score is exclusively in the possession of the Warsaw Chamber Opera. During the festival, on the request of the Warsaw Chamber Opera, historians and musicologists will present considered to be the irretrievably lost work of Moniuszko – the opera “Die Schweizerhütte”/”Swiss Chalet”. In addition, the programme will be enriched by the rarely performed opera “A Night in the Apennines”. The Stanisław Moniuszko Festival provides an opportunity to mark the composer’s anniversary as well as perfectly fits into the series events organised by the Warsaw Chamber Opera in relation to 100th anniversary of Poland’s regaining independence.
The Warsaw Chamber Opera’s prestige reflects in its extensive foreign activity. Institution has a proven track record in cooperation with foreign ensembles and in giving numerous independent concert tours on three continents (Europe, North America, Asia). Almost from the very beginning of its existence, the ensemble regularly performs outside Polish borders. WCO staged a set of works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in Vienna, almost the entire set in the Netherlands, and has been regularly presenting its repertoire on the opera stages in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Scandinavia, Austria, Israel, Portugal, Slovenia and Croatia. The Warsaw Chamber Opera was on 7 tours in Japan, where had an opportunity to perform the works of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (in total over 150 performances) and Gioacchino Rossini in the most renowned concert halls of this country. WCO has been repeatedly performing in Lebanon (Al Bustan Festival) and Oman (Muscat Music Festival). During the international tours, WCO presented classical, romantic and contemporary operas as well as Baroque and Renaissance works.
In 2017, WCO staged Michał Dobrzyński’s opera “Operetta” as part of the ARMEL Festival in Vienna and presented George Frideric Handel’s opera “Imeneo” as part of the local Opera Festival in St. Petersburg. The Ancient Instruments Ensemble of Warsaw Chamber Opera Musicae Antiquae Collegium Varsoviense played a concert with Hubert Rutkowski (soloist – historical piano) as part of the Hamburg festival.
The numerous undertakings of the Warsaw Chamber Opera are in nature of cooperation with foreign entities. Such initiatives dates back to the 1980s, when the WCO ensemble was a primary pillar of the festivals organised by Radio France International de la Musique festivals in Montpellier; Music Festival Aix en Province.
In 2017 took place the premiere of Jean-Baptiste Lully’s opera “Armide” in cooperation with Musikfestspiele Potsdam Sanssouci, Innsbrucker Festwochen der Alten Musik, Center de Musique Baroque de Versailles.
In 2019, WOK went on a two-week tour of Japan with the performances of The Magic Flute, The Marriage of Figaro and W. A. Mozart’s Requiem.