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“Opera about Warsaw”. An opera is being created based on the book “The best city in the world”

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Work is underway on an opera about the reconstruction of Warsaw after World War II. The text will be based on fragments of Grzegorz Piątek’s famous book “The best city in the world”. The music is created by seven composers – the jury will choose the best proposal. The premiere is scheduled for two and a half years on the stage of the Grand Theater – National Opera.

– We are entering unknown territory, no one has done it before, no one has written a great operatic work about Warsaw so far – noted Jarosław Trybuś, originator and manager of the “Opera about Warsaw” project, during the Friday conference. – Our goal is to commission, create and exhibit a work that will tell the story of the miracle of rebuilding the capital – he added.

Multimedia opera, “slightly in the style of a movie”

The process will be several stages, and the premiere date – autumn 2025 – taking into account the scale of the project, is exorbitant. First, the author or author of the music (score) will be selected in a closed competition. – We invited an excellent group of seven composers of the middle generation to cooperate, and we asked them to write samples – explained Trybuś. On the basis of fragments, the jury will select the composer of the opera “which will be a great work, for orchestra, soloists, choir, children’s choir, electronics”.

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– The recipient of this opera is to be younger people (20-45 years old), for a very simple reason – the point is that the myth, the emotional experience of the phenomenon of rebuilding Warsaw, should be passed on to young people who have not had the opportunity to get to know this myth, even from parental relationships. And if the young generation, the means of expression cannot be too classical. We immediately knew that it was to be a multimedia opera, i.e. with the use of electronics, video, spatial projection of images, somewhat in the style of a film – explained Jerzy Kornowicz, director of the Warsaw Autumn Festival and chairman of the music jury.

Trybuś added that the description of the order states that the work is to be “modern, but communicative, non-hermetic”. – We have also saved the possibility of including music quotes from the world of popular music – he informed.

Workshop of the Office of Reconstruction of the Capital 1946Author unknown, public domain

The story of the reconstruction of Warsaw may be universal

The text of the opera (libretto) will be based on the motifs of Grzegorz Piątek’s award-winning book “The Best City in the World. Warsaw in Reconstruction 1945-1949” and will be selected in a separate competition. The author will be among the jurors who will choose the libretto.

– We want the topic to be shown universally. Opera is often based on stories from quite distant epochs and territories, and yet, enjoyed by audiences for generations. The revival of Warsaw, as I like to say, turns out to be a catchy topic in changing contexts. This opera can also be an example of this – assured Grzegorz Piątek and told how his book, originally historical, was given new contexts by two tragic events: first the pandemic, then the war in Ukraine. – From the voices that reached me in the days of greatest fear, in the spring of 2020, people read it as a comforting story that after the greatest disasters you can get up, brush yourself off and move on. Now, for almost a year, the book has gained the context of the war in Ukraine, which makes the topic of rebuilding cities and revival of communities, which seemed historical in Western Europe, suddenly become a familiar topic – said the writer.

The necessity of creating a universal work was also emphasized by Jarosław Trybuś. – We all hope that the created work will please the audience here in Warsaw, but it will also be able to be exhibited in other cities that were destroyed and rebuilt. I hope that Kyiv will be among these cities, he said. – Every city whose citizens make the effort to rebuild, unite across divisions, act against fate, on the ruins, in order to build a better future, is “the best city in the world” – he argued.

“We order two works.” There will also be a light version

Janusz Marynowski, director of Sinfonia Varsovia, which is the organizer of the entire project, revealed that the opera will be created in two versions. – In fact, we commission two works: one to be performed on opera stages, and the other in a slightly reduced version, without stage design, perhaps with a smaller choir or a smaller number of soloists, to be performed in concert halls, so that we can travel the world with the version of the opera on Sinfonia Varsovia – explained the head of the orchestra.

All participants of the Friday conference emphasized that the opera is being created in cooperation with three sectors: municipal (Sinfonia Varsovia), national (Teatr Wielki – Opera Narodowa) and non-governmental (Warsaw Autumn).

The works of the selected composer-literary tandem are to be completed in July 2024. The premiere is to take place in autumn 2025, when the 80th anniversary of the beginning of the reconstruction of Warsaw falls, as part of the 68th International Festival of Contemporary Music Warsaw Autumn, and at the same time the opening of the 2025/26 season at the Grand Theater – National Opera.

Main photo source: Edward Falkowski, public domain

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