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The Baltic Opera

alias Państwowa Opera i Filharmonia Bałtycka (The Baltic National Opera and Philharmonic, 1953-1994), Państwowa Opera Bałtycka (The Baltic State Opera, 1994-2012)
history of the theatresupplementtechnical dataHistoric equipment

Important events

(detail)1945 | the beginning of activity of the Baltic Filharmony

(detail)1948 | convertion of the building into the theatre - Teatr Wielki (1948-49)

(detail)24.08.1949 | the first opera performance at Teatr Wielki - "Halka" by Stanisław Moniuszko - inauguration of the stage
(detail)28.06.1950 | official inauguration of activity of the Opera Studio
(detail)01.05.1953 | the connection of Baltic Filharmony with Opera Studio into the State Baltic Opera and Filharmony

(detail)1954 | the first modernisation of the stage and backstage 1954-55. The leading architect was Daniel Olędzki

(detail)1973 | the second modernisation, led by Stefan Kuryłowicz, the built of foyer, 1973-82

(detail)1994 | the division of Opera and Filharmony, Filharmony moved to the new building
(detail)2003 | the third modernisation of the building

(detail)2011 | the appointment of the Social Committee of Support the Construcion of the New Opera House, to collect the foundings and accomplish the construction of the New Opera House


(detail)Stefan Kuryłowicz |architect

architect, professor at Warsaw University of Technology, one of the most important Polish architects of XXth and XXIst century

(detail)Ernst Schade |architect

Architect of the first building - "sporthalle" (The Baltic Opera). He presented a complicated remodeling project of the theater in Gdańsk in 1899.

More theatres

(detail)Daniel Olędzki |architect
architect associated with GdańskMore theatres


The first opera performances were held in Gdańsk in the Fencing School as early as in the middle of the 17th century. A building for regular opera and ballet – pantomime performances was opened one hundred years later. However, still at the end of the 18th century the Gdańsk ballet suspended its activity and guest performances were presented in the newly opened theatre building in Targ Węglowy (1801). Subsequent stages were built at the beginning of the 20th century: the Forest Opera (Opera Leśna) in Sopot, inaugurated in 1909, and Tattersaal, erected in 1914-1915. Nevertheless, all the Gdańsk stages were destroyed by the Soviet army in 1945.

In the autumn of 1945, the Baltic Philharmonic, under the guidance of Roman Kuklewicz and Zbigniew Turski, started its activity on the devastated lands of the regained coast. In spite of very hard living conditions, a forty-member orchestra held rehearsals in the building of the Gdańsk Music Society (Gdańskie Towarzystwo Muzyczne), though it had no window panes. At the end of the 1949-50 season, the City Symphonic Orchestra (Miejska Orkiestra Symfoniczna) was nationalised and called the Baltic State Opera (Państwowa Filharmonia Bałtycka). At the same time, the Music-Drama Studio (Studio Muzyczno-Dramatyczne) was called into being at the initiative of Iwo Gall, the director of the Wybrzeże Theatre. Its initial, still partly amateur, opera performance was Halka by Stanisław Moniuszko. In view of the shortage of theatre rooms preserved after the war, the new company was allocated headquarters in a former German sports hall, designed by Ernst Schade. It was, as it was called at that time, a “sporthala”, badly devastated, but not ruined. The floor of the big room, housing about one thousand people, was bulging, boards had been destroyed. The flat stage occupied the whole width of the room and was completely deprived of any backroom. Obviously the stage had to be constructed from scratch. Apart from the main room, the building housed two smaller rooms from the side of Rokossowski street, where the foyer and a small exhibition room are today. This is exactly where the restaurant under the pretentious name “Polonia” has been located. (…)

It was decided to transform the “sporthala” into a theatre; the Social Committee for Reconstructing the Theatre was set up. Planning was started, but no specialists in theatre buildings were asked for advice. The money to rebuild the building flew in, though, due to its location and structure, the building was not suitable for the role of a theatre at that time, and it is not suitable even today, after several conversions and adaptations. During a performance you can still hear the rattle of a tram turning on the rails next to the theatre, there are still “acoustic blackspots” in the auditorium, where you cannot hear the text spoken by an actor, let alone  the external appearance of the building, which would horrify an architect, astonish a tourist and deter a spectator. Not until the spring of 1948 did the first reconstruction of the sports hall take place. [1]

The Opera Studio (Studio Operowe), the germ of the future troupe of the Baltic Opera started its activity in 1949, with the arrival of Zygmunt Latoszewski in Gdańsk. The group of young artists was directed by Wiktor Bregy – director, Kazimierz Czekotowski – vocal director, Karol Gajewski – set designer, and Janina Jarzynówna-Sobczak – choreographer and ballet teacher. The first performances staged by the Opera Studio were held in 1949, though the premiere of Eugene Onegin by Pyotr Tchaikovsky on 28 June 1950 is considered to be the inauguration of the activity of the Opera. On 1 May 1953, the Opera Studio was combined with the Philharmonic to create the Baltic National Opera and Philharmonic (Państwowa Opera i Filharmonia Bałtycka). The headquarters of the Opera was a building in Rokossowski street called the Grand Theatre (Teatr Wielki) housing 750 spectators. Until 1967, the buiding had been shared by the Opera and Philharmonic, along with the Wybrzeże Theatre. In summer, open-air performances were held in the Forest Opera in Sopot.

In 1954-55, the edifice was modernised for the first time, including the stage and the backroom, under the guidance of architect Daniel Olędzki. During the next modernization, completed by Stefan Kuryłowicz’s architectural workshop in 1973-1982, the foyer was built on. At that time the address of the institution also changed: Rokossowski street was renamed Aleja Zwycięstwa.

In 1994, the Opera and the Philharmonic were separated, and since that time they have been independent institutions. (The Philharmonic received its new headquarters in the revitalised heat and power plant on Ołowianka Island in Gdańsk).

The next modernization, in the autumn of 2003, included the auditorium. The Baltic Opera also stages performances outside its headquarters, for example at St. John’s Church, where St. John's Opera Nights Opera Festival (Świętojańskie Noce Muzyki Operowej) has been held since 2004. In 2010, the ballet group of the Opera split off, setting up the Baltic Dance Theatre (Bałtycki Teatr Tańca), under the guidance of Izadora Weiss.

Since its foundation, the Baltic Opera has been working in an adapted building that, in spite of numerous conversions and repairs, has still not been acoustically and technically adjusted to the needs. In April 2011, the Social Committee for the Support of Building the Baltic Opera was set up with the goal of erecting a new edifice for the Baltic Opera.

[1] 20 lat teatru na Wybrzeżu [Twenty Years of the Theatre on the Coast], Szczepkowska Malwina, edited by Wydawnictwo Morskie 1968, pp.11-12.



  1. Ciechowicz J. (redakcja), 200 lat teatru przy Targu Węglowym, Gdańsk 2004.
  2. Gojżewski R., Państwowa Opera i Filharmonia Bałtycka w latach 1945-1961, Gdański Rocznik Kulturalny t.1, 1964.
  3. Gojżewski R., Placówki muzyczne na Wybrzeżu Gdańskim w dwudziestopięcioleciu Polski Ludowej, w: W kręgu kultury, muzyki i baletu, Gdańsk 1971.
  4. Jankowski B. M. (redakcja) Państwowa Opera i Filharmonia Bałtycka w Gdańsku. W 25-lecie istnienia, Gdańsk, 1971.
  5. Jarzynówka-Sobczak J., Drogi rozwoju baletu gdańskiego, w: W kręgu kultury, muzyki i baletu, Gdańsk 1971.
  6. Muzyka i życie muzyczne na Ziemiach Zachodnich i Północnych 1945-1965, B. M. Jankowski, M. Misiorny, Poznań 1968.
  7. Państwowa Opera i Filharmonia Bałtycka 1945 – 1985, redakcja: A. Czekanowicz, Gdańsk 1985.
  8. Państwowa Opera Bałtycka 1950-2000, redakcja: van Snake, Gdańsk 2000.
  9. Rozmowy o tańcu – wywiad-rzeka z Janiną Jarzynówną-Sobczak.
  10. Szczepkowska Malwina, 20 lat teatru na Wybrzeżu, Wydawnictwo Morskie 1968.
  11. Teatry Polskie w trzydziestoleciu (1944–1974), Słownik, nadbitka z „Pamiętnika Teatralnego” 1975 z. 3–4.



Author: Anna Ochman

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