A Night at the Opera

When I first saw the Kraków Opera House on ul. Lubicz, I was certain it was the train station. However, having seen Dworzec Głowny, I quickly realised otherwise. The Kraków opera house building is designed in two parts, with a long low grey building acting as the ante-chamber. It has a long curved roof which reminded me of the Berlin Hauptbahnhof, and make me think it was perfect for a train to pull into. The other part of the structure is a huge red box. This is what houses the theatre itself, and the deep shade of red features strongly throughout both internally and externally. The opera house is an impressive building, in my opinion, at least.

Choo choo…?

The 18.30 to Operaland is now leaving from platform #1

However, there was controversy when the building was being built, as it was felt that it was ‘too modern’ and would not fit in Kraków. The building is a striking mix of strong colours, sharp lines and modernist looks. There are a number of small interesting quirks such as the external spiral staircase at the rear of the building, and these touches give it a twist. The fears around being overly modern appear to be unfounded, as the public appear to have welcomed the new addition to the Kraków skyline. Opera Krakowski claims 98% occupancy with shows such as Madame Butterfly, Carmen and La Bohȇme proving to be popular with audiences.

The spiral staircase with the grey and red sections of the building

Last Friday, I attended the Opera Krakowski production of La Bohȇme (known as ‘Cyganeria’ po polsku), which was performed by the theatre group Slezské Divadlo from Opava in the Czech Republic. With seats reserved in the balcony, myself, my wife and our friends were looking forward to the show. La Bohȇme is generally seen as the second most popular opera worldwide, only behind Madame Butterfly in numbers of performances. It was written by Giacomo Puccini and first performed in Turin in February 1896. The central story concerns the love between the seamstress Mimi and the poet Rodolfo and was set in Paris around 1830. The other key characters are Rodolfo’s friend Marcello (a painter) and his girlfriend Musetta, and Rodolfo’s other friends Schaunard, a musician and Colline, a philosopher.

La Bohȇme (po czechu)

The opera was accompanied by the orchestra, and the opera house has an interesting method to bring the audience closer to the stage, including the musicians too. Half of the orchestra were in the ‘pit’ between the stage and the first row of the audience with the remainder of the musicians in a special area hollowed out under the beginning of the stage. The musical ensemble was managed by a very enthusiastic conductor, who even did little hops up and down during the liveliest pieces. The orchestra was magnificent and the singing was excellent too.

However, it was a little confusing trying to follow the story in parts. The opera was set in France, and sung in Italian, by a Czech opera group, with Polish subtitles appearing above the stage. Thus it was a little difficult, as a native English speaker, to try and follow exactly what was happening, by reading Polish subtitles and hearing singing in Italian, meaning that double translation (from Italian and Polish into English) was happening in my head. However the whole opera experience was a memorable one and one that will be followed upon again. With an impressive building providing the setting, a trip to the opera is advisable for anyone in the Kraków area.

Musetta sings alongside a suitor

More information on the Opera Krakowski can be found at www.opera.krakow.pl.

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17 thoughts on “A Night at the Opera

  1. PP says:

    1st :)
    i like your blog

  2. island1 says:

    I heard they screwed up the fire safety requirements so that firefighters have to attend every performance to hold the doors open. However, I’m quite prepared to believe this was just nonsense propaganda against the place.

  3. guest says:

    In Zamosc there was an opera for free a couple of days ago

    ….and a perfect Italian atmosphere included.

  4. I can never tell La Boheme apart from La Traviatta. Both concern consumptive 19th C. courtesans. It’s the CHOONS. Like, which one has “Your Tiny Hand Is Frozen” in it? And it is “TuranDOT” or TuranDOE”?

    All this is fiddling while Poland burns.

    Next Sunday the election final.

    So NO to Beton Jarka.

  5. Name says:

    i liek blind guardian

  6. You should hear Paula speak about the opera house. “Utter contempt and disgust” is putting it mildly.

  7. Ewa says:

    I’m glad you had a good time. Unfortunately the stories you’ve heard are not propaganda – there architect didn’t design enough entrances into the auditorium and they are operating at the very limits of the fire regulations. It’s touch and go whether they could evacuate the place in the event of a fire so to me, it’s a death trap. There are also huge problems with the surfaces they chose for the outside – they become very slippery when wet so take care in winter. Apart from that, it’s f-ugly!

  8. Grze$ko says:

    The banhoff part of the building is a rebuilt of an Austrian manege, hence the size and shape.
    Overall, as an architect, I give the building thumbs down.

  9. PMK says:

    Probably the coolest opera in Poland has got to be “Opera na Zamku” in Szczecin. It’s located in the main castle in Szczecin; however, the actual quality of the opera company is pretty mediocre.

    I did see the premiere of “Piekna Helena” there, which was pretty good (some chick got just about naked on stage.)
    http://polishmeknob.blogspot.com/2009/06/opera-na-zamku.html <- Pretty much it.

  10. scatts says:

    Opera? What’s that? I thought it was a browser!

  11. Decoy says:

    I was expecting a wise-crack about opera alright, but I though you might have referred to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Night_at_the_Opera_%28Queen_album%29 instead

  12. scatts says:

    You see how I tricked you there?

    It could have been the Queen album, which of course I bought at the time of first release in 1975 at the tender age of nearly 17. It was more likely to be the Marx Brothers film from which Queen stole the title although that was a little before my time, 1935. But, in the end I went for a modern-day icon of the geek age that one assumes most readers will be able to relate to.

    Opera quiz – Where is my wife sitting??

  13. scatts says:

    Depending on your eyesight that might be a good answer but to be clear…she’s sitting bottom left of the photo. Not right now, you understand. Right now she’s in the lounge! :-)

  14. Great post! I just have to see Krakow some time. Can’t believe I have never been there yet. The opera house looks very exiting. How hard can it be to create some extra exits to meet the fire regulations?

  15. Steve says:

    Thanks for this post. I visited the site when only the fabric of the building was in place and its good to see something of how it turned out. If they are like Warsaw Opera, the subtitles will be in English for Polish language works (operettas?), which added greatly to my enjoyment.

  16. Decoy says:

    Unfortunately, no – the subtitles were only in Polish, which made it a little difficult for me. But then I found I was able to give a bit more focus to the music and acting involved.

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