The Stanisław Moniuszko Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic—European Art Centre in Białystok combines the functions of an opera house, philharmonic and theatre, while also serving as a venue for other stage productions, exhibitions, conferences and shows. As of September 1, 2019 the director of the institution is Prof. Ewa Iżykowska-Lipińska.
The building, designed by Prof. Marek Budzyński’s architectural studio, looks impressively light in spite of its dimensions, and its transparent form is perfectly adapted to the surroundings. The plant-covered roof, viewing terraces and the green area around the opera create an urban park—a favourite spot for leisure activities and summer observations of the sky. The roof, which features Teresa Murak’s sculpture “Composer’s Head,” is also an ideal place to admire the panorama of Białystok. The building’s interior, made of glass, concrete, steel and wood, is beautifully adapted to the green landscape of the city, combining the chief assets of a traditional opera house with the multifunctionality of contemporary art centres. The space is brought to life by Tomasz Urbanowicz’s enormous glass compositions with transcribed pieces by Krzysztof Penderecki and Jerzy Maksymiuk, among others. The Main Stage auditorium is decorated with sculptures of muses by Dominik Wdowski.
The Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic has a permanent ensemble of opera soloists. The institution also boasts its own Orchestra, Choir (headed by its conductor and artistic director, Prof. Violetta Bielecka), Children’s Choir (headed by its conductor, Dr. Ewa Barbara Rafałko), and Big Band. Several chamber ensembles have their seats in the building.
The rich and diverse repertoire of the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic spans classical operas (“The Haunted Manor,” “La Traviata,” “Die Zauberflöte,” “Carmen,” “La Bohème”), musicals (“Korczak,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “Fiddler on the Roof,” “Doctor Zhivago”) and operettas (“Die Fledermaus,” “The Gypsy Baron”), as well as symphonic and chamber concerts, oratorios, recitals, interactive shows for children and music festivals. The institution also organizes educational activities, exhibitions, film screenings and popular music concerts.
The Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic strives to reach a broad audience. To this end, the repertoire proper is accompanied by various other activities, such as the International Book Fair, the Long Night of Museums, meet-the-author or meet-the-artist meetings as well as The Phantom of the Opera Fans Convention.
The building additionally serves as an attractive exhibition space, fit for the presentation of various types of artworks. The exhibition programme is consistently structured around music and opera. However, since operatic theatre itself is a synthesis of many genres, our intention was to present a universal panorama of arts and culture. Apart from exhibitions of opera posters, artists’ fans and other valuable theatrical memorabilia, costumes and collections of music instruments, our visitors had the opportunity to admire works by renowned painters (Rafał Olbiński, Franciszek Starowieyski, Nikifor) and the multi-cultural heritage of the Podlasie region. Last but not least, the Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic takes pride in presenting Polish fine art photography. Our Gallery of Photography series has so far featured works by such eminent artists as Edward Hartwig, Wojciech Plewiński, Tadeusz Rolke, Chris Niedenthal and Tomek Sikora.
Cultural education occupies a special place in the work of our institution. The main objective of education through art is preparing junior and young audiences to take an active part in creating and shaping culture in the future. To this end, the Opera is involved in a number of initiatives aimed at educating a new group of conscious recipients of art.
Symphonic concert 7 XII 2012
Maestro Stanisław Skrowaczewski, one of the greatest conductors in the world (and one of the oldest active), a renowned composer as well, performed in Białystok for the very first time December 7, 2012. Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra under his baton played Bruckner’s Symphony no. 3 and Mozart’s Symphony no. 41 in C major “Jupiter Symphony.” Every performance of Skrowaczewski was a great musical feast, and when he directed, orchestras performed well as never before. He was a virtuoso specialist when it came to symphonical pieces, and the works of Aleksander Bruckner were especially dear to him. The public of Białystok awarded him with vivacious standing ovation.
New Year gala 11 I 2015
The New Year gala of January 11, 2015 featured a world-famous opera singers and one of the most beautiful Polish sopranos Aleksandra Kurzak. The artist performs in the most prestigious concert halls over the globe—Metropolitan Opera in New York, Teatro alla Scala in Milan, Royal Opera House Covent Garden in London—and rarely sings in her homeland. But even though her calendar is full for the next five years, she did visit Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic. She performed to the accompaniment of Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Orchestra under the direction of Bassem Akiki, talented young conductor.
The closing of the jubilee 60th artistic season 26 VI 2015
Sixtieth, jubilee artistic season in Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic was ceremoniously closed with “Concert dedicated to the 120th anniversary of the birth of Carl Orff,” during which we commemorated the Munich composer by performing his most famous work “Carmina Burana.” The performance was graced with the presence of world-famous artists, such as Artur Ruciński—one of the very best opera singers in the world, applauded in the Metropolinan Opera, Teatro alla Scala, Berlin Staatsoper, Gran Teatre del Liceu, Arena di Verona, Teatro di San Carlo or Opera Bastille. Alongside him there was an outstanding soprano Katarzyna Trylnik, a renowned countertenor Jan Jakub Monowid, and of course Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra under the baton of Michał Klauza.
Concert dedicated to the composer on his birthday jubilee 18 XI 2016
Maestro Jerzy Maksymiuk celebrated his birthday in Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic with a ceremonial jubilee concert of November 18, 2016. He conducted the performance of his own work of 2014 “Vers per archi”, and Beethoven’s Symphony no. 8 in F major op. 93 and Piano Concerto no. 4 in G major op. 58. The solo part was played by a virtuoso European pianist Katya Apekisheva. The evening was crowned with a standing ovation and honourable distinction: Maestro received the Honorary Badge of the Podlasie Voivodeship.
International Book Fair
Since 2013 Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic has been hosting the most important book-related event east of the Vistula: the International Book Fair organised in co-operation with Sąsiedzi Foundation. Each year in the building at Odeska 1 there are thousands of literature passionates from all over the voivodeship as well as other regions, to see the offers of over a hundred publishing houses and smaller presses gathered in one place. The event is accompanied by a literary festival “On the Borderland of Cultures,” abounding with meetings with the authors and other figures of the publishing market.
“Phantom” fans’ conventions
The Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical “The Phantom of the Opera” is a show that enjoys an unstoppable rise in popularity. The premiere of the Białystok version took place May 24, 2013. Three years later at Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic we held the very first “Phantom” fans’ convention overflowing with events and attractions, such as theatrical make-up and costumes showings, a backstage tour, and meetings with the artists. The year 2018 was an important one for the “Phantom” as well—in March it’s been 10 years since the first performance of the title in Poland. That was a great occasion to hold a second fans’ convention. Again we met with the artists, we played word association hosted by Damian Aleksander (The Phantom), and the artists performed the biggest hits from the musical, but changing roles. There were two guests of honour: a beatboxer Dharni and the first actor to play Raoul in Poland, Marcin Mroziński.
„Tribute to Musical”
20, 21 I 2017
Damian Aleksander alongside with four marvellous artists: Małgorzata Walewska—one of the greatest opera singers, Kayah—the queen of Polish pop music, Joanna Kołaczkowska—cabaret star, and Edyta Krzemień—the best Polish voice of musicals, as well as Podlasie Opera and Philharmonic Choir and Orchestra under the baton of Krzysztof Herdzin, performed the most beautiful musical hits of all time. This “hommage à musical”—the most expressive of genres—special concert was hosted by Magdalena Miśka-Jackowska, journalist of RMF Classic radio station.