The Grand Theatre in Warsaw is a theatre and opera complex situated on the historic Theatre Square in central Warsaw. The Warsaw Grand Theatre is home to the Polish National Ballet and is one of the largest theatrical venues in the world.
The Theatre was built on Theatre Square between 1825 and 1833, replacing the former building of Marywil, from Polish classicist designs by the Italian architect Antonio Corazzi of Livorno, to provide a new performance venue for existing opera, ballet and drama companies active in Warsaw. The building was remodeled several times and, in the period of Poland's political eclipse from 1795 to 1918, it performed an important cultural and political role in producing many works by Polish composers and choreographers.
It was in the new theatre that Stanisław Moniuszko's two best-known operas received their premieres: the complete version of Halka (1858), and The Haunted Manor (1865). After Frédéric Chopin, Moniuszko was the greatest figure in 19th-century Polish music, for in addition to producing his own works, he was director of the Warsaw Opera from 1858 until his death in 1872.
While director of the Grand Theatre, Moniuszko composed The Countess, Verbum Nobile, The Haunted Manor and Paria, and many songs that make up 12 Polish Songbooks.
Also, under Moniuszko's direction, the wooden Summer Theatre was built close by in the Saxon Garden. Summer performances were given annually, from the repertories of the Grand and Variety (Rozmaitości) theatres. Józef Szczublewski writes that during this time, even though the country had been partitioned out of political existence by its neighbors, the theatre flourished: "the ballet roused the admiration of foreign visitors; there was no equal troupe of comedians to be found between Warsaw and Paris, and Modrzejewska was an inspiration to drama."
The theatre presented operas by Władysław Żeleński, Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Karol Szymanowski and other Polish composers, as well as ballet productions designed by such choreographers as Roman Turczynowicz, Piotr Zajlich and Feliks Parnell. At the same time, the repertoire included major world opera and ballet classics, performed by the most prominent Polish and foreign singers and dancers. It was also here that the Italian choreographer Virgilius Calori produced Pan Twardowski (1874), which (in the musical arrangement first of Adolf Sonnenfeld and then of Ludomir Różycki) has for years been part of the ballet company's repertoire.
During the 1939 battle of Warsaw, the Grand Theatre was bombed and almost completely destroyed, with only the classical façade surviving. During the Warsaw Uprising of 1944 the Germans shot civilians in the burnt-out ruins. The plaque to the right of the main entrance commemorates the suffering and heroism of the victims of fascism.