The Opera House Theatre – A Showcase of Lviv Art

An opera house theatre is not only a building intended for the showcasing of famous opera singers, music, opera and ballet. A house of opera is also a gallery to exhibit great art – sculpture, painting, lights, interior design.

The Opera House Theatre in Lviv, Ukraine is unique in its art. Many European theatres and churches were decorated by one master artist. In Lviv, the Opera House Theater is a showcase for many artists, all of whom lived and created in the city of Lviv or Lemberg or Lwow at the turn of the 20th century.

Listen to opera music online

the Introduction and Chorus from the opera The Stolen Happiness by Julij Mejtus. Performed by the K&K Philharmoniker at the Konzerthaus Berlin. Conducted by Myron Yusypovych.


The Main Auditorium in the Lviv Opera House Theatre

OperaHouse Auditorium
OperaHouse Auditorium

Our tour of the Opera House Theatre in Lviv, Ukraine begins as we enter the main operahouse auditorium.

The ground floor of the theatre auditorium was designed by the architect Zygmunt Gorgolewski (1845 – 1903). The opera house auditorium is in the shape of a Greek (Byzantine) lyre. As with many other elements of design and décor at the opera theatre, the shape alludes to musical art in its many forms.

The auditorium opera hall is 22.5m by 18,5m (24.5 yards by 20 yards). The audience chairs are wooden and covered in a burgundy cloth. We seat ourselves in the middle back rows to ge the best view of the displayed art work.

The walls on the first and balcony floors are burgundy coloured. The stage curtain is a matching deep burgundy. The upper walls and architectural details are cream coloured. Elements of stucco and plaster décor are overlaid with gold leaf. The ceiling is covered in paintings.


Art Above the Opera House Theatre Stage in Lviv

The Apotheosis of Glory
The Apotheosis of Glory

Seated in the opera house theatre auditorium, we turn our eyes to the stage and raise them up toward the ceiling

Directly above the stage proscenium is The Apotheosis of Glory created by Stanisław Reichan (a.k.a. Rejchan) (1858 – 1919).

The central female image above the opera house theatre stage is Glory. She is riding a two-wheeled charriot that is pulled by swans. In her hand, she is holding a laurel branch symbolising the achievements and distinctions of art. She is escorted by cherubs carrying flower garlands and playing on various musical instruments – a cello, a flute a tambourine and an ancient Greek trumpet.


More Art Above the Opera House Theatre Stage

Genius with an Angel
Genius with an Angel

Above The Apothesis of Glory, overhead the opera house theatre stage is a sculpted coat of arms of the City of Lviv. The shield of the arms features the city’s upright lion within a triple-towered gate. It is overlaid with yellow gold-leaf on an azure – blue background. The mantling surrounding the shield is also covered with gold-leaf.

The coat of arms is supported by the sculpture Genius with an Angel. For today‘s audiences and visitors placing Genius at center stage above the proscenium may appear to be rather pretentious. But, this is only because we limit our understanding of «genius» to someone who possesses exceptional intellectual ability or creativity. Not so in Roman and Greek mythology.

According to Greek and Roman mythology the genii were analogous to Christianity's guardian angels. Every person, place and thing had a genii. And indeed, genii in works of art that follow the traditions of ancient Greece and Rome are often represented as winged beings. So it is with the genii or Genius above the Lviv Opera House stage proscenium. She is winged. In her right hand, she holds a laurel branch symbolizing the achievements and distinctions of art. And, in her left hand, she holds an ancient Greek (Byzantine) lyre.

The entire ensemble directly above the opera theatre stage is the work of Piotr Basyli Woytowycz (a.k.a. Wijtowicz, Witowicz, Wojtowicz) (1862 – 1936/38) and Piotr (a.k.a Petro) Witalis Harasimowicz (a.k.a. Harasymowycz, Harasymovych) (1857 – 1914). These 2 sculptors worked, lived and are buried in Lviv, Ukraine.


The Lviv Opera House Theatre Auditorium Ceiling Lights

Opera House Theatre Ceiling Lights
Opera House Theatre Ceiling Lights

Now, raise your head up to the ceiling and look at the enormous house lights on the opera house theatre ceiling.

The art work around the immense chandellier was created by 8 different artists. It consists of 10 female images. These images are an artistic rendition of the emotions and ideas that the audience views during each and every opera or ballet performance.

Directly above the stage, we can see Grace, with her long, flowing white stole. She is the work of Edward Miron Pietsch.

To her left is Music, carrying an ancient Greek (Byzantine) lyre. She was created by Aleksander Augustynowicz (a.k.a. Avgustynovych) (1865 – 1944). Augustynowicz lived in Lviv from 1890 to 1914 and is primarily known for his work as a portraitist.

Continuing left is Dance presented with flowing stoles of red and transparent white. In her hand, she is holding a laurel branch symbolising the achievements and distinctions of art. She is the work of Zygmunt Rozwadowski (1870 – 1950) who is better known for his large scenes of battles and panoramas. Rozwadowski was born in Lviv and worked part-time as a stage designer at the opera house theatre.

Next is Judgement wrapped in orange and flaying a scourge, a type of whip or lash. She is the work of Tadeusz Rybkowski (1848 – 1926) who settled and lived in Lviv from 1893 to 1926. Rybkowski worked as a stage designer and painter of large canvasses.

Keeping to our clock-wise examination, we see Drama clothed in the purple robes of mystery and holding a theatrical mask. She was created by Ludomir Köhler (a.k.a. Koehler) (1859 – 1915?).


The Opera House Theatre in Lviv Has Unique Ceiling Art

OperaHouse Ceiling Art Explained
OperaHouse Ceiling Art Explained

To continue our examination of the Lviv Opera House Theatre auditorium ceiling, let us once again return to the central figure immediately above the stage. She is Grace, created by Edward Miron Pietsch.

To her immediate right is Truth. She is holding a mirror, the symbol of physical and spiritual reflection. She was created by Tadeusz Popiel (1863 – 1919), a student of the famous Polish artist Jan Matejko (1838 – 1893).

Keeping counter clock-wise, we see Illusion holding a large soap-bubble in her right hand. She was created by Antoni Stefanowicz (1858 – 1929), a Lviv based portraitist.

The next figure is Innocence, clothed in a long, flowing, lilac coloured cloth symbolizing the first emotions of love, the birth of something beautiful, pure and sincere. She is the creation of Tadeusz Popiel, who also created the figure Truth.


Art on the Ceiling of the Lviv Opera House Theatre

The Bacchanalia with Tambourine
The Bacchanalia with Tambourine

It is perhaps ironic that the ceiling ensemble of the Opera House Theatre in Lviv, Ukraine has Truth and Lust side-by-side. The figure of Lust is often referred to as The Bacchanalia with Tambourine. This name is a reference to the Greek/Roman festival celebrating the god Dionysus (Greek) or Bacchus (Roman). Music created through a variety of musical instruments, including the tambourine, was integral to the festival, which often ended in expressions of lust and orgies. This figure is the work of Stanisław Kaczor-Batowski (1866 – 1946), who is better known for his large canvasses portraying various historical events.

Next to her is Inspiration. She leads by strong emotions portrayed through the flowing cloth of red. She is the work of Aleksander Augustynowicz, who also created the female figure that portrays Music.