Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, ENO
Immersive Video Design // English National Opera, London


Symphony No. 3 Op. 36
From the depth of sorrow comes the sublime.

A meaningful meditation on motherhood, love and loss, Symphony of Sorrowful Songs adapts texts in Polish taken from sources spanning the centuries, giving perspectives from both a mother having lost their child, and a child separated from their parents.

Henryk Górecki’s Symphony No. 3 (Symphony of Sorrowful Songs) broke records upon its release in 1992 and became a critical sensation, growing to be one of the best-selling contemporary works of our time and cementing itself as one of modern classical music’s finest compositions. 

Isabella Bywater, designer of ENO’s beloved production of La bohème, returns to direct this unprecedented staged production of Górecki’s beloved work. Russian-American conductor, Lidiya Yankovskaya, makes her ENO debut, conducting the full force of the ENO Orchestra to perform Henryk Górecki’s catalogue of works. Watch how Lidiya strikes a delicate balance between his roots in serialism and the emotional vulnerability of his later compositions.

Symphony of Sorrowful Songs Creative Team
Direction: Isabella Bywater
Musical Direction: Lidiya Yankovskaya
Lighting Designer: Jon Driscoll
Video Designer: Roberto Vitalini,

Symphony of Sorrowful Songs Cast 2023
Soprano: Nicole Chevalier

Special Thanks to Jane Michelmore, head of sound and video at ENO, for solving all video mapping needs with a smile.
We loved your  "amazing disguise skills".

ENO 2023: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs



// 28.04.2023 Financial Times: 4/5 stars
English National Opera’s Symphony of Sorrowful Songs — the effect is enthralling | Financial Times (
"The stage area is a triangle, open to us on one side, with two curtained walls. On these, videos by Roberto Vitalini show us a galaxy of stars, seas at night and other vast contexts within which one human situation becomes central."

// 28.04.2023 The Guardian: 4/5 stars
Symphony of Sorrowful Songs review – Gorecki’s triptych retains its visceral power in thoughtful staging | Classical music | The Guardian
"Roberto Vitalini’s mesmeric video design and Jon Driscoll’s haunting lighting are major elements in the production’s success, as is Bywater’s set."

// 28.04.2023 The Telegraph: 4/5 stars
Symphony of Sorrowful Songs, ENO, London Coliseum, review: a powerful staging of a dark classic – and a sharp warning for the Arts Council (

// 28.04.2023 The Times: 5/5 stars
Symphony of Sorrowful Songs review — a hauntingly beautiful staging (

// 28.04.2023 The Stage: 5/5 stars
Symphony of Sorrowful Songs review at London Coliseum ( : “Visionary”

// 28.04.2023 Planet Hugill: Henryk Górecki's Symphony of Sorrowful Songs at ENO in an astonishing visual treat from Isabella Bywater
"Bywater's production gave us some astonishing imagery. It wasn't a dramatisation so much as a poetic visual meditation on the music.
It wasn't an opera as such, but a music theatre piece that verged on being an installation, but Bywater and Vitalini came up with some astonishing images to accompany the music. The set was relatively simple, just two curtains through which people could move and onto which Vitalini's videos were projected. It was the videos that created a series of striking transformations to the visual environment. It certainly wasn't static."

//  28.04.2023 Bachtrack: 4/5 stars
Letting Górecki’s music do the work: Symphony of Sorrowful Songs at ENO
"The colouring is dominated by pale grey, variegated at times by Roberto Vitalini’s flowing videography."


Polish texts sung by a soprano: a lament of the Virgin Mary, asking her dying Son to share his wounds with her; a message scratched on a wall of a Gestapo cell, from daughter to mother; and a mother searching for her son killed in war. Hence the work’s subtitle “Symphony of Sorrowful Songs”.

'Really great art takes life as it is and portrays it as it is': Conductor Lidiya Yankovskaya on the Symphony of Sorrowful Songs - Rhinegold
Polish composer Górecki’s Third Symphony to be staged at English National Opera - English Section -

‘I’m Just Showing What Górecki Wrote’: An Interview With Isabella Bywater | Article |



video scenography
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generative art
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