The beginnings of Slovene opera performances can be traced back to 1867 when the Dramatic Society was established. The society opened possibilities also for operatic productions which were at first very modest (singspiels, operettas, stage music). Important impulses were given by the singer, conductor and composer Fran Gerbič who improved the music capacities of local actors and musicians.
In 1892 the new building was built. The building hosted two theatres: the German State Theatre (as conductors served in German theatre such conductors as Gustav Mahler and Fritz Reiner) and the Slovene theatre, which now operated on the professional basis. The Slovene ensemble was without an orchestra but with the help of military band they performed also operas and operettas. Both ensembles prepared their own productions and the relation between them was of a positive rivalry.
In 1918 the opera gained a professional orchestra and a ballet ensemble. The most important artistic director was the composer and conductor Mirko Polič. He enlarged the orchestra and ensemble and staged many contemporary operas (I. Stravinsky, S. Prokofiev, E. Krenek, D. Shostakovich, P. Vladigerov, Marij Kogoj) and the basic German repertoire (R. Wagner, R. Strauss).
After the Second World War, the opera continued with successful work. Of special importance was the guest appearance on the Dutch Festival and in Paris with the performance of Prokofiev's opera The Love for Three Oranges. In 1957, the recording of it, under the baton of the renowned Slovenian conductor Bogo Leskovic for the renowned label Philips and rewarded with the grand prix du disque.
As the central Slovene music theatre company, the SNG Opera and Ballet Ljubljana stages an annual season of opera, ballet and concerts, plus some additional programmes featuring various classical and contemporary music theatre works. Each season, around 150 performances by the opera and ballet ensembles take place.
The Opera Company of the SNG Opera and Ballet Ljubljana also presents an annual programme of international opera featuring its own orchestra and regular appearances by visiting international guest conductors, directors or performers. Each season it prepares 3 to 5 new productions and reprises of jolder productions. They perform mostly Italian opera of 19th century and operas form verismo period. Ensemble of soloists consists mainly of Slovene singers but at the premiers perform often also the foreign artists.
The Ballet Company of the SNG Opera and Ballet Ljubljana prepares on average 3 new performances per year. Guest dancers and choreographers are often invited to work with the company and various productions are staged in collaboration with overseas companies. The Ballet Company prepares standard ballet pieces (Tchaikovsky, Prokofiev, Minkus) and lately also combines modern dance techniques with standard ballet practices.
The majority of the performances are staged in the neo-Classical opera house, designed by Czech architects Jan V. Hrasky and Anton Hruby and built in 1892. The building has undergone renovations with the addition of a new annex which doubled the building's size to 10,000 square metres (architects Jurij Kobe and Marjan Zupanc). The doors re-opened for the 2011/2012 season.
Larger productions are also staged at Cankarjev dom Culture and Congress Centre, sometimes in co-operation with Slovene National Theatre Maribor that houses also opera and ballet ensemble. The significant co-productions have comprised Faust, Aida, Don Quixote, Prince Igor, Rusalka, and the Rhine Nymphs.
After the Second World War, the Opera made extensive tours which led the ensemble in Holland, France, Russia, Czech and Slovak Republic. Frequent were guest appearances in near Trieste, Klagenfurt, Zagreb and Graz. In 2012 the Ballet ensemble presented itself in South Korea.
In the last decade opera company tries to re-establish international contacts by preparing joint productions. Its partners have been Festspielhaus from Austria's St Poelten, Volkstheater Rostock, the Slovene National Theatre Maribor, Teatro Verdi Trieste, the Croatian National Theatre of Zagreb, the Glyndebourne Festival (Dvořak's Rusalka) and Opera Comique from Paris.
Slovene National Theatres
Tristan and Isolde, a ballet performance "conceived as a comprehensive work of art, is based on the idea of love and the thesis of immortality, brought to the human existence by art". Produced by the Slovene National Theatre Opera and Ballet Ljubljana in 2014.