Stefan Sutkowski was born in 1932 in Warsaw. He graduated from the State Higher School of Music in Warsaw (diploma in oboe, 1955) and the University of Warsaw (musicology). He was associated for twenty years (1954-74) with the National Philharmonic of Warsaw as oboist and, from 1961, also as director of its Chamber Music Stage, which subsequently developed into the Warsaw Chamber Opera. In 1971-81 he was Deputy President and then, for two terms of office, President of the Association of Polish Musicians SPAM.
Stefan Sutkowski's musical and musicologic interests have always focused on the discovery and presentation of instrumental works and operas by Polish and foreign composers which had been unjustly forgotten or considered lost. Many of these newly-discovered works have been performed and recorded for radio and on Polish and foreign labels.
In 1957 Stefan Sutkowski established the early music ensemble Musicae Antiquae Collegium Varsoviense, the first ensemble of its kind in Poland. In 1961 it was incorporated into the above-mentioned Chamber Music Stage, which lay the foundations for the Warsaw Chamber Opera. Stefan Sutkowski has been its Artistic Director since the very beginning. The Chamber Music Stage was inaugurated on 12 September 1961 with a programme of Italian music, comprised of Albinoni's Oboe Concerto (with Sutkowski as soloist) and G.B.Pergolesi's opera La serva padrona. The current repertoire of the Warsaw Chamber Opera focuses on the Baroque and Classical periods, but it also includes medieval liturgical drama and works by contemporary composers.
In his activity as Director of the Warsaw Chamber Opera, Stefan Sutkowski gives prominence to Italian music, notably the entire stage output of Monteverdi and Mozart. After several years of preparations, a Mozart Festival was inaugurated in 1991 (15 June-26 July) to mark the 200th anniversary of the composer's death. The programme of this continuing event comprises oratorios, symphonic, chamber and organ works, and, first and foremost, Mozart's complete stage output (26 works). The Warsaw Chamber Opera is the only company in the world to have Mozart's entire stage output in its repertoire. This unprecedented achievement won the Warsaw company international recognition. It was highlighted by Stefan Sutkowski's decoration with the Austrian Cross of Honour in Science and the Arts, First Class, conferred on 13 December 1991 by the President of the Republic of Austria. The success of the 1st Mozart Festival prompted the decision to make the event an annual fixture. It is worth adding that over the past few years the Warsaw Chamber Opera has presented Mozart's operas, as well as symphonic and choral music on foreign tours and at prestigious festivals in many European countries.
The Warsaw Company contributed to the world-wide celebrations of the 350th anniversary of Claudio Monteverdi's death in 1993 by organising the Baroque Opera Festival, which also developed into an annual event. In 1996 the company produced all of Monteverdi's stage works. 1997 saw the 1st Claudio Monteverdi Festival, another annual fixture in the Warsaw Chamber Opera calendar, devoted entirely to Monteverdi's stage and concert output. This marks the crowning of the efforts of Stefan Sutkowski, who has worked since 1984 on the establishment of ensembles specialising in the performance of the music of the Baroque and early Classical periods. The Baroque Opera and Monteverdi Festivals have become greatly popular with audiences, which include many foreign visitors.
Stefan Sutkowski's passion for research led to the establishment in 1984 of the Research and Documentation Centre of Early Polish Music. Many works discovered and prepared for performance by the Centre have had their premieres during the annual Ad Hymnos ad Cantus Early Music Festivals (launched in 1980). The musical materials of many of these works are being made available to performers and musicologists by the Pro Musica Camerata Edition, established in 1992 on Sutkowski's initiative. It is part of the Pro Musica Camerata Foundation. The performances and publications include numerous pieces by Italian composers working at the Polish Royal court, such as Claudio Merula, Marco Scacchi, Franciszek Lilius (Gil), Marcello di Capua, and Giovanni Paisiello.
Many works by Italian composers have also been recorded for radio and TV and on various labels. For almost two decades, the Warsaw Chamber Opera has also promoted Rossini, whose music is particularly close to the style of performance nurtured by the company.
The largest project of Stefan Sutkowski and his ensemble were the celebrations of 400 years of opera as a genre, which were held between 6 October 2000 and 28 October 2001. 57 stage works from different epochs (including 7 premieres) ? ranging from Euridice by Jacopo Peri, the first opera for which complete music survives, through the contemporary operas commissioned by the WCO were presented on this ìfestival of festivalsî. In the framework of this event, the WCO gave about 130 performances at its Theatre in Warsaw.
One of the latest important project of Stefan Sutkowski was An Ode to Europe, a festival of music from the 25 countries of a United Europe at the Warsaw Chamber Opera, which took place from 3 May 2004 to 3 May 2005 and consisted of several operatic festivals and concerts of oratorial, symphonic and chamber music (total 83 performances and 53 concerts).
Decades of research and documentation into the music by Polish composers and by foreign composers active in Poland, as well as close collaboration with early music specialists have given Stefan Sutkowski fresh insights into the rich heritage of Polish musical culture and its contribution to the European culture. This led to the establishment, in 1992, of the SUTKOWSKI EDITION. A private venture, it has embarked on a 11-volume publication HISTORY OF MUSIC IN POLAND, in English language, which is to be supplemented by several in-depth studies of specific subjects. The entire project is to be brought out by the end of 2007.
Stefan Sutkowski is holder of several Polish distinctions, including the Commander's Cross (1992) and the Commander's Cross with Star (1996) of the Order of Polonia Restituta, Big Cross of the Order of Polonia Restituta (2001). In 1999 he was decorated with Commander's Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy. In 2002 he was awarded an honorary doctorate by the Fryderyk Chopin Academy of Music in Warsaw.