"Operas and cycling in Berlin" Berlin by Nemorino

Berlin Travel Guide: 6,992 reviews and 15,870 photos

When I think of Berlin I think of opera and construction sites -- and in my lead photo I was lucky enough to get both in the same picture, because they happened to be ripping up the street "Unter den Linden" right in front of the State Opera House (Staatsoper) when I was there in 2005.

Soon the State Opera House itself will be a construction site, because they are planning to spend several years giving it some badly needed restoration and repairs from 2010 to 2015 or longer. During this time the State Opera company will take up temporary quarters in the old Schiller Theater in the Bismarckstraße, in the Berlin district of Charlottenburg.

What this means is that for three seasons there will be two major opera houses in the Bismarckstraße, within three blocks of each other!

The other one is the Deutsche Oper Berlin, which is housed in this large monolithic building that was erected in something of a hurry in the 1960s.

Across the street from the Deutsche Oper is a bust of a very distinguished gentleman who seems to be casting a skeptical eye at this large opera house. He is none other than the great English playwright William Shakespeare (1564-1616), whose bust was given to the city of Berlin by the city of London on the occasion of Berlin's 750th birthday.

Up to now I have only seen four performances at the Deutsche Oper, and didn't like any of them very much, but I will definitely give this house another try -- the next time I'm in Berlin for three or more days.

Berlin is the only German city that has three full-scale professional opera houses.

This one here is called the "Komische Oper" or Comic Opera, but that doesn't mean everything they do is hilariously funny. The name Comic Opera was originally meant to suggest that this opera house (like the Opera Comique in Paris) isn't as elitist as the others, and what this means in practice is that they perform all their operas in the vernacular, i.e. in German, no matter what language they were originally written in.

This somewhat limits the singers they can get, because none of the really big stars is willing to learn the German text of, say, Verdi's Rigoletto, when they can earn twice as much money singing it in Italian anywhere else in the world. But that's all right because the Komische Oper couldn't afford to hire these big stars anyway, so you can see and hear some fine young singers here who are willing to learn the German words. They're not all Germans, incidentally. In Rigoletto the leading roles were sung by American and Dutch singers, and the orchestra conductor was Japanese.

The only other opera houses I know of that have this only-sing-in-German policy are the Gärtnerplatz opera house in Munich and the Volksoper in Vienna. Otherwise even the smallest houses tend to do operas in their original languages, for the most part.

Update: In 2007 the Komische Oper in Berlin was voted Opera House of the Year (along with the city theater in Bremen) by the critics of Opernwelt magazine.

  • Last visit to Berlin: Jul 2009
  • Intro Updated Dec 30, 2014
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Reviews (47)

Comments (74)

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Sep 24, 2014 at 3:18 AM

    Great Page Don! Thanks for the information.

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Sep 24, 2014 at 4:07 AM

      Thanks, John. I appreciate your ratings and comments.

  • JulieJueletha's Profile Photo
    Dec 22, 2013 at 12:02 AM

    Loved seeing Berlin! Thanks!

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    Dec 21, 2013 at 12:14 PM

    An interesting page Don! I've not been to Berlin, but I do had a piece of the Wall. Thanks for the tour!

  • GentleSpirit's Profile Photo
    Apr 26, 2013 at 3:09 PM

    I enjoyed your pages on berlin a lot. I remember visiting Berlin several times during the DDR period and once a few years ago, how dramatically it has changed! You added detail to some things I only knew a bit about. Danke

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Apr 27, 2013 at 2:40 PM

      Thanks for your ratings and comments on my Berlin tips. I'm glad I could add some detail to your old memories.

  • breughel's Profile Photo
    Feb 28, 2013 at 1:31 AM

    Hello Don, I'm just back from a museum trip to Berlin. Great content but ugly buildings and "Bauwerke" everywhere!

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Mar 1, 2013 at 3:19 PM

      Hi Eddy, I’m glad you had a museum trip to Berlin. Thanks for taking another look at my Berlin tips on your return. I haven’t been back to Berlin for a couple years because none of my family members are living there at present.

  • Nemorino's Profile Photo
    Dec 7, 2012 at 2:43 PM

    Yes, Berlin certainly has changed since the Cold War days. It’s well worth seeing again, especially if you remember how it used to be. Thanks for your ratings and comment on my Berlin page.

  • traveldave's Profile Photo
    Dec 7, 2012 at 6:10 AM

    I visited Berlin during the Cold War when it was a divided city. (That was one of the most fascinating things I've seen during all my travels). I understand it has changed greatly since then, and I'd be interested to see what the city is like now.

  • roamer61's Profile Photo
    Dec 6, 2012 at 12:44 PM

    Excellent page on Berlin. Looking forward to my visit next year.

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Dec 6, 2012 at 2:14 PM

      Thanks for your ratings and comment. I hope you will have a great visit to Berlin next year.

  • mickeyboy07's Profile Photo
    Jun 17, 2012 at 10:11 AM

    excellent tips on Berlin i will have to visit soon

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Jun 6, 2012 at 6:17 AM

    I was surprised to hear that there are around 50 lakes in Berlin, even though Lietzensee looks like a man made pond. The flea market at Strasse des 17 looks like a nice place to visit for "looking".


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