"Operas and cycling in Berlin" Berlin by Nemorino
Berlin Travel Guide: 6,972 reviews and 15,742 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 three years giving it some badly needed restoration and repairs from 2010 to 2013. 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.
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Written Jul 3, 2005
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