"Opera in Altenburg" Altenburg by Nemorino
Altenburg Travel Guide: 43 reviews and 113 photos
Altenburg is a city in the eastern part of Germany which has lost 35 % of its population in the past quarter century.
In 1981 the city had 55,827 inhabitants. Now twenty-eight years later the population is down to 35,735 -- roughly the size of Beloit, Wisconsin or Urbandale, Iowa.
Most of this decline has happened since German reunification in the early 1990s, as people started moving west in search of jobs.
Amazingly, this small city with its shrinking population still has a full-scale theater that does an ambitious program of live opera and drama -- though to survive the theater had to merge several years ago with the one in nearby Gera. Now the combined theater and opera company presents the same productions in both cities on different evenings.
In 2003 I saw a very good performance here in Altenburg of the opera Die tote Stadt (The Dead City) by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957), which I also saw four years later in the West German city of Hagen.
Hagen is nearly six times as big as Altenburg, but it also looked rather dead when I was there to see The Dead City, which was on a very grey, rainy and unseasonably cold weekend in May 2007.
Altenburg means "Old Castle", and there is indeed an old castle up on the hill in front of the theater.
The castle has been there in one form or another for a thousand years at least. It was gradually turned into a palace in the first half of the 18th century, when it became the second residence of the dukes of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg.
The palace complex includes among other things a church with a famous organ that Johann Sebastian Bach once played.
One of the most popular card games in Germany is called Skat. While I can't really claim to understand the game (much less play it), I'm told that it is played by three or four people using a 32-card deck. It involves bidding and taking tricks, which are then added up by a very complicated system.
Skat was invented in Altenburg around 1810. The German Skat Society is still based here, as it the German Skat Court, which is supposed to settle disputes involving the game. So Altenburg likes to call itself the Skat City, which in German is something of a tongue-twister: Skatstadt.
Photos: 1. Cycling in Altenburg 2. Cyclists by the park 3. Bicycle route signs at the station OK, I didn't see huge... more travel advice
Photos: 1. Altenburg train station, built 1876 2. Tracks and platform 3. Old switching house and statue on the... more travel advice
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