"Singing in the reign . . ." Top 5 Page for this destination Aachen by Nemorino

Aachen Travel Guide: 506 reviews and 1,210 photos

. . . of Lucio Silla, not Charlemagne

Aachen is a border city just six kilometers away from the Three Countries' Corner, which is a place up in the woods where the borders of Germany, the Netherlands and Belgium all come together.

As in most border towns, the people tend to be monolingual and not very interested in the languages and cultures of their neighbors just up the road. (It would be great if somebody from Aachen could write me a comment contradicting this statement, in case it's not true.)

But Aachen wasn't always as peripheral as it is today. A mere twelve centuries ago Aachen was the center of a mighty empire during the reign of Charles the Great (742-814), better known as Charlemagne.

While I don't know much about Charlemagne or his empire, I am quite familiar with the opera Fierrabras, by Franz Schubert (1797-1828), which features Charlemagne as one of the main characters. This is an opera which is very seldom performed -- up to now there have been only four productions of it altogether, two of which I have seen. I have described one of these on my Zürich intro page.

The opera I saw on my recent visit to Aachen was not about Charlemagne but about a very different ruler, a dictator named Lucius Cornelius Sulla who reigned in Rome around 82 or 81 BC. In the opera he goes by his Italian name of Lucio Silla.

Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) was only sixteen when he composed Lucio Silla in 1772, but it was already his eighth opera. This was the third of three operas that he composed in Milan, Italy, for the “Regio Ducal Teatro”, which was Milan's opera house at the time. Like the other two it was a huge success, as I have described in a tip called Mozart in Milan.

The Aachen production was the second staging of Lucio Silla that I have seen so far. We had a beautiful production of it in Frankfurt am Main from 1993 to 1995, and I was also quite satisfied with the Aachen production, which was part of a series of four Mozart operas all involving rulers who at first seem to be vicious tyrants but turn out to be lenient and kind-hearted in the end. This was a common ending for opera plots in the 17th and 18th centuries, since the local rulers were often the ones who paid for the operas -- but today it's very hard for the stage director to make the ruler's sudden change of heart appear plausible on stage!

  • Last visit to Aachen: Aug 2012
  • Intro Updated Aug 24, 2012
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Reviews (21)

Comments (35)

  • Oleg_D.'s Profile Photo
    May 22, 2015 at 8:25 AM

    This city is in my travel want list!

  • Maurizioago's Profile Photo
    Nov 26, 2014 at 1:46 AM

    Hello! Will you attend the VT meeting in Aachen next year?

  • Oleg_D.'s Profile Photo
    Jun 21, 2014 at 7:10 AM

    Thank you for good virtual tour to Aachen! I was always thinking about that city during my last visit to Cologne.

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Dec 8, 2013 at 11:37 AM

    Great information on Aachen. Thanks Don

  • alancollins's Profile Photo
    Aug 30, 2012 at 4:29 AM

    Hi Don, interesting tips, it prompted me to find out some more about Charlemange. Alan

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Aug 30, 2012 at 10:43 AM

      Thanks Alan, glad you liked the tips. It never ceases to amaze me how someone like Charlemangne could put together a huge empire with no modern communications equipment, not even mobile phones or GPS.

  • alancollins's Profile Photo
    Aug 30, 2012 at 4:29 AM

    Hi Don, interesting tips, it prompted me to find out some more about Charlemange. Alan

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    May 27, 2012 at 7:59 AM

    Thanks Don for the tour of Aachen. I passed through it. I didn't realize it also bordered The Netherlands! BTW, interesting comment about the languages. I'm on the border to Mexico and most everyone on either side speaks the other's language.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Nov 15, 2011 at 11:51 AM

    Lovely page! Excellent views from the top of 3 Corner's, and perhaps you were lucky to arrive when the cyclist's were leaving. Couven Museum looks really interesting and one that I would enjoy!

  • northeast80's Profile Photo
    Apr 14, 2011 at 3:22 AM

    Thanks for passiing through Bristol :-) Great Aachen pages, it's great to be taken back to a beautiful town. And very useful cycle tips too! Emma

  • Redang's Profile Photo
    Feb 5, 2011 at 2:34 AM

    Visited this lovely city just two weeks ago!!


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