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

Aachen Travel Guide: 611 reviews and 1,886 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 one of my visits to Aachen (in 2009) 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: May 2015
  • Intro Updated Jun 11, 2015
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Reviews (28)

Comments (39)

  • wabat's Profile Photo
    Jul 13, 2015 at 5:27 AM

    Don, another of your wonderful pages - a most enjoyable read. Thank you.

  • Trekki's Profile Photo
    Jul 2, 2015 at 4:21 AM

    Thank you dear Don for an enjoyable noon read about your experiences in Aachen, Euromeet and before :-))

  • german_eagle's Profile Photo
    Jun 27, 2015 at 8:55 AM

    Excellent updates and new tips here, Don. Hotel looks good - from inside :-) A shame you didn't manage to visit the coronation hall - on your third (!) visit. The VT dinners look and sound like fun.

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    Jun 24, 2015 at 6:45 AM

    Good to catch up on your latest Aachen reviews and relive parts of the Euromeet. Thank you again for linking to my cathedral tip :-)

    • Nemorino's Profile Photo
      Jun 26, 2015 at 12:15 AM

      My pleasure. And thanks for your ratings and comments.

  • 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


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