"Opera in Saarbrücken" Top 5 Page for this destination Saarbrücken by Nemorino

Saarbrücken Travel Guide: 68 reviews and 188 photos

Saarbruecken is the capital of the Saarland and is located on the Saar River just a few kilometers from the French border.

After the First and Second World Wars this area came under French administration. In 1935 and in 1955 referendums were held, and in both cases a majority voted to re-join Germany (90% the first time, 67.7% the second) rather than remain under French or international jurisdiction.

As a reward to the people of the Saarland for voting to "return home" to Germany in 1935, the then-ruling Nazi party had this theater built by the river in Saarbreucken and declared it a personal gift from the Fuehrer (Hitler) to the people of the region. It was inaugurated in 1938 with a performance of an opera by Hitler's favorite composer, Richard Wagner (1813-1883).

The Nazis' original name for this theater was Gau-Theater Saar-Pfalz, later Gau-Theater Westmark. The word Gau means area or district, which sounds innocent enough, but to the Nazis it had overtones of ancient Germanic tribes defeating the Roman Empire. Nowadays it mainly has overtones of Nazi terror, since the regional Gauleiter (Gau leaders) were among the worst of the Nazi thugs all over Germany.

Ironically, the word GAU has since taken on another meaning as an acronym for Groesster Anzunemender Unfall, meaning the worst conceivable accident that could possibly happen, for instance at an atomic energy plant.

The only other new opera house that was built in Germany during the Nazi dictatorship was in Dessau. That one was also opened in 1938, with Hitler and Goebbels and other Nazi bosses in attendance.

Since I had just been to the Saar History Museum and learned about the reprehensible origins and inauguration of this theater, it was a somewhat eerie feeling to go there and see an opera. But at least it wasn't by Wagner, only by Richard Strauss (1864-1949), who as an elderly man had only a brief flirtation with the Nazis before retreating into what is known as "inner emigration" and avoiding any further collaboration with the dictatorship.

Because I had recently seen superb productions of Elektra in Frankfurt and Stuttgart, I was a bit worried that this one in Saarbreucken wouldn't measure up. But it was fine, with the American soprano Jayne Casselman doing a great job in the title role.

  • Last visit to Saarbrücken: Apr 2006
  • Intro Updated May 9, 2016
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Reviews (16)

Comments (40)

  • blueskyjohn's Profile Photo
    Jul 18, 2016 at 5:19 PM

    Very informative page Don. Thanks for the tour!

  • Mikebb's Profile Photo
    Nov 14, 2014 at 10:22 PM

    Hi Don, I keep thinking many of your pages & destinations are a result of you keen interest in Opera, it helps one to see this fantastic world. Similar my interest in Orchids has opened up many destinations in Asia and Australia, many of which we have visited with the Orchid Society group.

  • balhannah's Profile Photo
    Jan 8, 2014 at 8:10 PM

    Don, An interesting page on Saarbruecken, even so, I don't think I will put it on my must see list yet. Does sound like it is changing for the better though.

  • lmkluque's Profile Photo
    Jan 10, 2012 at 8:34 AM

    Interesting story about Saarbrücken. Thanks Don for your insight!

  • deecat's Profile Photo
    Jun 25, 2011 at 5:46 AM

    Wonderful descriptions, fine details, and excellent photos to emphasize your points. That has to be one of the ugliest hotels! Like the look of the Modern Art Museum. I'd probably also enjoy the history museum.

  • garridogal's Profile Photo
    May 22, 2011 at 7:01 AM

    So now Wolfsburg page? ; )

  • toonsarah's Profile Photo
    May 14, 2011 at 11:20 AM

    I was interested to read the rather tarnished history of this theatre, but it looks impressive despite its dubious origins. The history museum sounds good too, though I would no doubt struggle with my very limited German!

  • MalenaN's Profile Photo
    Feb 21, 2011 at 10:05 AM

    Interesting about the Invisible memorial square! And there seem to be some nice museum in Saarbrücken.

  • alancollins's Profile Photo
    Mar 9, 2010 at 12:22 AM

    Hi Don, Saarbrücken looks an interesting place to visit. For some reason an area of the country I have missed so far.

  • richiecdisc's Profile Photo
    Dec 23, 2009 at 6:45 AM

    Great to hear "The Train of Great Speed" goes all the way to Munich! Think I need to brush up on my German quite a bit before tackling the History museum but this is an area I've not been and hope to rectify that soon. Karl-Marx Str. here I come. ;>


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