Deutsche Oper Berlin
It amounted to a minor revolutionary act. Over a century ago a group of Berliners took the plunge and founded the Deutsche Oper in Charlottenburg, an unincorporated suburb of the city at the time. Set up with the stated intention of airing the modern musical theatre of the likes of Richard Wagner, their opera house was offered a clear alternative to the venerable Hofoper on Unter den Linden. Moreover, with more than 2,000 seats, the Bismarckstraße venue was not only larger than any other theatre in Berlin; it also dispensed with boxes, thereby reflecting the ethos of a “democratic” opera house, in which all visitors had an unimpeded view of the stage, regardless of where they sat. This tradition of a citizens’ opera house devoid of pomp and plush was retained in the new premises built by Fritz Bornemann in 1961. Today as then the excellent visibility and acoustics provide the framework for evening after evening of superb musical and theatrical performances. And the spacious foyers with their newly appreciated elegance remain one of the capital’s key cultural meeting places.
Directors such as Götz Friedrich and Hans Neuenfels, conductors of the likes of Ferenc Fricsay, Giuseppe Sinopoli and Christian Thielemann and once-in-a-century singers such as Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Christa Ludwig and Julia Varady have contributed to the history of the venue and placed the Deutsche Oper firmly on the international map. This tradition of attracting top-drawer names is ongoing, with vocal artists of international standing appearing alongside the first-class ensemble in the opera house’s rich repertoire of productions. Strauss and Puccini are as much a feature of the programme as the modern opera of Helmut Lachenmann’s “The Little Match Girl” and Iannis Xenakis’ “Oresteia”. The orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin under the musical direction of Donald Runnicles is one of the country’s supreme ensembles and can also be found playing in the Berlin Philharmonie during the city’s Musikfest, giving gala performances in the Baden Baden Festspielhaus and guesting at the BBC Proms. The opera house’s acclaimed chorus has been voted “Chorus of the Year” a number of times.
Deutsche Oper Berlin productions cover the full spectrum of styles, encompassing a classical, naturalistic “Tosca” from 1969, the incorporation of filmed sequences into “Rienzi” by director Philipp Stölzl and works such as Jan Bosse’s “Rigoletto” and Christof Loy’s “Falstaff” that reflect more recent developments in theatre. Robert Carsen’s production of “The Love for Three Oranges” is a further instance of the Deutsche Opera’s high quality: based on an Italian play, composed by a Russian, sung in French and premiered in the USA, Sergei Prokofiev’s “The Love for Three Oranges” is probably the most international of the triumphant productions on the opera house’s repertoire. Yet this whacky tale of a lovesick prince and his ‘orange’ princess is more than simply a fairytale; it is a comment on the nature of theatre itself. Canadian star director Robert Carsen delivers a two-hour tour de force covering aspects of Berlin’s theatre and show history. Ranging from Brecht to the Berlin Film Festival, it is witty, hectic, satirical and guaranteed to entertain.