Thursday, April 11, 2013

Deutsche Oper

Ever since we moved to Berlin, I have been wanting to go to the opera. At the time, there are two opera houses at the Bismarckstrasse, just a few hundred meters from our home. (Actually, there are no less than three opera houses in Berlin: the Deutsche Oper Berlin in Charlottenburg, the Staatsoper Unter der Linden in Mitte and the Komische Oper in .... .) The Staatsoper venue is currently undergoing major reconstruction and therefore it is now temporarily residing in the beautiful Schiller Theater, also in the Bismarckstrasse. The theater is just a few minutes walking from the consideringly uglier Deutsche Oper. But since I had tickets for the latter one, I went there first.

The Deutsche Oper is the biggest opera house in Berlin with 1859 seats. It is also the second largest concert hall in Germany. The building was designed in 1957 (and opened in 1961) by Fritz Bornemann as the replacement for the old classicist building from 1912, which was destroyed during a bomb raid in 1943. The architect envisioned a massive windowless outer wall along the broad and noisy Bismarckstrasse (one of the most busy streets in Charlottenburg), so that the theater hall is completely shielded off from the street noises. It does make the building look like a massive concrete brick, until you walk to the side walls which are almost completely made of glass. 

A minor but annoying design flaw (in my opinion) is visible on the corner of the building: on opera days, two flags are hung outside, showing the title of the opera that is playing that night. But, because the wind is mostly blowing in from the east, the text is always shown mirror wise... 

On the inside, the building is very symmetric and transparent. The spacious foyers are suited for multifunctional use and are often used for film shootings and commercials. Installed in the main foyer is a most fascinating motorized bronze wall sculpture - Alunos Discus by George Baker (1978). It is nicknamed 'der Wolkenskulptur' for the swirling, silent motion and the billowing forms, which had a quite mesmerizing effect on me. Measuring 10.6 meters in width and 4.2 meters in height it dominates the foyer with its slow movements: 

After wandering around in the building for about an hour, I had almost forgotten that I was actually there to watch and listen to an opera: The Love for Three Oranges by Sergei Prokofiev. It was all very Russian, very absurdist and very funny (it's an opera buffo). The singers were excellent, especially the Prince (Thomas Blondelle) and Truffaldino (Paul Kaufmann) and the lovely, very young Princesse Ninette (Hila Fahima). Alas, filming and photography was strictly prohibited, so I can only show you my illegal footing of a closed curtain, people looking for their seats and the orchestra members doing some last minute practice... 

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