It was almost like a miniature cultural revolution – when the citizens of Berlin dared to found the Deutsche Oper in 1912 in the (at that time) still independent town of Charlottenburg. The city’s own opera house, specifically dedicated to the modern musical theater of Richard Wagner – it was a clear counter to the venerable Unter den Linden Court Opera. And what’s more: the building on Bismarckstraße wasn’t just larger than all the other theaters in the city; by doing away with private boxes, it embodied the ideal of a “democratic” opera house, in which every seat offered a full view of the stage. Fritz Bornemann’s reconstruction of the building, opened in 1961, also remained true to the tradition of an opera for the people, without pomp and circumstance. Even today, its excellent sightlines and acoustics set the stage for exceptional musical theater, with room for almost 2,000 audience members each night. The generous foyers, whose architectural elegance is being re-evaluated in the present day, remain a central cultural gathering ground for the capital.
The great vocalists of the last century, including Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau, Luciano Pavarotti, Christa Ludwig, and Julia Varady, conductors like Ferenc Fricsay, Giuseppe Sinopoli, and Christian Thielemann, and directors like Götz Friedrich and Hans Neuenfels have helped write the history of the building and bring an international flair to the Deutsche Oper. The opera house continues this tradition into the present: the breadth of works staged at the Deutsche Oper Berlin ranges from the classic / naturalist TOSCA from 1969 to a directorial concept involving film in RIENZI (directed by Philipp Stölzl) to productions like RIGOLETTO (directed by Jan Bosse), FALSTAFF (directed by Christof Loy), AIDA (directed by Benedikt von Peter) or SALOME (directed by Claus Guth), which reflect more recent developments at the theater. A rich repertoire of performances includes international star singers and first-class ensembles alike. Modern examinations of the great classics, from Mozart to Verdi and Wagner, to Strauss and Puccini, also play a key role at the theater. So do modern operas – such as Helmut Lachenmann’s DAS MÄDCHEN MIT DEN SCHWEFELHÖLZERN, Iannis Xenakis’ ORESTEIA, Georg Friedrich Haas‘ MORGEN UND ABEND or, for the 2016/2017 season, the inaugural performance of Andrea Lorenzo Scartazzini’s EDWARD II.
Besides modern works, the Deutsche Oper Berlin has a clear focus on composers whose life’s work is underrepresented in current repertoires. Under the leadership of General Musical Director Donald Runnicles, the opera on Bismarckstraße has staged Leos Janácek with productions of DAS SCHLAUE FÜCHSLEIN (directed by Katharina Thalbach), JENUFA (directed by Christof Loy, available for purchase as a Grammy-nominated DVD), and DIE SACHE MAKROPULOS (directed by David Hermann). It is also working on a Benjamin Britten cycle with PETER GRIMES and BILLY BUDD (directed by David Alden), THE RAPE OF LUCRETIA (directed by Fiona Shaw) and DEATH IN VENICE (directed by Graham Vick). In the upcoming season, one special artistic treat will be a presentation of the operatic works of Giacomo Meyerbeer, who was once among the greatest Berlin composers but is now almost forgotten. Works by the composer that have either already been performed or are in the planning stages include: DINORAH ODER DIE WALLFAHRT NACH PLOËRMEL (concertante, CD-publication planned for 2016), VASCO DA GAMA (directed by Vera Nemirova), DIE HUGENOTTEN (2016, directed by David Alden), and DER PROPHET (2017, directed by Olivier Py).
The orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin, under General Music Director Donald Runnicles, ranks among the most outstanding musical ensembles in the country. Besides opera evenings, audiences can enjoy the orchestra during the Musikfest Berlin, at gala concerts in the Baden-Baden Festspielhaus, and at the BBC Prom. The renowned choir has been named “Choir of the Year” multiple times in the past for its outstanding achievements.
Since the 2012 season, when Dietmar Schwarz took over artistic direction, the Deutsche Oper Berlin has also had a second stage: the Tischlerei. As the name indicates: it was once a woodworking shop, but today young artists are developing new forms of opera and musical theater within its high workshop hall. Since the space was opened, approximately 9 premiers, revivals, and guest performances have taken place there each season. The architecturally open, flexible room determines the contour of the stage, encouraging performers to create musical theater that goes beyond the standard showcase. The space focuses exclusively on what’s new: inaugural performances of commissioned pieces, newly developed works, and new takes on older works. Productions for young people are a primary focus of the Tischlerei. Each year, it puts on at least one new opera for children and youth. Participatory projects, workshops, or presentations by the “Young Opera” (Junge Deutsche Oper) are a major priority. This arrangement, then, houses the musical theater of the 21st century under the same roof as the greatest operatic stage in Berlin. The orchestra of the Deutsche Oper Berlin also offers two concert series: the Tischlerei concerts and the series “Jazz & Lyrics.”