The story begins with a minor cultural revolution. Over a hundred years ago the founders of the Deutsche Oper Berlin agitated for the establishment of an institution providing innovative musical theatre for the middle classes. The decades that followed were marked by glorious highs and devastating lows and saw international triumphs, gramophone recordings, war and destruction and then a bold new building in the same year that the Wall went up. What all the generations have in common is a love of music.
1912 – Charlottenburger burghers build their own opera house
In the run-up to the First World War there are stirrings of unrest amongst Berlin’s opera fans. The Unter den Linden opera house, then called the Hofoper (Court Opera), is seen as one of the fossilised settings for imperial representation. Many music lovers are hankering for progressive, more unconventional productions. Intellectuals and affluent citizens get together in Charlottenburg, then a town in its own right, and found the Deutsches Opernhaus. Within a year the Berlin authorities have erected a building - on a spot that in 1961 will serve as footprint for the reincarnated Deutsche Oper Berlin. The original building is the one of the largest in the world at the time, admitting up to 2,300 people.
Expectations are high. The recruitment bureau of the Deutscher Musikerverband is charged with the task of selecting 75 musicians from the 1,000 applying for a position in the orchestra. On 7th November 1912 Principal Conductor Ignatz Waghalter opens the Deutsches Opernhaus with a performance of FIDELIO. A brilliant violinist and pianist, Waghalter is an adherent of Giacomo Puccini, whose works are experiencing a slump among German audiences. Waghalter changes that, teaming up with the composer himself to rehearse THE GIRL OF THE GOLDEN WEST, which receives its German premiere to great acclaim. Other areas of focus for the new opera house are works by Richard Strauss, another living composer, and the musical dramas of Richard Wagner.