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March, 2004 - Nr. 3


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Berlin’s opera houses change with the times

    TWIG - More drama has been going on behind the scenes than on stage at Berlin’s three famed opera houses, two of which have been struggling to stay afloat for the past few years amidst a rising tide of red ink.

Berlin’s massive opera scene is a unique result of attempts to cobble together two countries’ distinctive cultural programs after the fall of the Berlin Wall. With the Deutsche Oper in the western part of the city and the Staatsoper and the Komische Oper in the former East, Berlin boasts more opera houses than any other city except Milan. It is a proud distinction for a city that has withstood the ravages of history and mounting financial problems.

The Berlin Senate has just struck a deal to ensure that the capital’s status as an operatic center will not wane in the coming decades — despite staggering financial woes that have forced policymakers to ask whether it makes sense to fund three distinct opera houses.

But despite the deal, cultural subsidies are getting ever harder to come by — a hard fact that has placed mounting pressure on the houses to enact changes. Nearly as important, two of the three opera houses are having to cope with less than stellar attendance rates.

While the Staatsoper has flourished, performing to sold-out productions including its most recent success, "Die Meistersinger von Nuernberg," the Deutsche Oper and the Komische Oper have floundered since the late 1990’s.

Critics say that the three houses haven’t been able distinguish themselves from each other through their programs and performances. On one locally famous evening, Mozart’s "The Marriage of Figaro" was performed simultaneously on all three stages.

With the new funding agreement, all three houses will continue performing, although each will have to find ways to slash costs — in part by cutting 220 jobs next year.

City planners hope that the new funding agreement will also give Berlin’s opera houses an impetus to respond to the interests of a united Berlin — including the city’s role as a thriving tourist destination. Unlike other operatic mainstays in Europe, Berlin’s operas have rarely made an effort to reach out to tourists in the past.

To oversee the management of the three houses, the Senate created the Berlin Opera Foundation, which will also market Berlin’s opera houses to cultural tourists worldwide.
Republished with permission from "The Week in Germany"


Deutsche Oper Berlin

Komische Oper Berlin

Staatsoper Berlin


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