Berlin State Opera

Berlin, Germany | C.1742

Photo Credit: Daniela Campos

The Berlin State Opera is Germany’s first freestanding theater and the world’s oldest state opera. Built in 1742 and designed in the Prussian classicist style, this opera has assumed many names over the centuries including Hofoper (court opera), Konigliches Opernhaus (Royal Opera House) and finally Staatsoper Unter den Linden in 1918.

Located on the city’s Unter den Linden boulevard, this structure was commissioned by King Frederick II of Prussia shortly after his accession to the throne. Designed by architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, the opera was inaugurated with a performance of Carl Heinrich Graun’s Cesare e Cleopatra.

For the next 250 years, the opera put on performances alongside the Staatskapelle Berlin, or state orchestra. By the turn of the 20th century, the opera had burned down, been restored, renamed and began attracting many illustrious conductors. The eventual collapse of the German Empire saw the opera renamed once more to Staatsoper Unterden Linden or “The State Opera”.

When Hitler came into power, many of the Opera’s Jewish ensemble members were exiled. Some of its German musicians were dismissed, including conductors Kurt Adler, Otto Klempere and Fritz Busch, who resigned in protest over Nazi rule. The opera was subsequently destroyed during the war and underwent extensive renovations that lasted until 1955.

Today, the opera is led by general director Daniel Barenboim and contains a seating capacity of 1,396. After a recent renovation that raised the building’s roof and improved the acoustics, the Opera was reopened with premieres of Humperdinck’s Hansel und Gretel and Monteverdi’s L’incoronazione di Poppea.

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