Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Deutsche Oper - The Scent of the Seventies

Before I get back to the MAGNIFICENT production of Rienzi,  I thought I could blog a bit about the Deutsche Oper Berlin (DOB).

You look at the building [inside and outside] and you get a whiff of the seventies. Deutsche Oper is a very well maintained building, and its style (70's) -I guess- makes the babyboomers feel still young and awesome ;)

Apart from the impressive acoustics of its main hall and rather uncomfortable seats, this building boasts the largest area in Europe devoted to its visitors, audience, fans... That's something you only see in the US (not everywhere tho!) but NEVER in Europe [err... I only saw it in the new Opera in Copenhagen]: there is enough space to mingle, to shop, to eat, to see the poster exhibition... Its spaciousness is as impressive as its catering: very well organized and ridiculously CHEAP (a glass of wine costs you 2€50, 1 Coke is 2€... - to be compared with Paris Opera where a glass of Vittel water will cost you freakin' 5€). There is a separate restaurant adjacent to the theater, but also at the bar inside the theater you can eat during intermissions [I mean eat - like with real plates, forks and knives - N.B. you can order their folkloric sausages/wuerstels too -heh!]

There are several outlets inside the building where you can shop. The offer of CDs & DVDs is great, in addition to many-many books and monographs. So, if you don't stand in the line for your wine, beer & bretzel, or you're tired of mingling during the long intervals & meeting with all kinds of freaky Wagner fans who you already met in Bayreuth, Vienna, London and/or Paris but whom you never said hello to..., well, then you can browse and shop till you drop. You can even leave a glass of your preferred German beer (3€ only!) at the counter while you're checking out the books (cf. pic I posted above) - how snobby is that!? ha ;)

What I especially appreciate there is a very laid-back atmosphere, similar and yet very much different from what you can feel at UDL for example [the atmosphere at UDL is almost identical to what you get in the Parisian theaters]. I should stress that my fav theater in Berlin is the Komische Oper though.

The tickets in the Opera theaters in Berlin --thus including DOB-- are much cheaper than in Paris or in London, while the shows are as good as --and often even better than-- in Paris or in London. When I complain about the steeply priced tics in Paris, the opera-goers have their instant explanation that the reason for such a huge difference [a factor of two!] is that the German theaters are more subsidized by the state --> rubbish explanation of course!

Did I convince you to go to Berlin to see an opera?

Two more shows at the DOB firmly sitting on my must-see list this season are : (1) Lucia di Lammermoor with Diana Damrau and Roberto Alagna in March, and especially (2) new production of his awesomeness Andreas Kriegenburg Otello - with Anja Harteros, Jose Cura, Zeljko Lucic in June [don't take that atrocious PR too seriously. The production will almost certainly be GREAT ;)].


  1. I agree with your comments as I have just got back from an icy wagnerian weekend at the DOB.

    There was vociferous booing at the performance of Rienzi particularly for the Leni Reifenstahl celebrations that ended the first part. Brillaint concept of Rienzi in his bunker for the final acts.

    Theatre is more 60s than 70s and I agree about the uncomfortable seats though at a third of the London cost how can one complain.

  2. Hey John! ;)

    Glad you liked Rienzi too.

    You really think the booing was because of Leni Reifenstahl? I think it's more to do with the fact that many Germans are sick and tired of being constantly reminded of Nazis whenever a reference to Wagner operas is made. Some see it as a tacit message that the best of their culture is poisonous - and, well, they boo. The others instead would simply like to move on.

    Katharina Wagner said something along this line in an interview after the premiere of Rienzi. She goes even farther and says that if the reference to Nazis still rubs some people the wrong way, then it is a proof that Stolzl was right in his approach ;)

    OF COURSE there was a reference to Nazis, but not only! Torsten is a spitting image of Mussolini in this production, isn't he!? ;)

    Will post about Rienzi tomorrow...

  3. I agree with you about the price of the tickets in Berlin.
    For Rienzi I paid 48 Euro in the 2 Rang, row 2,very good view and pretty confortable seats compared to La Sonnambula in Paris where I paid 104 euro for a "strapontine" in the 29 row.

  4. Thanks for inspiring postings on Berlin's great opera houses! Can't help inform you that DOB was actually opened in 1961.

  5. Yes, I got the reference to Mussolini as well particularly in the staging of the overture although this reflected Chaplin's film of the Great Dictator. He did verything but kick the globe around the stage.

    The only other production of Rienzi I have seen was David Poutney's production at ENO which was a more monumental take on 30's fascism.

    Did you see the Tannhauser as well? Clunkingly Medieval at times but the production reached a kind of resolution at the end.

    Rightly in both productions as well as Lohengrin (an elderly production that looked more 70s than anything)the chorus were the real stars.

  6. Hi Everyone! Yes, yes - guilty as charged - DOB was built in 61. HOWEVER (lol!), from today's perspective -to me- the decorative elements look like they come straight from the 70's.

    John, I did NOT stay for Tannhauser because I saw it in May/June, and now I kinda regret it. That production of Tannhauser was pretty shallow to me. Kirsten Harms did not direct the actors at all (especially in that final Act in which the only dramatic action was the change of lights blue<-->red!); it was static and with no clear concept; and boy was that pneumatics annoying (wasn't every scene begin and end with pneumatics?)!
    BUT, but the chorus was definitely unforgettable there. Plus, you were extra lucky to listen to Steve Gould was singing the title role --> you have nothing to complain about :) I wanted to stay for Steve and the chorus, but eventually opted to fly to Brussels to see Elektra...

  7. Having only seen Stephen Gould in Die Tote Stadt at the ROH, I was unprepared for the sheer stamina and heldentenor heft he brought to the role.

    There was a comic mismatch between the lithe figure that floated down into the Venusberg and romped with the corps de ballet, and the actual figure that emerged at the start of the dialogue with Venus. However, in such a static production
    his height and presence commanded the stage, unlike poor shuffling Heppner.

  8. :)

    Steve is a perfect Tannhauser. He sang Siegfried in Bayreuth which is recorded (sounds really fantastic!)

    I might go to see his Siegfried in Vienna (in April). That's the Ring everyone was raving about (the staging is apparently awful but the singing is glorious and Welser-Möst brings the best out of the orchestra.)

    As for Heppner, his night as Lohengrin was really scary. Siegfried and Tristan seem to have damaged him badly :(