From outside, the Komische Oper on Behrenstraße, parallel to the Unter den Linden boulevard, almost resembles a white-cube gallery – but the interior is very different! The attractive neo-baroque auditorium, which dates from 1882, provides a perfect setting for imaginative performances transporting audiences into the magical world of opera.
The site has a long theatrical tradition going back centuries. When the reconstructed opera house was re-opened in 1947 as the Komische Oper, General Director Walter Felsenstein was totally committed to creating productions where the music and the action on stage were equal partners. Today, Artistic Director Barrie Kosky is preserving yet revitalising this historical legacy. Taking an innovative approach, he embraces this tradition of Musiktheater as ranging from baroque opera to high-spirited operettas and the supposedly ‘shallow’ genre of musicals.
Barrie Kosky has also revived elements of the pre-war programme, re-discovering and staging works by Jewish composers banned by the Nazi regime. Thanks to this diversity, the Komische Oper has become a magnet for a widely international audience. While previously only German-language works were shown, the Komische Oper is now in the vanguard of venues where all seats are equipped with an integrated translation display. The displays, with individual controls, are fitted with a masking foil so they do not disturb those sitting nearby. The translations are available in English, French, German and Turkish.
A repertoire fusing sense and sensibility
Since 2012, Australian theatre and opera director Barrie Kosky has applied his passion and expertise to honing the Komische Oper’s profile. Not only does he have a talent for staging unjustly forgotten or less well known pieces, but brings well-loved favourites into the modern era. The playful elements he introduced into his 2012 staging of Mozart’s Die Zauberflöte (Magic Flute), including animated graphics and a great love of detail, has resulted in a production of this classic opera which is both a firm fixture in the repertoire and a huge success on worldwide tours.
Together with its enthusiasm for expanding the traditional borders of opera, operetta and musicals, the Komische Oper is also renowned for its high quality standards. Its dedication to perfection was crowned with the influential Opernwelt magazine naming it Opera House of the Year in 2013 – the second time the Komische Oper has won this accolade since 2007, at that time under Artistic Director Andreas Homoki. In addition, the Komische Oper was awarded the much-coveted Opera Company prize at the International Opera Awards in 2015. The General Music Director at the Komische Oper is the Hungarian conductor Henrik Nánási.
A venue with a long tradition
The first theatre on the Behrenstraße site was opened in the seventeenth century, primarily staging operettas and Singspiel, a form of German-language music drama. In 1898, reconstructed and renamed the Metropol Theatre, this became a venue legendary for its popular satirical annual revues. After the First World War, the repertoire focused particularly on operettas.
Under the Nazi regime, all German Jewish performers and musicians were banned from working in the theatre. As the bombing raids intensified at the end of the Second World War, the opera house was closed permanently. At this time, the foyer and entrance area were severely damaged. In the mid-1960s, architect Kunz Nierade redesigned the front of the building, creating the look it has today. The main auditorium, which seats 1190, largely escaped the war damage and is today a heritage building.
Information for school classes
Dedicated tours for school classes not only explore the opera house on the audience side of the curtain, but also take a look at life back stage. For pupils and teachers, concert rehearsals with the conductor explaining the music being played are an especial highlight and offer a fascinating insight into the work of a conductor and orchestra.