Explore 250 years of opera history! While Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden is extensively renovated, take a peek behind the scenes on a special tour.
How do you renovate a heritage opera house to meet today’s demanding technical standards? And what can you see behind the construction site fence on Berlin’s Unter den Linden boulevard? In the very heart of Berlin, you can gain a new insight into backstage life at an opera house!
Construction site tours
On Sundays and public holidays, you can join one of the regular guided tours (in German) to view the present state of renovation work in the opera house. On the construction site tours, you can view the elaborate stage equipment and magnificent auditorium, and discover some of the building’s special features, such as pile foundations in the basement, which support the weight of the building and are needed to cope with Berlin’s high water table.
Over 250 years of tradition
Today’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden, one of the most attractive buildings on Berlin’s historic boulevard, was originally the court opera house commissioned by no less a figure than Frederick the Great. Designed by architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff, the opera house was constructed from 1741 to 1743. Rightly renowned for his patronage of the arts and sciences, Frederick had the court opera house integrated into his larger Forum Fridericianum project, creating a new urban centre with a library, cathedral and palace. The neo-classical opera house, which resembles an ancient temple, was Germany’s first free-standing opera house and the largest in Europe at the time.
In a disastrous fire in 1843, the opera house was nearly burnt to the ground. Architect Carl Ferdinand Langhans was then entrusted with the task of rebuilding the opera house on the same site. During the Second World War, the building suffered extensive and severe damage. In the 1950s, the East German government then launched a scheme to rebuild the opera house following Knobelsdorff’s original plans.
Hosting great names in the history of music
Down the centuries, many illustrious composers and conductors have been associated with the opera house, including:
- Carl Heinrich Graun
- Giacomo Meyerbeer
- Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy
- Richard Strauss
- Wilhelm Furtwängler, and
- Herbert von Karajan.
The Staatsoper Unter den Linden’s General Music Director is Daniel Barenboim, elected in 2000 by the Staatskapelle Berlin as their principal conductor for life. The Artistic Director is presently Jürgen Flimm. He is due to be succeeded by Mathias Schulz, at present managing and artistic director of the Mozarteum in Salzburg.
The most beautiful stage setting
The golden stars across the deep blue night-time sky in Mozart’s Zauberflöte (Magic Flute) are renowned as the opera house’s most famous and beautiful stage setting – and based on a design going back to the early nineteenth-century architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel! The current production of the Zauberflöte in the Staatsoper also includes Schinkel’s legendary starry sky which still shines and glitters in all its glory when the Queen of the Night appears to hit the high notes!
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