In today’s blog post I present three cultural construction sites in Germany. These are “construction sites” in the truest sense of the word – the opera houses in Bayreuth and Stuttgart are being renovated, and a new concert hall is being built in Munich.
The Bayreuth Festspielhaus is special in many ways. Only works by one single composer – Richard Wagner – can be heard here. As part of the annual Bayreuth Festival, Wagner’s musical dramas are performed with top international castings. The Bayreuth Festspielhaus is considered one of the opera houses with the best acoustics in the world – a renovation in such a case is understandably always a delicate matter.
A complete list of the important conducting personalities who have worked in Bayreuth would go beyond the scope of this article – almost all the stars of the scene were active in the Bayreuth Festspielhaus at some point in their careers. Among them are “old masters” like Richard Strauss, very young debutants like Lorin Maazel (who made his Bayreuth debut when he was barely 30 years old!) and today’s Wagner specialists like Christian Thielemann.
The condition of the Bayreuth Festspielhaus has unfortunately been a cause for concern for some time now. The facade was already renovated in 2012. It was recently announced that 85 million euros are also to be invested in the renovation of the interior, where the outdated technology needs to be brought up to date.
Stuttgart State Opera
Opera has a long tradition in Stuttgart: The first opera performance in the capital of Baden-Württemberg took place as early as 1660! In case you would like to expand your specialist knowledge in the field of opera: This was the work Der Raub der Proserpina by Samuel Capricornus. Both the opera and the composer are completely forgotten today – something that is constantly happening in the opera repertoire.
The building of the Stuttgart State Opera in its present appearance was built between 1909 and 1912. The Stuttgart State Opera has always been known for its busy premiere activity – the first version of Richard Strauss‘ Ariadne auf Naxos, for example, received its first performance in Stuttgart. The opera works of the US-American composer Philip Glass are also always a focal point at the Stuttgart State Opera.
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Since the building of the Stuttgart State Opera is now over one hundred years old, renovation is urgently needed. However, as was recently announced, renovation is unlikely to begin before 2025 at the earliest and then continue for five to seven years. The current corona situation in the opera business complicates many important decisions.
Munich Concert Hall
The city of Munich needs a new concert hall – this was decided in 2015 after more than 15 years of laborious discussion. The new Konzerthaus München was actually supposed to be completed in 2021 – instead, construction has been delayed until today. To bridge the waiting time, a Ferris wheel is currently standing on the construction site. This may seem strange at first, but it has almost become a tradition in cultural history: the construction site of the Bucharest Athenaeum, for example, was originally intended for a circus.
The new Munich Concert Hall is to house both the Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Munich Academy of Music. The Bavarian Radio Symphony Orchestra is the largest orchestra of the Bavarian Radio and at the same time a world-class orchestra. Its principal conductors include luminaries such as Sir Colin Davis, Lorin Maazel and Mariss Jansons.
Recently, the planned new concert hall in Munich hit the headlines mainly because costs are expected to be significantly higher than originally anticipated. Problems of this kind are still known from the construction of the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg. Fittingly so: The planned construction of the new Munich concert hall – a box-shaped glass façade on a metal first floor – is likely to have a strong visual resemblance to the Elbphilharmonie.
The future of Germany's cultural landscape
It remains exciting to see how Germany’s cultural construction sites will develop – apart from the three shown here, there are numerous others of smaller dimensions. First and foremost, of course, the audience is delighted with a contemporary and comfortable atmosphere. From the point of view of the performing musician, it should be added that modern buildings with good room acoustics and high-quality infrastructure are important for achieving top performances.
Modernizing the cultural landscape is therefore always to be welcomed in my opinion – even if, as shown here, it almost always represents an organizational and political Herculean task.