Old opera

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The Alte Oper, seen from the southeast, April 2011

The Alte Oper on Opernplatz in Frankfurt am Main is a concert and event venue. It was built from 1873 to 1880 as the opera house of the municipal theaters and destroyed in an air raid in 1944 . While the Frankfurt Opera was given a new venue on Theaterplatz in 1951 , the opera house remained in ruins for a long time. Reconstruction began in 1976 and was completed in 1981.


The planning for a new opera house

Frankfurt's first permanent theater building, the Comoedienhaus on Theaterplatz , which opened in 1782, met the requirements of Frankfurt's citizens for more than 80 years. In the parquet, the parquet boxes, two tiers and a gallery, it offered around 1000 seats. In 1854 the citizens successfully defended themselves against plans for a new building.

After the annexation of the Free City of Frankfurt by Prussia, the Frankfurter Receß of March 1869 sparked a new discussion. The compulsory incorporation of the formerly sovereign city into the Prussian province of Hesse-Nassau was perceived as a humiliation by the self-confident Frankfurt citizens. The economic prospects of the city, which was dependent on trade and finance, were uncertain, especially since its finances were burdened by an enormous war contribution of 5.8 million guilders raised by Prussia, which had to be raised by only around 8,000 taxable citizens. With the law of March 1869, Frankfurt received not only the contribution back, but also compensation of three million guilders for the state assets of the Free City claimed by the Prussian state. On December 14, 1869, the new Lord Mayor Daniel Heinrich Mumm von Schwarzenstein, appointed by the Prussian King, suggested building a new theater. On December 23, 1869, a group of 67 wealthy citizens gathered in the hall and founded a support association for the new theater. By January 12, 1870, donations totaling 480,000 guilders were collected. The opera house thus marks the beginning of a series of representative building projects from the early days after the Peace of Frankfurt in 1871, with which the city compensated for its loss of political importance.

Construction project

Construction of the opera house, around 1877
Opera Square around 1900

At the beginning of the planning, Frankfurt had around 80,000 inhabitants, which had grown to 100,000 by 1873. Accordingly, it was planned to design the new building for around 2000 spectators, twice the size of the previous theater. The Royal Opera House built by Carl Ferdinand Langhans in Berlin, the Leipzig Opera House also built by Langhans and the City Theater Hamburg by Carl Ludwig Wimmel were used as comparative buildings . As a result, a floor area of ​​33,000 square feet was planned for the new Frankfurt building, 14,000 of which for the auditorium, 13,000 for the stage and 6,000 for the ancillary rooms including the stairs, foyer and vestibule. The construction costs were estimated at about 18 to 20 guilders per square foot, which resulted in a total cost of about 660,000 guilders. On the ground floor, first and second tier, a total of 85 boxes were to be created, 67 of which were to be reserved for life for the members of the friends' association. The Rahmhof in the north-western part of the New Town was initially planned as the construction site, and its early modern houses were to be demolished to create a rectangular square 300 feet wide and 450 feet long. After about six months of planning interruption during the war of 1870 , the city announced limited competition in early 1871 . The initially requested Gottfried Semper and Friedrich Hitzig declined due to lack of time, but made themselves available for the arbitration tribunal. Johann Heinrich Strack (Berlin), Gustav Gugitz (Vienna), Gédéon Bordiau (Brussels), Otto Brückwald (Altenburg) and Heinrich Burnitz (Frankfurt am Main) have now been invited to participate. The Berlin architect Richard Lucae took the place of Gugitz, who canceled due to illness . On August 14, 1871, the arbitral tribunal met in the hall to examine the five submitted drafts. It unanimously selected Lucaes in the neo-renaissance style, but required some changes that affected the staircase and the box hall. It also decided to reduce the award of 1250 thalers for the winning design to 500 thalers, "because the project we preferred had not been found to be in all respects". The remainder of the bonus was recommended "as a special recognition of their achievements to be distributed to their fellow competitors."

On January 5, 1872, Lucae submitted the revised plans. He enlarged the portal to create space for the representation rooms requested by the commission. At the beginning of 1872, the Frankfurt Chamber of Commerce proposed an exchange of land. She had acquired a piece of land in front of the Bockenheimer Tor to build the new stock exchange and offered it to the theater building commission in exchange for the Rahmhof. As Lucae also strongly supported the exchange, the commission accepted the offer. The change of location required another revision of the plans. On May 31, 1872, the magistrate approved Lucae's third draft.

On June 6, 1872, the city council approved the project at the new location in the ramparts. Previously, there had already been sharp criticism in the press of the lack of detailed plans and a reliable construction cost calculation. The criticism was directed against the architect, not against the luxurious wishes of the building commission. “If Professor Lucae, who is to be in charge of the entire building, would be unable to submit a detailed cost estimate before the start of the work, then the city - honoring his artistic talent - would not need him as a practical builder. Every builder who has drawn up the plan for a building and knows exactly its internal and external appearance must be able to provide such a cost estimate; however, any schoolchild would be of use to the ridiculous calculation that the theater building commission put up. ”In fact, at this point in time only a rough estimate of the building costs of around 1.8 million marks was available.

Essential details of the construction were still unclear, for example the exact number and location of the boxes, seats and standing areas as well as the entrances and stairs. In the spring of 1873, the first earthworks began on the construction site. The planner of the heating and ventilation system withdrew from the project, his successor died before he could finish the planning. A tender for the ventilation system among five competitors did not produce a useful result. In May 1874, the construction work had to be interrupted for about a year. Albrecht Becker , a pupil of Lucae, took over the construction management and worked out the planning of the heating and ventilation himself based on the example of the Vienna Opera House. In the meantime the fifth construction loan was used up and the construction costs exceeded all expectations. When Lucae died unexpectedly on November 26th, 1877, the shell of the building was only finished. Eduard Giesenberg carried out the interior design based on Lucae's designs. He modestly signed all of his designs with Lucae invenit, Giesenberg sculpsit (“Lucae designed it, Giesenberg carried out”).

The dispute over the construction costs brought the art-loving Lord Mayor Mumm von Schwarzenstein, who initiated the project and, against all odds, always promoted it, for his re-election. On November 13, 1879, the city council elected the thrifty administration expert Johannes Miquel as his successor. Mumm von Schwarzenstein resigned from office at the end of his term on February 26, 1880.

Opera house 1880–1944

The old opera in 1943, shortly before it was destroyed

On October 20, 1880, the building was opened with Mozart's opera Don Giovanni under the musical direction of Otto Dessoff . Among the invited guests to the inauguration was the German Kaiser Wilhelm I. Artistic Director Emil Claar later recalled: “When entering the gleaming stairwell, Kaiser Wilhelm, standing for a long time, looked up and said to me: 'I could do that in Berlin do not allow.' "

On November 27, 1882, the final account was available. Including the neighboring decoration house and the outdoor facilities, 6,810,423.92 marks had been spent, which was offset by income of 518,246 marks from the sale of the building sites on Opernplatz and Hochstrasse and 857,142 marks in grants from the lodge tenants. 5,433,035 marks remained at the expense of the city budget. The citizens of Frankfurt were therefore initially reserved about the opera house. For example, the inscription on the roof frieze, “The true beautiful good” , which goes back to Plato , prompted the Frankfurt poet Adolf Stoltze to create his dialect version of the true, shame, good, the Berjerschaft must bleed. But the building also became a symbol of the increased self-confidence of the citizens under the unpopular Prussian rule.

The opera house was the site of numerous world premieres , such as B. that of Carl Orff's Carmina Burana in 1937.

War destruction

The ruins of the old opera in 1958

During the Second World War , games under Artistic Director Hans Meissner continued after the air raids on Frankfurt am Main . On January 28, 1944, the curtain fell for the last time after a performance of Don Giovanni , the work with which the opera house opened in 1880. The next day it was so badly damaged that it was no longer possible to perform. The city immediately started repairs and wanted to make the house playable again by April. While construction was still going on, the backdrop house on the east side of the Opernplatz was hit by an air raid on the night of March 18-19, 1944. It burned out completely, but the fire brigade was able to prevent the fire from spreading to the opera house and the surrounding blocks.

In another heavy air raid on March 22, 1944, high explosive bombs hit the northeast corner project, which was completely destroyed. Incendiary bombs set the framework and interior fittings on fire, which spread rapidly and seized the entire building. Photos that were taken immediately after the US troops marched into the ruins in March 1945 show, however, that the magnificent staircase in particular survived the fire to some extent. The marble staircase was covered with rubble from the collapsed roof and walls, but many of the candelabra, sconces and decorations remained intact. Urgent security work was not carried out, however, as the destroyed city had other priorities to ensure the food and housing supplies for the population. The Frankfurt Opera was able to resume its performance on September 29, 1945 with a performance of Tosca in the hall of the grain exchange, which had remained undamaged .

In June 1946, Lord Mayor Kurt Blaum declared that rebuilding the opera house was out of the question for the time being. Instead, the opera should be relocated to the previous theater , which could later be expanded into a common house for opera and drama and supplemented with a grand piano. According to a proposal published in the spring of 1946, the ruins of the opera house could later be converted into a congress center with a concert hall for 2,000 visitors.

Conflict over reconstruction

The reconstruction discussion dragged on for almost 30 years. Instead of securing the ruins, the magistrate left them to scrap dealers for slaughter in 1946. Over 400 tons of “worthless iron parts” were broken out and disposed of as “scrap”, including steel frames for the spectator tiers, supply lines, the copper coverings of the wall crowns and all of the preserved candlesticks, railings and other jewelry made of non-ferrous metals. It was only after the currency reform in 1948 that a board of trustees for the reconstruction of the municipal theaters was founded under the direction of Mayor Walter Kolb . For financial reasons, the magistrate initially concentrated on the restoration of the theater, which was intended as a new venue for the opera. In October 1949 the city council approved DM 1.4 million for the first construction phase. At the same time, the magistrate was considering removing the ruins of the opera house entirely and creating a parking lot in its place; To secure the ruin, 200,000 DM are required, which are not available.

On February 13, 1950, the magistrate even decided to close the municipal theaters and permanently suspend all construction work. After public protests and a signature campaign by the affected artists and the Frankfurt daily newspapers, the magistrate revoked its decision. In July 1950, the city council ended this “Frankfurt theater crisis” and approved a further 2 million marks for the further construction of the opera in the old theater, which opened on December 23, 1951 with a performance of the Meistersinger von Nürnberg .

The reconstruction of the ruins of the opera house was therefore politically and financially impossible for the foreseeable future, as the budget situation in the city remained tense and no further major cultural projects were possible. That is why Frankfurt citizens, under the leadership of City Councilor Max Flesch-Thebesius, founded the “Save the Opera House” committee in 1952 1946 and the years of weather influences had suffered considerable damage.

"Save the Opera House"

“Save the Opera House”: appeal for donations by the citizens' initiative of the same name in the 1950s

From July 1953, the citizens' initiative collected for reconstruction with the help of the Polytechnic Society and well-known supporters from the Frankfurt citizenship. At that time Thomas Mann wrote to Flesch-Thebesius:

“For me, memories of earlier dramatic impressions are associated with the Frankfurt Opera House. On a vacation trip with my parents there, half a boy, I heard Wagner's 'Flying Dutchman' for the first time - in a very wonderful performance in my provincial terms. Even then, the image of the magnificent building in which this miracle took place impressed itself on me forever ... The war fate of the building, which is probably one of the best that the 19th century, which was in need of historical reference, touched me and I I feel with the art experts who wish to see what remained of it, the gleaming coat of the building ... So, please, include me among those for the respectful preservation of the opera building, which is still in its present, painfully battered condition The highlight of harmonious architecture remains, and which has been cleverly called 'the clasp in the precious belt of the city's body', the Frankfurt facilities, is a true matter of the heart. "

- Thomas Mann : Letter from Thomas Mann to Max Flesch-Thebesius

By April 1954, 150,000 DM had been raised in donations. Despite the prominent mentors, the money raised wasn't even enough to secure the ruin, let alone rebuild it. A design by Gerhard Weber presented in October 1953 provided for the facade and staircase to be retained and a concert hall measuring 50 by 28 meters for around 2000 visitors to be created at the height of the foyer; a smaller hall with 600 seats and an intimate theater with around 250 seats were to transform the opera house into a cultural center. Weber put the probable costs at 4.5 to 5 million DM; the city building department questioned the cost calculation and estimated the cost at 15 to 18 million. In September 1954 Flesch-Thebesius handed over the 150,000 DM collected to Mayor Kolb; he accepted the money, but announced a week later that the reconstruction of the opera house would not begin until the housing shortage had been resolved. The city did not want to provide the 23,000 DM missing for a provisional roof from its own funds, but had other security work carried out on the ruin with the donated money.

In the second half of the 1950s, the Frankfurt Opera moved back to the front row of European opera houses under its General Music Director Georg Solti , while the theater still relied on its cramped, makeshift venues. The building construction department continued to reject the reconstruction of the opera and in these years concentrated entirely on the conversion of the former theater on Theaterplatz used by the opera into a double theater, which was decided in 1956 . The foundation stone was laid in 1960, and the new theater and the Kammerspiel were inaugurated in 1963.

The opera house remained in ruins until further notice. In 1964 the citizens' initiative “Aktiongemeinschaft Opernhaus Frankfurt am Main e. V. ”with high-ranking representatives from business, trade unions, culture and Frankfurt citizens under the chairmanship of Fritz Dietz . In the first two years, seven million D-Marks could be raised for the maintenance and restoration of the ruins. By the time it reopened, donations of 15 million D-Marks were collected. This was the largest citizens' initiative in the Federal Republic in the cultural field; on March 15, 1982 it disbanded. In 1965, the then Hessian Minister of Economics, Rudi Arndt , spoke to Dietz at an opera premiere and was then quoted in the Frankfurter Rundschau: "If you blow that thing up, I'll give a million for the dynamite ." This is how he got his nickname "Dynamit-Rudi “, Which he later never got rid of, despite all the assurances that he had never seriously suggested the demolition.


In 1968, with the donations that had been collected in the meantime, urgently needed cleaning and maintenance work on the soot-blackened facade began. In 1970 Walter Möller was elected mayor of Frankfurt. In his inaugural address on July 9th, the left-wing Social Democrat committed himself to the reconstruction of the Alte Oper, which he had previously publicly endorsed. He formed an advisory group of influential party friends, including the banker Walter Hesselbach and the architect Inge Voigt. He also appointed Hilmar Hoffmann as head of culture in Frankfurt.

After Möller's unexpected death in 1971, Arndt was his successor. He finally got the reconstruction underway. In 1976 Helmut Braun and Martin Schlockermann were commissioned to rebuild the ruins as a concert and congress center. General manager Ulrich Schwab's work slogan was the best, most modern of all . The commitment of the star acoustician Heinrich Keilholz alone made the item “electroacoustics” more expensive from 1.8 to 2.8 million Deutschmarks.

Under the directorship of Ulrich Schwab, the house was reopened as the "Alte Oper" on August 28, 1981 in the presence of the then Federal President Karl Carstens with Gustav Mahler's 8th Symphony . Frank Zappa's last project The Yellow Shark was premiered here in September 1992 by Ensemble Modern with the participation of the composer.

Today concerts, including concert performances, congresses and guest performances take place there on a regular basis. In addition to the Alte Oper, four concert promoters play in the house: the Frankfurter Bach Concerts, the Frankfurter Museums-Gesellschaft , the Hessischer Rundfunk and the PRO ARTE Frankfurter Konzertdirektion.

The wood-paneled large hall seats around 2,500 spectators. Among them there is the Mozart Hall with approx. 700 seats, which is used for chamber music , and a number of smaller halls for congress purposes.

Building description

Building material

The opera house, which opened in 1880, consists predominantly of double-walled brickwork : a 15 to 20 centimeter thick cladding made of Savonnières was placed on a supporting shell made of bricks . The white-yellow, fine-grain limestone from Lorraine came from French reparations payments after the Franco-German War of 1870/71 . The stones were broken underground. The same material was also used for the stone figures and reliefs . Harder limestone from other Lorraine quarries was used for more heavily stressed building elements: the stone for the base comes from Lérouville , for the door frames of the main entrance from Reffroy and for the staircase in front of the entrance from Euville .

The light French limestone was an unusual material for Frankfurt. All major representative buildings in the city, such as the cathedral , the Römer , the Paulskirche or the stock exchange , were built in red Main sandstone . But it was easier to work with than traditional sandstone. Over time, the shell limestone darkens and forms an ivory-colored patina . During the reconstruction, the facades, weathered by air pollution, had to be cleaned over a large area and damaged or destroyed parts of the facade had to be replaced. The stones for the reconstruction came from the same quarry as the original. However, new and old components can be clearly identified by their color differences.


The opera house consists of two nested structures. The rectangular core, covered by a flat gable roof, comprised the main rooms of the staircase , auditorium and stage . Today it takes up the halls and interior foyers. It is surrounded by a two-storey shell structure, which is provided with porches on all four sides and forms the actual facade of the building. The ground floor consists of the base, the base cornice and a rustication made of stone blocks in a stretcher bond , interrupted by recessed windows. A circumferential balustrade runs over the beams of the main floor, concealing the flat monopitch roofs of the cladding building.

On the long sides, two three-axis risalits protrude 4.70 meters from the wall at the beginning and end . On the south side, the shell structure expands by a further 8.60 meters. The main facade consists of a five-axis, gable-crowned risalit, to which a three-axis tunnel with a balcony is presented. This covered driveway is 12.86 meters wide and 5.85 meters deep. It has one open arcade on each side and three open arcades on the front . The three arcades at the back lead into the interior of the building. Leading to the side entrances ramps allowed the right of way of carriages, while from the forecourt to the three entrance arcades to get a five-step staircase.

Two convex quarter-circle walls, each with three window axes, lead over to the long sides of the 20.92-meter-wide central risalit. Risalit and quarter-circle arches are uniformly designed: on the ground floor, the ashlar of the masonry runs in an arc around the arcade and ends in a keystone decorated with a mask relief. The main floor of the central risalit is a five-axis portico with half-columns between the arcades and corner pilasters . The five arcades form a loggia . The half-columns and corner pilasters of the risalit correspond to three-quarter columns on the arched side walls between the three arched windows and pilasters at the corners. The main floor on the side walls and side projections is also adorned with pilasters. All columns and pilasters on the main floor are in Corinthian order .

At the rear of the building, a three-axis, 12.96 meter wide central projection protrudes from the wall surface by 2.40 meters. The entire building is a maximum of 100.31 meters long and 47.46 meters wide, the height above the floor edge is a maximum of 34 meters. The built-up area is approx. 4000 square meters.

inside rooms

The entrance leads to the vestibule . The room, decorated with cross ribs, extends over the five axes of the central risalit and is one axis deep. The cash registers are located in the two outer axes. Five arched doors lead to the vestibule , which, including the two quarter-circle entrances on both sides, is 19 meters wide, 8.50 meters deep and 6.50 meters high. The walls are adorned with pilasters with a base and corinthian stucco capitals, the coffered ceiling is also made of stucco. The vestibule and vestibule were reconstructed during the reconstruction from 1976 to 1981.

Main staircase

Staircase of the opera house, as it was in 1879

The magnificently decorated staircase was already in the core building. It extended over seven axes in width and five axes in depth, corresponding to 28 and 18 meters. The height was 16.50 meters. It took up a fifth of the total length of the building. The stairs were led in six runs, each 3.50 meters wide, around the central entrance to the parquet and to the barrier seats . The two side flights of stairs led to the level of the ground floor boxes , the upper four flights over a middle platform with a change of direction to the boxes in the first tier at the level of the main floor. The stairwell was not rebuilt after the destruction. Today the foyers on levels 1, 2 and 3 are located here.

Main foyer

The reconstructed main foyer is located on the main floor above the vestibule and accordingly has the same dimensions of five axes wide and two axes deep. The model for its architectural design was probably the Sala di Galatea in the Roman Villa Farnesina , which Lucae knew from his travels in Italy. Access was from the first level stairwell, today from the foyer on level 3.

Auditorium and stage

Although the auditorium was rather small by today's standards, it offered space for more than 2000 visitors due to its dense, staggered seating and its four tiers. The horseshoe-shaped ranking system that spanned the entire room up to the proscenia was designed as a clad steel frame construction. The boxes on the ground floor and in the first and second tier were reserved for donors and box tenants, the rest of the public only had access to the stalls and the third floor. Rank and to the gallery. The boxes each offered space for four people, with the exception of the elaborately designed foreign box in the middle of the 1st and 2nd tier, which was lavishly decorated on special occasions, for example as an imperial box for the opening of the opera house. The 24 proscenium boxes, including 8 double boxes, which were particularly popular with the public, offered space for 128 spectators. Access to the II. And III. The first floor and the gallery were via side corridors, which were accessed by stairwells in the side elevations. The transition to the foyer and the main staircase was possible for all spectators on the main floor on the first level. The stage opening was 12.50 meters high and 15 meters wide. The stage frame, stuccoed in gold, was the work of the Frankfurt painter Karl Julius Grätz . Together with the backstage, the stage area was 28 meters deep, 28 meters wide and 35 meters high.

The main curtain, based on a design by Eduard von Steinle , showed figures with scenes from Goethe's Faust. In the front left, as in the prelude to the theater, a theater director, a poet and a fool were discussing , followed attentively by a prompter , while on the right a group of different musicians and stage subjects were preparing for their performance, for example the lover, the hero, the Soubrette and the mother.

Below the auditorium on the ground floor were the machine rooms of the ventilation system with the mixing chamber, in which the air fed into the interior was filtered and tempered, as well as the machinery of the lower stage. The entire building had two basement floors, which were used as heating, ventilation and storage rooms. The ancillary and functional rooms in the shell building included reception rooms, cloakrooms, rehearsal rooms and offices.

The lighting system in the auditorium was particularly complex. A magnificent chandelier with 300 gas lights hung from the ceiling . An additional 18 sunburners were installed in a circle around the ceiling suspension of the chandelier , particularly bright gas lamps, the waste heat of which was dissipated to the roof via a conical tube. On the sides of the proscenium eight six- flame wall chandeliers were installed, in the colonnade of the III. Ranges 17 each with two-flame traffic lights. Each box also had a single gas lamp on the back wall.

During the reconstruction as a concert and congress hall, the well-preserved remains of the staircase, auditorium and stage were completely gutted. In its place, a reinforced concrete structure was built, which contains three foyers in addition to the Great Hall with 2,434 seats and the Mozart Hall with 718 seats. The former rehearsal rooms in the rear side elevations are used as salons with 72 seats each for events.


In 1880, the company EF Walcker & Cie. (Ludwigsburg) introduced a small organ with ten stops on a manual and pedal . In 1938 an extension to 14 registers followed. Today's organ was built in 1981 by the Karl Schuke company (Berlin) as Opus 357. The lower half of the octagonal opening in the front of the podium is dominated by the free pipe prospect . Above this, four small fields with mirror-inverted pipes can be seen on a latticework. The instrument has 62 registers with a total of around 4700 pipes, which are distributed over three manuals and pedal. In addition to the fixed console at the organ, which is installed in the middle below the prospectus, there is a free-standing console on the podium. A wind reduction can be selected for the entire plant. The organ has mechanical slider chest and an electric Register contracture . The disposition is as follows:

I main work C – a 3
Praestant 16 ′
Drone 16 ′
Principal 8th'
Flûte Harmonique 8th'
Double flute 8th'
Fifth 5 13
octave 4 ′
Reed flute 4 ′
third 3 15
Super octave 2 ′
Rauschpfeife II 2 23
Mixture VI – VIII 2 ′
Scharff IV 23
Cornett V (from f)
Trumpet 16 ′
Trumpet 8th'
Trumpet 4 ′
II Positive C – a 3
Principal 8th'
Dumped 8th'
Quintad 8th'
octave 4 ′
Pointed flute 4 ′
Nazard 2 23
Super octave 2 ′
Forest flute 2 ′
third 1 35
Larigot 1 13
Sifflet 1'
Scharff IV – V 1 13
Cymbel III 14
Dulcian 16 ′
Cromorne 8th'
III Swell C – a 3
Drone 16 ′
Violin principal 8th'
Reed flute 8th'
Viol 8th'
Vox Celestis (from c) 8th'
octave 4 ′
Night horn 4 ′
viola 4 ′
Piccolo 2 ′
Sesquialtera II
Fittings V. 2 23
Basson 16 ′
Trumpet Harmonique 8th'
Hautbois 8th'
Chamade 8th'
Clairon 4 ′
Pedal C – g 1
Pedestal 32 ′
Principal 16 ′
Sub bass 16 ′
Subtle bass 16 ′
octave 8th'
Bass flute 8th'
Super octave 4 ′
Pipe bare 4 ′
Night horn 2 ′
Backset V 4 ′
Bombard 32 ′
trombone 16 ′
Trumpet 8th'
Field trumpet 4 ′

Building plastic

The figure program can be divided into two thematically different zones. The figures on the core building all belong to a mythological theme. The gable of the main facade was crowned by a pegasus cast in zinc until it was destroyed in 1944 . The work of Ludwig Brunow shows the moment when the winged horse with its hoofbeat lets the Hippocrene spring, which is a source of inspiration for poetry and sacred to Apollo and the muses . In 1981 Georg Hüter redesigned the figure based on the lost model. However, according to the judgment of the then Frankfurt monument protector Heinz Schomann, the re -creation turned into a "Pegasus thickened from fiery thoroughbred to lazy cold-blooded."

The back gable carried a group of figures by Friedrich Schierholz : a female figure as a symbol of poetry teaches a genius. The gable relief below comes from Karl Rumpf . In the middle it shows the three Parzen Atropos, Klotho and Lachesis, to the left and right of them figures who personify the different ages: Cupid and Psyche , birth, youth, manhood and death. While the figures in the left gable stand for the cheerful life, the group in the right gable symbolizes the seriousness of life.

The relief in the front gable, a work by Gustav Kaupert , shows in the middle the three Charites Aglaia , Euphrosyne and Thalia , standing and entwined by a wreath of blooming roses. The figures in the gable on the left represent the comedy , a reluctant panther whom two cupids lead to Bacchus , who is joined by Jokus , the god of jokes. The figures in the right pediment stand for the tragic poetry : a genius of death with a lowered torch and a tragedy mask, next to an elderly woman - symbol of guilt - in whose lap a young woman throws herself, while a fury lurks on her right .

On both sides of the gable and above the side projections there are eight groups of figures, each consisting of three naked genii, who hold hands and stand back to back around a candelabra . The originals by Emil Hundrieser were destroyed during the war and replaced by copies during the reconstruction, but without the gas torches, which used to be festively illuminated on special occasions.

Below the gable field, four niches are set into the facade of the core building on the front side, as well as on the sides and on the back. The 16 niches accommodate allegorical women in antique garments: on the main facade tragedy , comedy , dance and poetry , on the west side truth , vanity , happiness and honor , on the north side vengeance , music , terpsichore and calliope and on the east side fairy tales , folk songs , Saga and history . The figures come from Gustav Herold , Heinrich Petry , Wilhelm Schwind , Rudolf Eckhardt and Friedrich Schierholz. The facade is decorated with sgraffito between the figure niches .

The gable of the mantle building was originally decorated with a cast zinc group of figures of Apollon musagetes on a chariot pulled by two griffins . The work of the Berlin sculptor Erdmann Encke was lost in the war. Even at the opening of the opera house, critics complained that the griffins, who were preparing to leap into the air, took an attitude as if they were “preparing to perform a four-handed piano piece”, and Friedrich Stoltze disrespectfully referred to the group of figures as Apollo in the Badebütt .

The panther quadriga by Franz Krüger , which was placed on the gable during the reconstruction , was originally located on the theater built in 1902 on the Gallusanlage . It was sold in 1962 when the Art Nouveau facade of the theater was demolished in Wehrheim , where it stood in a garden for around 10 years. In 1973 it was given to a scrap dealer in Nieder-Eschbach , where a photographer from the Frankfurter Rundschau discovered it by chance. A request to the city ​​archives confirmed that it was actually the lost quadriga of the theater. Since the city's cultural budget did not raise the required purchase price of 25,000 marks, the “Aktiongemeinschaft Alte Oper” acquired the work of art from the scrap dealer and had it placed on the gable.

Gustav Herold created two female figures for the acroteries of the gable, Recha from Lessing's Nathan the Wise and Isabella from Schiller's The Bride of Messina . The relief in the gable is by Erich Hundrieser. In the center is the Frankfurt city arms , on which two lying naked male figures lean, allegorical representations of the rivers Main and Rhine . The frieze below the gable relief bears the inscription DEM TRUE SCHOENEN GUTEN , a modified quote from Goethe's poem Epilogue to Schiller's Bell . The dedicatory dative form is to be understood as a homage to the most famous Frankfurt resident, who was also director of the Weimar court stage. The original facade designs of the opera house still bore the slogan APOLLINI ET MUSIS DEDICATUM OPUS ANNO MDCCCLXXI , a conventional Latin dedication to Apollo and the muses with the year that was customary at the time. Critics criticized the dedication that was ultimately chosen, since the theater is ultimately not dedicated to the truth, but to the cult of beautiful deception .

The facade of the main floor is decorated with 24 medallions above the window axes on the front and back as well as on the four side elevations, which were made by the sculptors Gustav Herold, Max Wiese and Ludwig Tendlau . They show portraits of famous playwrights and composers from all eras. Among the eleven composers are three French ( Auber , Boieldieu , Méhul ), three Italian ( Cherubini , Rossini , Spontini ) and five German ( Beethoven , Gluck , Meyerbeer and Weber ). Of the thirteen playwrights, three ( Aeschylus , Sophocles and Euripides ) represent the classical drama of antiquity; In addition to Shakespeare, the modern age is represented by two Spanish ( Lope de Vega , Calderon ), three French ( Corneille , Molière and Racine ) and four German poets ( Lessing , Schiller , Kleist , Grillparzer ). Three medallions were destroyed when the northeast facade collapsed in 1944 (Euripides, Sophocles and Aeschylus) and reconstructed in 1980 from photographs.

Two important artists did not receive medallions, but larger-than-life statues in the outer arcades of the main facade: on the right, Goethe , a work by Gustav Herold, on the left, Mozart by Friedrich Schierholz.



Web links

Commons : Alte Oper (Frankfurt am Main)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Anton Heinrich Emil von Oven : The first municipal theater in Frankfurt am Main. A contribution to the external history of the Frankfurt theater 1751–1872. In: New Year's Gazette of the Association for History and Antiquity in Frankfurt am Main for the year 1872.
  2. Law on the dispute between the state and the city of Frankfurt am Main from 5./10. March 1869 . (No. 7344). In: Collection of Laws for the Royal Prussian States . Berlin March 5, 1869, p. 379-392 ( digitized version ).
  3. Municipal file U 512 I, 19r – 20r. According to the old Frankfurt measure, 33,000 square feet correspond to 2,673 square meters, according to the Prussian measure 3250 square meters.
  4. Christine Wolf Di Cecca: The Frankfurt "Old Opera". Construction monograph of an opera house 1869–1880 (= studies on Frankfurt history. 39). Waldemar Kramer Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 1997, ISBN 3-7829-0451-6 , p. 18 16.
  5. Frankfurt Observer. June 5, 1872, quoted from Wolf di Cecca: The Frankfurt “Alte Oper”. 1997, p. 18.
  6. Waldemar Kramer (Ed.): Frankfurt Chronik. 3rd, exp. Edition. Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-7829-0321-8 , p. 361.
  7. Wilfried Ehrlich: Old Opera - New House. Report on an event in Frankfurt. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-421-02583-5 , pp. 18-19.
  8. ^ A b c Albert Richard Mohr : The Frankfurt Opera House 1880–1980. Kramer, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-7829-0232-7 , pp. 300-301.
  9. Wilfried Ehrlich: Old Opera - New House. Report on an event in Frankfurt. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-421-02583-5 , p. 13.
  10. a b History of the Municipal Theaters ( Memento from February 4, 2012 in the Internet Archive )
  11. Quoted from Albert Richard Mohr : Das Frankfurter Opernhaus 1880–1980. Kramer, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-7829-0232-7 , p. 311.
  12. ^ A b c Albert Richard Mohr : The Frankfurt Opera House 1880–1980. Kramer, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-7829-0232-7 , p. 312.
  13. Wilfried Ehrlich: Old Opera - New House. Report on an event in Frankfurt. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-421-02583-5 , p. 12.
  14. Wilfried Ehrlich: Old Opera - New House. Report on an event in Frankfurt. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-421-02583-5 , pp. 18-19.
  15. Broken pears . In: Der Spiegel . No. 46 , 1981, pp. 45-46 ( online ).
  16. Conductor of the chairs . In: Der Spiegel . No. 34 , 1992 ( online - Frank Zappa's orchestral suite “The Yellow Shark” is premiered in Frankfurt).
  17. ^ Franz Bösken : Sources and research on the organ history of the Middle Rhine (=  contributions to the Middle Rhine music history . Volume 7.1 ). tape 2 : The area of ​​the former administrative district of Wiesbaden. Part 1: A-K . Schott, Mainz 1975, ISBN 3-7957-1307-2 , p. 307 .
  18. ^ Organ of the Alte Oper , accessed on April 22, 2020.
  19. Wilfried Ehrlich: Old Opera - New House. Report on an event in Frankfurt. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-421-02583-5 , p. 70.
  20. ^ A b Albert Richard Mohr : The Frankfurt Opera House 1880–1980. Kramer, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-7829-0232-7 , p. 52.
  21. Wilfried Ehrlich: Old Opera - New House. Report on an event in Frankfurt. Deutsche Verlags-Anstalt, Stuttgart 1981, ISBN 3-421-02583-5 , p. 77.
  22. ^ Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Berlin edition. Poetic Works , Volume 2. Berlin 1960 ff, p. 92. ( zeno.org )

Coordinates: 50 ° 6 ′ 57 ″  N , 8 ° 40 ′ 19 ″  E