Kroll Opera

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Kroll Opera, 1930

The Kroll Opera (also temporarily Kroll'scher conservatory or Kroll's establishment was) a complex of buildings near the Brandenburg Gate , on today's Berlin Republic Square . In the course of an eventful history, the complex served between 1844 and 1951 as an entertainment establishment, comedy stage , textile warehouse, opera house and, during the Nazi era, as a substitute seat of parliament for the Reichstag building, which fell victim to an arson attack in 1933 .

The Kroll era (1844–1894)

Krolloper around 1850 ( steel engraving )

The Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV. Gave the impetus to build a new place of noble socializing in his residence after he got to know Kroll's winter garden during a visit to Breslau in 1841 . The entrepreneur Joseph Kroll was given a building plot in Berlin free of charge on the edge of the parade ground, a dusty, mud-covered area just outside the old city limits. However, a personal start-up capital of 30,000 thalers was required  , which Kroll had to borrow. He also had to undertake to return the property in the event of failure and to demolish his newly constructed buildings.

The royal master builder Ludwig Persius was significantly involved in the new building - a clear indication that the project was close to the king's heart - along with the equally prominent architects Carl Ferdinand Langhans and Eduard Knoblauch . After just ten months of construction, the company was opened on February 15, 1844 with a magnificent ball. The castle-like complex consisted of a two-story middle section between the low wings of the building and a few auxiliary buildings. It offered space for 5000 guests, who were entertained and entertained by 60 musicians in two winter gardens , 14 larger lounges and three large halls, including the particularly sumptuously furnished “Königssaal”. The 400 flames of the newly introduced gas lighting were a technical specialty .

The first financial year was quite successful. In the streets of Berlin, large-format posters advertised elaborately decorated masked balls, Italian or Chinese nights, raffles and Christmas exhibitions. The Viennese waltz king Johann Strauss also made a temporary guest appearance at Kroll - but very soon withdrew because, as he found out, his music “had little effect on the Berlin nature”. Despite all efforts, economic difficulties gradually arose. Joseph Kroll died of liver disease in 1848 - before that he regretted having met the king once and having been involved in Berlin.

Advertising print with the portraits of Joseph Kroll and Jakob Engel for the 25th anniversary in 1869
Site plan from 1879; on the far left the Kroll Opera House, on the right the marking for the new Reichstag building

Kroll's eldest daughter Auguste (1821–1907) took over the business, expanded it and showed attractions such as animal trainers with wild animals and a large industrial exhibition . She applied for and received a license for theatrical performances, had a podium built in the King's Hall and initially performed folk things there - comedies, comedies and local antics. But also some operas came into the repertoire, such as Martha von Friedrich von Flotow and Der Barbier von Sevilla von Rossini - courageous undertakings given the modest means. In particular, Auguste Kroll sponsored a composer who, despite several good audiences, lived on the verge of subsistence: Albert Lortzing . His operas Der Waffenschmied , Undine and Zar und Zimmermann were played by Kroll, but the strained financial situation of the company did not allow him to pay royalties or royalties. In February 1851, the establishment burned to the ground after parts of the theater set caught fire when the lights were lit. Only the garden and the summer theater were spared. The fire insurance paid 80,000 thalers - and just a year later the house was rebuilt, the builder Eduard Titz made it even more impressive than before.

In 1853 Auguste Kroll married the Hungarian musician Jakob Engel, who was employed by her as a conductor. The musical program became even more demanding, with works such as Rossini's Otello and compositions by Richard Wagner added to the smooth operas . The long-standing mismatch between high operating costs and relatively low income has not changed. On April 1, 1855, the heavily indebted company had to close. For several years one of the creditors ran the business, also without success. In a foreclosure auction in 1862 Jakob Engel bought back the still indebted company. It remained unclear where he got the required 109,000 thalers from. In planning the program, he now renounced the expensive opera performances. Nevertheless, a critical situation soon arose again. In 1869, the year of the company's 25th anniversary, freedom of trade was introduced in Prussia. There was no longer any need to obtain a license, numerous private companies emerged, and competitive pressure grew. Engel wanted to sell, but his efforts failed because of the heavy mortgage burden . Larger investments were forbidden because the legal situation of the whole area was uncertain for many years. Since 1864 the parade ground has been called “Königsplatz” and has been fundamentally redesigned into a representative town square. In the 1870s there were repeated lengthy discussions in parliament about the location of the new Reichstag building, with the option of tearing down Kroll's establishment for it. A decision was not made until 1876 - the new Reichstag building was built on the opposite side of the square - and Jakob Engel was able to realize some of his plans, for example replacing the old gas lighting with electric light in 1885 - a premiere in Berlin. The entrepreneur died in 1888 and his son tried unsuccessfully to counter the dwindling interest of the Berlin public. In 1894 he had to give up.

Royal Opera Theater (1894–1933)

The house around 1895
László Moholy-Nagy stage design for Hoffmann's Tales , 1st image (1929)

Julius Bötzow, the owner of the Bötzow brewery , has been running the house since 1894 with moderate success as a pure restaurant with a few concerts. In 1895 he had Gustav Hochgürtel and Felix Genzmer build a stage with a porch made of iron and glass in the garden and initially leased it, but in 1896 he sold it to the Royal Drama , an institution of the Prussian state. The time as a privately run, multifunctional entertainment establishment ended and the history of the Kroll Opera as a state opera house began. The building was named New Royal Opera Theater and was rebuilt for the new purpose until 1898. After that, it served as an alternative stage for other state theaters if longer construction work was necessary there. But there were also notable own productions with great singers like Enrico Caruso and the music of “modern” composers like Igor Stravinsky and Gustav Mahler - and audience successes like the series of 98 performances of the operetta Die Fledermaus by Johann Strauss .

However, Kaiser Wilhelm II wanted an even more splendid and larger opera house with at least 2500 seats in the same location. Since 1904, the project “ New Royal Opera House Berlin ” has been discussed. Initially, the intention was to demolish the historic Unter den Linden State Opera for this purpose. In 1909 the plans became more specific, now the location of the Kroll Opera House for the new building was considered. The Berlin city planning officer and architect Ludwig Hoffmann submitted drafts at the end of 1913, and the Prussian House of Representatives approved the necessary funds. In the summer of 1914, demolition work began on the Kroll Opera House, but it was immediately stopped when the war began on August 1, 1914. During the First World War , the rooms, as far as they were still usable, were filled with wool and rags, the material of the central collection point of the Reichswollwoche . The summer garden was used as an afternoon home for wounded warriors in the warm season .

Immediately after the end of the war, Ludwig Hoffmann was asked by the Ministry of Culture to continue the major project that had begun, and a people's opera house was to be built. This plan failed - a new minister came and there was a lack of money. In 1920, the Berliner Volksbühne association leased the land and opera house from the Prussian state and committed itself to rebuilding the building, which was in dire need of renovation. The facade design followed an earlier design by Hoffmann. The great hall for nearly 2500 spectators was prepared by the theater architect Oskar Kaufmann in a style that contemporaries criticized as " expressionist Rococo ". At the same time, new terraces and an open-air stage were created in the garden, and Kaufmann designed a ballroom for 5,000 people as commissioned. The project ultimately exceeded the Volksbühne's financial resources. The state had to pay for the completion and the opera house itself. The Volksbühne undertook to buy half of the tickets for each performance. As the second venue of the State Opera Unter den Linden and under the name Opera am Königsplatz , the house was reopened on January 1, 1924 with the Mastersingers by Richard Wagner , conducted by Erich Kleiber . After Königsplatz was renamed in 1926, the opera house was officially called the “State Opera on the Republic Square”. As before, the Berliners called it the Kroll Opera .

Krollgarten, 1927

The cooperation between the two houses proved to be impractical, singers and musicians were overwhelmed. The merger was reversed and the conductor Otto Klemperer was appointed director and musical director of the former Kroll Opera . With this decision the artistically most important period in the history of the house began. It opened on November 19, 1927 with a modern production of the opera Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven . Klemperer's declared aim was to renew opera as an art form. In just under four years, 44 works were presented, including world premieres with works by Arnold Schönberg ( music accompanying a film scene , 1930), Ernst Krenek , Paul Hindemith ( News from the Day , 1929), Igor Stravinsky and Leoš Janáček . Otto Klemperer, Alexander von Zemlinsky and Fritz Zweig worked as conductors at the house ; as directors Jürgen Fehling , Ernst Legal , Gustaf Gründgens and Hans Curjel ; as stage designers Ewald Dülberg , Caspar Neher , László Moholy-Nagy , Teo Otto , Oskar Schlemmer and Giorgio de Chirico .

From today's perspective, the opera ensemble led by Klemperer delivered groundbreaking performances. From the unity of work and staging, of music and theater, a modern opera model emerged that could be used after the Second World War - as, for example, Walter Felsenstein did in the Komische Oper Berlin . In the current situation of the Weimar Republic around 1930, the reactions were extremely mixed. The open-minded section of the educated middle class applauded. The audience at the Volksbühne, which had to distribute 50 percent of the tickets, was mostly alienated - they expected conventional / culinary performances and were confronted with the most modern operatic aesthetics. Right-wing parties moved to end the cultural Bolshevism of opera. The Prussian Landtag then cited economic reasons for the closure, which Heinz Tietjen as general director of all Prussian state theaters also advocated : In times of economic crisis, Berlin could not afford three opera houses. The last performance in the Kroll Opera House took place on July 3, 1931 - The Marriage of Figaro by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart . Otto Klemperer later commented: “I did everything humanly possible to prevent the Kroll Opera from being closed. Because I was attached to it like a life plan. I got carried away so far that I brought a lawsuit against the Prussian government. There was no agreement and I lost the case. "

Parliament at the time of National Socialism (1933–1942)

Adolf Hitler in front of the Reichstag in the Kroll Opera House at the end of the campaign against Poland , October 6, 1939

The opera house remained unused for almost two years. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Reich Chancellor . On February 19, 1933, the rally, Das Freie Wort, took place here, with over 900 intellectuals who were rationally democratic or anti- Nazi protested against the Nazis. On the night of February 28, 1933 , the Reichstag building burned down - the reason for the National Socialists to rigorously suppress the political opposition , first and foremost the KPD . In the Reichstag elections of March 5, the NSDAP and the DNVP, which formed a coalition , were able to win an absolute majority of the seats. According to the Weimar Constitution, parliament had to meet within 30 days of the election date. Because the plenary hall of the Reichstag building was unusable - it was demonstratively not repaired during the Nazi era - the Kroll Opera was chosen as the conference venue. On March 7, 1933, the necessary renovation work began. The ceiling of the auditorium was lowered and covered with fabric to make the ceiling frescoes, which were perceived as unsuitably cheerful, disappear. 647 seats were installed in the stalls, far more than would have been necessary at the time; because eleven SPD members were in protective custody , and the KPD's 81 mandates had already been canceled. Reich Minister of the Interior Wilhelm Frick commented this:

“When the new Reichstag meets, more urgent and useful work will prevent the communists from attending the session. These gentlemen have to get used to useful work again. We will give them the opportunity to do this in concentration camps. "

- Information board at the former location of the Kroll Opera House

As a result, the National Socialists used the Reichstag sessions in the Kroll Opera House to formally legitimize the path to one-party dictatorship and war in a series of resolutions. On March 23, 1933, against the votes of the SPD, but with the support of the bourgeois parties, parliament passed the “Law to Eliminate the Need of the People and the Reich”, the so-called “ Enabling Act ”, and thus ended the period of democracy in the German Reich . After that, the government could pass laws without obtaining the consent of parliament and the signature of the Reich President . Hitler responded to the protests of the SPD with scorn: "You are talking about persecution - you are sorry, gentlemen, and you are not destined for this time if you are already talking about persecution." The Reichstag already existed at the session on December 12, 1933 only from members of the NSDAP.

The few Reichstag sessions in the following years served Hitler as a stage to justify the assassination of the party opposition after the Röhm putsch, to file claims on the former German colonies , to celebrate Austria's annexation to the German Reich and to threaten the western democracies with war . He had the Enabling Act extended several times.

The first television broadcast in Germany was presented to the public on April 18, 1934 in the Berlin Kroll Opera House ( TV station Paul Nipkow ).

On September 1, 1939, he announced the invasion of Poland , which began the Second World War. When Germany declared war on the United States on December 11, 1941, Hitler declared American President Franklin D. Roosevelt insane in front of the Reichstag in the Kroll Opera House. Hitler used the last session of the Reichstag on April 26, 1942 to reinterpret the military defeat at Moscow as a triumph and to have himself declared "Supreme Court Lord of all Germans".

End of the House (1942–1957)

Partially destroyed Kroll Opera House, 1945

In a short interlude, the building was used again as an opera house: The ensemble of the Unter den Linden State Opera played here parallel to the last two Reichstag sessions after the house was seriously damaged in air raids by the Allies . In November 1943 the Kroll Opera was also badly damaged in attacks by the Royal Air Force . The battle for Berlin and the storming of the Reichstag building by the Red Army on April 30, 1945 caused further destruction. But on May 23, 1945, only 15 days after the end of the war, clean-up work began to make the garden bar usable again. In the summer months there were concerts and dance events in the Kroll-Garten. After an economically unsatisfactory season in 1956, the last tenant gave up the business. As early as 1951, parts of the main building had been blown up and removed. On May 4, 1957, the Berlin-Tiergarten property authority applied for the "public clearing" of the remains of the building. In the fall of 1957 the last traces were removed.

At the former location, on a lawn between Heinrich-von-Gagern-Strasse , John-Foster-Dulles-Allee and Paul-Löbe-Allee near the new Federal Chancellery , a detailed German-English lettered information and Memorial plaque to the Kroll Opera and their history.

See also


  • Kroll's garden in Berlin . In: Allgemeine Bauzeitung , vol. 11 (1846), pp. 267–271 and plates 54–56. Online version .
  • Edgard Haider: Lost splendor. Stories of destroyed buildings. Gerstenberg, Hildesheim 2006, p. 62 ff., ISBN 978-3-8067-2949-8 .
  • Hans Curjel : Experiment Krolloper 1927–1931 . From the estate, published by Eigel Kruttge. Munich: Prestel, 1975 (1962)
  • Thomas Wieke: From establishment to opera. The history of the Kroll Opera. Haude & Spener, Berlin 1993, ISBN 3-7759-0384-4 .

Web links

Commons : Krolloper  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. Fred Mielke: Berlin and its buildings: buildings for art, education and science . W. Ernst, Berlin 1964, p. 121 .
  2. Hannes Heer and Boris von Haken: The defector Heinz Tietjen. The general director of the Prussian State Theater in the Third Reich. In: Zeitschrift für Geschichtswwissenschaft , 58 (2010) H. 1, P. 30 f.
  3. a b page no longer available , search in web archives: Commemoration of the Kroll Opera@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /
  4. Information board at the former location of the Kroll Opera House ( memento of October 27, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) (PDF; 358 kB).

Coordinates: 52 ° 31 ′ 7 ″  N , 13 ° 22 ′ 14 ″  E