Frankfurt Opera

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Frankfurt Opera
Opera and theater from the outside
Address: Willy-Brandt-Platz
City: Frankfurt am Main
Coordinates: 50 ° 6 '29 "  N , 8 ° 40' 27"  E Coordinates: 50 ° 6 '29 "  N , 8 ° 40' 27"  E
Architecture and history
Opened: 1880
Spectator: 1500 seats
Architects: Richard LucaeApel , Beckert and Becker
Internet presence:

The Frankfurt Opera is the music theater of the municipal theaters in Frankfurt am Main . It is one of the most important music theaters in Europe and was named Opera House of the Year in 1995, 1996, 2003, 2015 and 2018 by Opernwelt magazine . A permanent opera ensemble has existed in Frankfurt am Main since 1792. In 1880 the monumental opera house was opened in the neo-renaissance style . This old opera , which was destroyed in 1944 and rebuilt from 1976 to 1981 , now serves as a concert and congress center.

The Frankfurt Opera has had its venue on Willy-Brandt-Platz , the former Theaterplatz , since 1951 . Since then, the house has been artistically created by the general music directors Georg Solti (1952–1961), Christoph von Dohnányi (1968–1977), Michael Gielen (1977–1987), Sylvain Cambreling (1993–1996), Paolo Carignani (1999–2008) and Sebastian Weigle (since the 2008/2009 season). Bernd Loebe has been artistic director of the opera since 2002 . The Frankfurt Opera and Museum Orchestra is the permanent orchestra of the house.

The house is known for innovative program schedules that traditionally include German premieres and world premieres. For example, Der ferne Klang by Franz Schreker and Carmina Burana by Carl Orff premiered at the Frankfurt Opera - and most recently Der Mieter by Arnulf Herrmann on November 12, 2017.

1700 to 1880 - The beginnings of the opera in Frankfurt am Main

" Il Leucippo " by JA Hasse Performance on the Roßmarkt in 1754 by the Thurn und Taxis opera troupe ( traveling opera Girolamo Bon )
The Comoedienhaus on Roßmarkt was Frankfurt's first opera house from 1782 to 1880 (photo from 1902).

In 1700, a French opera company made a guest appearance in Frankfurt am Main for the first time, mainly performing pieces by Jean-Baptiste Lully . Later on, there were repeated guest performances, for example in 1745 by Pietro Mingotti's Italian troupe , of which Christoph Willibald Gluck was a conductor . The games were played either in the dining rooms of the large inns or on short-term wooden stages, mostly on the Roßmarkt in Neustadt . In September 1754 the traveling opera of the Italian theater principal Girolamo Bon gave the large and serieuse Opera or Pastorale Il Leucippo by Johann Adolf Hasse , the Dresden “court composer” at the invitation of the Princes of Thurn and Taxis . According to the theater slips that have been preserved, the operists used a stage on Roßmarkt and stayed until the end of April 1755.

It was only after the middle of the 18th century that the citizens of Frankfurt wanted a permanent theater building. Possibly the establishment of the Mannheim theater in 1777 gave a decisive impetus. Against the resistance of the Lutheran clergy, who considered the comedy "sinful and contrary to the word of God and the Holy Baptism Covenants", the council pushed through the construction of the Comedy House . A group of wealthy citizens helped finance the project and founded a joint stock company that was responsible for the theater until after the First World War . In 1780 the foundation stone was laid for the classical building on the north side of the Roßmarkt, which was simple from the outside. The plans came from city architect Johann Andreas Liebhardt . Inside, the building was splendidly decorated, lined with sky-blue ceiling painting and scarlet wallpaper. The new theater had almost 1000 seats, which were distributed on parquet , several parquet boxes, two tiers and a standing gallery.

On September 3, 1782, the curtain of the Comoedienhaus rose for the first time . The play Hanno, Prince in the North was on the program . In addition, a specially of was Christian Gottlob Neefe composed Epilogus with music and song lists. The decorations by the Mannheim theater architect Giuseppe Quaglio and the skill of the "foreign virtuosos who caused such a spectacle that one thought they were deaf" aroused particular admiration .

Opera performances soon took place in the new theater. Mozart's works in particular found their way onto the Frankfurt stage during his lifetime, albeit sometimes in arrangements or with cuts. In 1784, The Abduction from the Seraglio was on the program, in 1788 the wedding of Figaro and in 1789 Don Giovanni . All performances continued to be carried out by traveling theater troupes. It was not until 1792 that the house, now known as the Frankfurt National Theater , received its own orchestra. Its first director was Friedrich Ludwig Æmilius Kunzen , who was later followed by Ferdinand Fränzl and Carl Cannabich . All came from the former Mannheim court orchestra .

Cannabich had to say goodbye as early as 1800 because his extravagance caused a scandal in middle-class Frankfurt am Main. His successor Carl Joseph Schmidt, however, remained in office for over 15 years. From 1817 to 1819 Louis Spohr was Kapellmeister at the Frankfurt Theater, whose operas Faust and Zemire and Azor were premiered here. The short Spohr era was followed by Carl Guhr , who headed the theater from 1821 to 1848. He was not only musical director of the theater, but also at times its main shareholder. It is therefore not surprising that he cultivated a highly profitable repertoire: the repertoire was dominated by the works of Mozart, Weber , Spohr and Heinrich Marschner , and occasionally Rossini , when guest performances by famous foreign artists allowed a drastic increase in admission prices. Occasionally paid claqueurs had to ensure that wealthy soloists were loudly cheered.

In December 1842, Hector Berlioz attended a performance of Fidelio at the Frankfurt Theater, which impressed him very much. He later included his travelogue in his memoirs.

After Guhr's sudden death in July 1848, Albert Lortzing also applied for the musical direction of the Frankfurt theater. However, the composer Louis Schindelmeisser was elected , who stayed until 1851. Gustav Schmidt led the theater orchestra from 1851 to 1861 , which was finally followed by the cellist and composer Georg Goltermann from 1861 to 1880 .

In the meantime, the theater was not only technically obsolete, it was also much too small for the rapidly growing population of Frankfurt. New building plans had existed since the middle of the 19th century, but for a long time they could not be realized due to lack of money. Only in 1869, three years after the annexation of the Free City of Frankfurt by Prussia , did the so-called Frankfurter Receß , a law on the restitution of municipal property and a war contribution imposed in 1866 , allow the financing of a new building.

1880 to 1933 - The representative opera house

Opera was played in the
Alte Oper from 1880 to 1944
The staircase

In 1880 the new opera house built by Richard Lucae was opened at the former Bockenheimer Tor , which has since been called Opernplatz . Today the building is known nationwide under the name Alte Oper . The opera was built at a cost of 6.8 million marks, which was very high for the time, of which around 1.4 million came from donations from Frankfurt citizens and the sale of municipal land on Opernplatz. The estimated construction costs were 2 million. The generous overdraft of the budget at the expense of the public coffers caused considerable criticism. The pain of the thrifty Frankfurters was alleviated, however, by the opening ceremony in the presence of Emperor Wilhelm I , who is said to have said: “I couldn't afford that in Berlin”.

Until 1900 the new house was managed by general manager Emil Claar . In 1900 he resigned the management of the opera in order to concentrate fully on the Frankfurt theater and the new building of the theater . Paul Jensen from Dresden, who directed the opera until 1911, was appointed his successor as opera director . From 1912 to 1917 Robert Volkner was director of the opera, who had previously been director of the United City Theater in Leipzig .

The musical direction of the opera was initially in the hands of First Kapellmeister Felix Otto Dessoff , who opened the new house on October 20, 1880 with a performance of Don Giovanni . In its second season, 1881/82, the house ran into a deficit, which was offset by an annual subsidy of 80,000 marks. After 1887 the city even had to increase the subsidy to 150,000 marks per year. Since then, the Frankfurt Opera has always been dependent on subsidies from the public purse, even if it was organized in the legal form of a stock corporation until after the First World War .

After Dessoff's sudden death in 1892, Johannes Brahms succeeded Ludwig Rottenberg as his successor. He managed the house until 1924. During this time, numerous contemporary works by Hans Pfitzner , Claude Debussy , Richard Strauss , Leoš Janáček , Béla Bartók and Paul Hindemith were performed. From 1912 to 1917 Egon Pollak was an important conductor of the house until he was appointed general music director to Hamburg. The outstanding singers of this period included Else Gentner-Fischer (1907 to 1935), Frieda Hempel (1907 to 1912), Robert Hutt and the baritone Robert vom Scheidt . Between 1908 and 1911, Enrico Caruso came to Frankfurt am Main for guest performances every year . In 1917, for the first time since the Claar era , the management of the Städtische Bühnen was brought back together under one general manager. Karl Zeiss , who had previously directed the Royal Court Theater in Dresden , only stayed in Frankfurt am Main for three years. In 1920 he was appointed to the State Theater in Munich . The new opera director was Ernst Lert , who was born in Vienna and had previously worked in Basel .

From 1916 to 1924 Paul Hindemith was concertmaster of the Frankfurt Opera House and Museum Orchestra.

In 1924, after almost 32 years, the era of the first conductor Ludwig Rottenberg ended. With Clemens Krauss , a general music director took over the artistic direction of the opera for the first time from 1924 to 1929. Well-known ensemble members during the Weimar Republic were the tenor Franz Völker and the contralto Magda Spiegel . One focus of the repertoire was the work of Franz Schreker , of which four operas were premiered in Frankfurt am Main by 1924. A well-known set designer at that time was Ludwig Sievert .

The festival week “50 Years of the Opera House: 1880 - 1930” was held from October 10, 1930, and ended on October 16, 1930 with the performance of Bertolt Brecht's opera “Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny”.

When Clemens Krauss left the opera, the management of the opera was split up again. The new director was Josef Turnau from Vienna, and first conductor Hans Wilhelm Steinberg from Cologne . Both were expelled from office as Jews by the National Socialists in March 1933 immediately after they came to power .

1933 to 1945 - The opera in the time of National Socialism

In a personal decree, the new Lord Mayor Friedrich Krebs removed the two of them from their offices as representatives of decay , who would have made the theater a “place of decadence, moral brutality and subhumanism”. A number of artists were also dismissed and later deported. During his deportation in 1940, the bassist Hans Erl was forced to sing Sarastro's aria from the Magic Flute (“In these hallowed halls…”) at the collection point - the festival hall . The contralto Magda Spiegel was one of the few Jewish artists who was allowed to perform until 1935 because of her great popularity, when she was also dismissed. In 1942 she was deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto and murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp in 1944 .

The persecution of the Jews was also noticeable among the audience, since up to 1933 almost half of the subscribers belonged to the Frankfurt Jewish community. The patronage association of the Städtische Bühnen , founded on the initiative of Arthur von Weinberg at the end of the twenties , dissolved itself in December 1933 because the majority of its members were Jewish. An attempt by Mayor Krebs to found an "Aryan" support association failed. Despite a 30 percent reduction in admission prices and a public advertising campaign for new subscribers (“I'm renting space for the Städtische Bühnen”), the dramatic decline in theater attendance did not increase again in the following years.

Since June 1933, the management of the municipal theaters again had a general manager. Hans Meissner , a schoolmate of the new Lord Mayor, took over this office and kept it during the whole of the Third Reich. He tried to avoid any conflict with the party organization and avoided any risk in his schedule. On the other hand, he used his personal relationships with Krebs to give the Städtische Bühnen a certain artistic freedom and was loyal to the previous ensemble members. Above all, his talent as a director soon earned him a high artistic reputation, although Meissner concentrated primarily on acting. He developed the Römerberg Festival , held for the first time in 1932, into a cultural institution that was respected throughout Europe by 1939.

The dismissed Kapellmeister Steinberg initially stayed in Frankfurt am Main and founded an orchestra of the Jewish Cultural Association , which even performed Gustav Mahler's 1st Symphony in a symphony concert in 1936 . Then he too had to emigrate and went to the USA via Palestine.

In the musical direction of the opera, three Kapellmeister took turns in the following five years: Bertil Wetzelsberger , Karl Maria Zwißler and Georg Ludwig Jochum only remained in office for a short time. Nevertheless, there was another musical highlight at the opera in 1937 with the world premiere of Carmina Burana by Carl Orff . In 1938 Franz Konwitschny came to the opera as the new general music director.

In 1944 the building of the opera was in the air war in the air raids on Frankfurt destroyed. On January 29, a daytime attack caused so much damage that the game had to be temporarily suspended. Restoration work began immediately, but before it was completed, two more heavy air strikes hit the city. On March 18, the backdrop house opposite the opera was destroyed. During the attack on March 22nd, which destroyed Frankfurt's historic old town , the opera house also burned down completely. In the following months, the city theaters tried to maintain emergency operations at changing venues. On September 1, 1944, all theaters in Germany ceased operations and the ensembles dispersed.

1945 to 1960 - provisional and reconstruction

From 1945 to 1951 the opera played temporarily in the undamaged hall of the Frankfurt Stock Exchange
The former theater from 1902 was home to the Frankfurt Opera from 1951 to 1960

Soon after the occupation of Frankfurt by American troops on March 27, 1945, Kurt Blaum, an artistically interested administrative expert, was appointed mayor. The new city administration tried to promote the initiatives of Frankfurt citizens to revive the cultural life. Rebuilding the opera was initially out of the question, but in July 1945 artists who had remained in Frankfurt am Main met for a first concert.

Since all the other theaters in Frankfurt am Main had also been destroyed, the opera remained dependent on makeshift arrangements for the next few years. Nevertheless, the opera resumed its performance on November 3, 1945 under the direction of the opera director and general music director Bruno Vondenhoff , who was appointed in October 1945 . Until 1951 she took her domicile in the only undestroyed hall in the city center in the Neue Börse .

In the cramped hall, large performances were hardly possible, and it was only with great difficulty that suitable rehearsal rooms could be found. A permanent solution for the opera was therefore soon sought. Four different variants were discussed:

  • The reconstruction of the opera house was soon ruled out because of the high costs and the relatively serious damage. Reconstruction, which was completed in 1981, only began after more than 30 years as Germany's most beautiful ruin . It was supported by a citizens' initiative, the Alte Oper Action Group , but was mainly financed from tax revenues. The old opera now serves as a concert hall and congress center.
  • A completely new building elsewhere was also discarded, although the city had already checked several properties in Rothschildpark , at the old opera house, at Kornmarkt in the old town and at Baseler Platz near the main train station . In the first few years, the necessary funds were not available for a major project of this kind. Housing construction was a priority.
  • The reconstruction of the former New Theater on the corner of Mainzer Landstrasse and Karlstrasse , which was also being considered, was ruled out because the location was required as part of a change in the city's traffic planning.
  • So the planning soon concentrated on the former theater on Theaterplatz . An inspection of the ruin showed that parts of the auditorium, but especially important facilities in the basement, had been relatively little destroyed. In addition, the location offered expansion options for the necessary stage houses and rehearsal rooms.

As a result, a patronage association was founded in February 1948 to rebuild the old theater. Its statutes determined the purpose of the association "to promote the reconstruction of the municipal theaters with advice and action on the broadest basis, to support the Frankfurt theater industry ideally and materially and to ensure that the theater life in Frankfurt, which has been particularly hard hit by external circumstances, is given the position again, which corresponds to its past and the importance of the city ”. On August 5, 1948, a board of trustees was appointed under the direction of Lord Mayor Walter Kolb . In 1949 the ruins began to be cleared, and in October 1949 the city council approved 1.4 million German marks for the first phase of construction.

On February 13, 1950, however, the magistrate stopped all construction work and decided to close all municipal theaters. The reason was: “First and foremost, securing the bare livelihood of our fellow citizens goes hand in hand with the procurement of living space, the restoration of schools and hospitals. These foundations provide the prerequisites for cultivating all cultural life. ”Immediately afterwards, a citizens' initiative was founded, which was supported by all of the Frankfurt daily newspapers and which within four weeks had 50,000 signatures for the maintenance of the municipal theaters. In June 1950 the city council gave in and approved two million marks to continue the construction work.

On December 23, 1951, the opera under Vondenhoff's direction was able to move into its new venue in the former theater. An auditorium with around 1500 seats was built under the direction of the architect Otto Apel . Based on the former opera house, three audience tiers were created. The rust red and ocher interior remained unchanged until the renovation in 1987. With two revolving stages of 38 and 16 meters in diameter and a retractable orchestra pit, the stage technology was also state-of-the-art. Twice a year, the new “Big House” should also be available for the Frankfurt theater .

Under the general music director Georg Solti (1952–1961), the opera quickly moved up among the top houses in Europe, even though Solti was primarily an orchestra conductor and only conducted a few opera performances himself. The ensemble has been invited to numerous guest performances abroad. From 1960 to 1962, the Frankfurt Opera received seven first prizes at the Paris “Theater des Nations” festival. During the nine years under Solti, the Frankfurt Opera experienced 35 premieres, staged by directors such as Arno Assmann , Harry Buckwitz and Leopold Lindtberg . Well-known singers in the Frankfurt ensemble were the bass-baritone Theo Adam and the soprano Anny Schlemm .

1960 to 1987 - The new construction of the municipal theaters

In 1962 the municipal theaters were given a modern glass facade (2006)
View into the auditorium (2006)

In 1963 the Schauspiel Frankfurt, which until then had to rely on various makeshift arrangements, finally got a new venue. It was built right next to the Frankfurt Opera. From 1960 to 1962 the Art Nouveau facade of the former theater was removed and a 120-meter-long glass facade was built for the new “double theater system”, behind which the common foyer of the municipal theaters was located. The new building was designed and managed by Otto Apel's office (since 1961 ABB architects: Otto Apel , Hannsgeorg Beckert and Gilbert Becker ). Marc Chagall (1887–1985) painted the painting Commedia dell'arte for the foyer in 1959 on behalf of the city . The sculpture Goldwolken by the Hungarian artist Zoltán Kemény (1907–1965) hangs under the ceiling of the foyer - across the entire width of the building . In 1963 the house was completed.

Under Solti's successor, Lovro von Matačić (1961–66), the Frankfurt Opera was able to maintain its level. The repertoire in the sixties comprised around 30 productions, most of which came from well-known directors such as Walter Felsenstein , Bohumil Herlischka , Otto Schenk and Wieland Wagner .

The first economic crisis in the history of the Federal Republic of Germany led in 1967 to a public conflict between the artistic director Buckwitz and the municipal bodies. For the first time, the city enacted short-term austerity measures that imposed significant artistic restrictions on the opera business, which was dependent on long-term planning.

After a two-year interregnum under the musical director Theodore Bloomfield , who left office due to a conflict with the ensemble, and the simultaneous end of the Buckwitz era, a new beginning was necessary. Ulrich Erfurth became the new general director of the city theaters in 1968, while the new general music director Christoph von Dohnányi led the opera back to internationally recognized successes. The ensemble has been rejuvenated. Soloists such as June Card , Anja Silja , William Cochran and Manfred Schenk shaped the new productions. In 1972 Dohnányi, as the opera director, was also responsible for the artistic direction of the opera.

After Dohnányi's departure, Michael Gielen succeeded him from 1977 to 1987 . His bold, aesthetically and politically provocative productions, which were created in conjunction with the dramaturge Klaus Zehelein and directors such as Ruth Berghaus , Alfred Kirchner and Hans Neuenfels , met with critical acclaim, but at times divided the Frankfurt audience and even the ensemble. Gielen was able to successfully weather all conflicts because he could always rely on the support of the then Lord Mayor Walter Wallmann and the head of cultural affairs, Hilmar Hoffmann . At the end of the Gielen era, recognition outweighed by far: the final applause at his farewell performance in 1987 lasted 72 minutes.

For the first time after the war, a complete Ring des Nibelungen was staged under Gielen's direction in Frankfurt am Main, directed by Ruth Berghaus. The Gielen era saw the German premiere of Luigi Nono's Al gran sole carico d'amore and the premiere of Hans Zender's Stephen Climax . An important milestone was the Aida that Hans Neuenfels brought to the stage in 1981. It was one of the most controversial but also most successful productions of the Gielen era. Aida appeared as a cleaning lady and Radames as a shirt-sleeved manager. The slaves were savages who threw chicken legs around, and the Egyptian choir was dressed as a festive opera audience in tails and evening dress. At the premiere, the real audience reacted indignantly because in Verdi's story about love, hate, greed for power, jealousy and violence, which was staged word for word and true to notes, the boundaries between what was happening on stage and reality were no longer preserved. But there were also other voices who felt that Gielen's way of bringing contrasts and contradictions to the stage was the only appropriate one for a modern city like Frankfurt am Main.

Other important performances under Gielen's direction were a Parsifal directed by Ruth Berghaus, Busoni's Doctor Faust , Die Soldiers by Bernd Alois Zimmermann and Berlioz's opera Die Trojans .

In 1982 the dramaturgy of the Frankfurt Opera was awarded the German Critics' Prize.

In 1984 Gielen decided not to extend his contract, which ran until 1987. Even signature lists and public appeals from all parts of the Frankfurt citizenship could not change his mind.

1987 to today - from opera fire to opera house of the year

The opera house in the evening
View from the auditorium to the orchestra pit and stage

Gielen's successor was Gary Bertini in 1987 , who took over the management of the house with the opera director Peter Dannenberg . The internationally recognized orchestra director had previously been chief conductor of West German Broadcasting and was able to refer to around 40 opera productions, but had never previously directed an opera house. His first production, Gluck's Iphigenie in Aulis , was not well received by the critics.

Shortly after he took office on November 12, 1987, the stage of the Frankfurt Opera burned down completely due to arson, while the auditorium was only damaged thanks to the iron curtain, which was heated until it burned red. Reconstruction began immediately, and was completed in less than three and a half years.

Bertini struggled with the necessary temporary arrangements during the construction period. He left Frankfurt am Main at the beginning of 1991 after the orchestra had withdrawn their trust in him in a secret ballot. (Peter Dannenberg had already been appointed general manager in Kiel in 1990). At the time, the opera was played in the neighboring theater, while the theater moved to the Bockenheimer depot . Nevertheless, Bertini also gave a successful world premiere in Frankfurt am Main, namely Europeras 1 & 2 by John Cage .

After Bertini's departure, Hans Drewanz from Darmstadt became the interim conductor. On April 6, 1991, he reopened the rebuilt opera with a raised stage with a performance of Mozart's Magic Flute . Hans Peter Doll took over the management of the opera on a temporary basis.

A successor was soon found who made the Frankfurt Opera resume its best days artistically. In 1992 Sylvain Cambreling became general music director and the previous head of the ballet, Martin Steinhoff , became the managing director. Cambreling was previously chief conductor of the Brussels opera La Monnaie , so he had experience directing an opera. Due to his friendship with the former Brussels artistic director Gerard Mortier , who was now director of the Salzburg Festival , the three houses worked together intensively and fruitfully. In Cambreling's time there were numerous important productions by directors such as Peter Mussbach ( Wozzeck , Don Giovanni , Le nozze di Figaro ), Herbert Wernicke ( The Ring of the Nibelung ) and Christoph Marthaler ( Fidelio ). In 1994, a complete Ring des Nibelungen was staged for the second time since the Second World War . Under Cambreling's direction, the Frankfurt Opera was voted Opera House of the Year for the first time in 1995 . Nevertheless, an economic decline falls during this period, which manifests itself in declining budgets, performance and audience numbers. In its last season there were only about 80 performances, as Cambreling wanted to make music theater at the highest level and did not give up its claim even under the increasing pressure to save. This led to disputes in the public and the political bodies of the city, which also polluted the atmosphere in the opera ensemble, as Artistic Director Martin Steinhoff supported the austerity measures prescribed by the city.

Cambreling found himself increasingly isolated and ended his contract early in 1997. However, he waived severance payments and compensation and left in peace with the Frankfurt audience, who gave him a farewell ovation similar to that of his predecessor Gielen. The search for a successor took two years, during which Klauspeter Seibel , the general music director of the Kiel Opera House , bridged the vacancy.

From 1999 to 2008 Paolo Carignani was general music director in Frankfurt am Main. With more than 60 new productions, including rarely performed works such as Franz Schubert's Fierrabras and Handel's Agrippina , the Frankfurt Opera was able to maintain its high level despite annual budget reductions. In the 2002/2003 season, the opera, which has been directed by Artistic Director Bernd Loebe since 2002 , was named Opera House of the Year for the second time . In order to keep the number of performances high, the opera endeavored to build up a powerful ensemble and an extensive repertoire. Above all, savings were made on the set design and on expensive guest stars. Some of the new productions initially came on stage as concerts, e.g. B. Wagner's Parsifal ; others emerged as co-productions with other companies or as the takeover of existing productions.

Artistic director Bernd Loebe extended his contract in November 2005 to 2013, in September 2009 to 2015 and in May 2014 again to 2023. Sebastian Weigle was appointed as Carignani's successor, whose contract expired in 2008, in November 2005 . In Frankfurt am Main he conducted a revival of Richard Strauss ' opera Salome for the first time in the 2002/2003 season , followed by a new production of Frau ohne Schatten (director: Christof Nel ). For this production he was named Conductor of the Year in 2003 by Opernwelt magazine . In the 2005/2006 season he directed a new production of Tchaikovsky's Queen of Spades in Frankfurt am Main .

After the 2006/2007 season, the magazine Die Deutsche Bühne selected Oper Frankfurt in a survey of 50 critics as number 1 among German opera houses in the category of best overall performance . The critics particularly emphasized the productions by Simon Boccanegra directed by Christof Loy and Alexander von Zemlinsky's operas A Florentine Tragedy and Der Zwerg by director Udo Samel . The Frankfurt Opera received the same award for the 2007/2008, 2009/2010, 2010/11 and 2017/18 seasons.

There were 12 premieres in the 2008/2009 season, two of them concert performances in the Alte Oper and three pieces in the Bockenheimer Depot. Sebastian Weigle directed the new productions Lear by Aribert Reimann and Arabella by Richard Strauss in the opera house in his first season . There were 14 premieres each in the 2009/10 and 2010/11 seasons. The new production of Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen , which began in May 2010 with the premiere of Rheingold , directed by Vera Nemirova and musical direction by Sebastian Weigle, was continued in October 2010 with Die Walküre . It ended in the 2011/12 season with Siegfried and Götterdämmerung and was resumed in 2013/14 and 2015/16.

At the International Opera Awards 2013 , the Frankfurt Opera was named Opera Company of the Year . In 2014 the supervisory board of the Städtische Bühnen renewed the contract with artistic director Bernd Loebe. He is now to lead the opera until 2023. In 2015, the specialist magazine Opernwelt named Oper Frankfurt - together with the Nationaltheater Mannheim - for the second time during Loebe's tenure as Opera House of the Year . For the 2014/2015 season, the Frankfurt Opera was once again awarded by the Deutsche Bühne magazine for the best overall theater program.

It has been known for a number of years that the municipal theaters on Willy-Brandt-Platz shared by drama and opera are in need of renovation. An inventory and a feasibility study were presented to the public in June 2017. The appraisal determined an expected cost of around 800 million euros. Since a new building would only cost slightly more, politics and urban society are now lively debating the future of the theater building. A move or a spatial separation of the divisions are also under discussion. Curious variants are circulating, such as an at least temporary move to neighboring Offenbach .

Economic situation of the Frankfurt Opera

The Frankfurt Opera currently has 1,369 seats. The number of performances (pure opera performances on the stage of the opera house and the Bockenheimer Depot) has been around 170 to 180 per season for years. The occupancy rate has risen from an average of 70 to over 80 percent since 2002. It should be noted that the number of performances rose again after a low point in the mid-1990s, although the municipal subsidy to the budget of the municipal theaters was cut by over 11 million euros between 2002 and 2006.

Expenses and income are shown in the product budget of the City of Frankfurt only for the Städtische Bühnen Frankfurt GmbH , not separated according to the opera and drama divisions and the different venues. According to the annual results for the 2015/2016 season, sales amounted to € 12,580,000, otherwise income € 4,058,000, subsidy from the State of Hesse € 767,000, resulting in a municipal subsidy of almost 68 million euros.

The number of subscribers has risen to over 12,000 since artistic director Bernd Loebe took over.

Development of the number of performances and visitors

Playtime Performances Places Cards issued workload
1999/2000 181 221,330 183,513 83%
2000/2001 148 196,782 162,497 83%
2001/2002 185 236,513 200,564 85%
2002/2003 178 240.132 167,362 70%
2003/2004 172 229.614 163,395 71%
2004/2005 185 250.178 175.232 70%
2005/2006 169 222,956 174,592 78%
2006/2007 182 244,808 172,447 70%
2007/2008 179 236.147 182.984 77%
2008/2009 194 254.929 195.912 77%
2009/2010 180 237.989 190.714 80%
2010/2011 178 231.421 190.613 82%
2011/2012 174 226.059 196,541 87%
2012/2013 177 224.093 192.709 86%
2013/2014 190 246.713 200,881 81%
2014/2015 185 242.815 195.033 80%
2015/2016 176 226,557 191.201 84%
2016/2017 174 227.955 193,748 85%

The statistics include performances on the opera stage, excluding performances in the foyers, in the Chagall Hall and in the Bockenheimer Depot. The number of performances fluctuates depending on the length of the season - which depends on the Hessian summer holidays - and the number of new productions and rehearsals that require rehearsals.

Artistic director of the Frankfurt Opera

The following table summarizes the artistic direction of the Frankfurt Opera since 1880:

Opera directors Musical director
1880 to 1933
1880 1900 Emil Claar General manager 1880 1892 Felix Otto Dessoff
1893 1924 Ludwig Rottenberg
1900 1911 Paul Jensen
1912 1917 Robert Volkner
1917 1920 Karl Zeiss General manager
1920 1923 Ernst Lert
1924 1929 Clemens Krauss General Music Director
1929 1933 Josef Turnau 1929 1933 Hans Wilhelm Steinberg
1933 to 1944
1933 1944 Hans Meissner General manager 1933 1934 Bertil Wetzelsberger
1935 1936 Karl Maria Zwissler
1937 1938 Georg Ludwig Jochum
1938 1944 Franz Konwitschny GMD
After 1945
1945 1951 Bruno Vondenhoff GMD
1951 1968 Harry Buckwitz General manager 1952 1961 Georg Solti GMD
1961 1966 Lovro from Matačić GMD
1966 1968 Theodore Bloomfield GMD
1968 1972 Ulrich Erfurth General manager 1968 1977 Christoph von Dohnányi GMD
  1977 1987 Michael Gielen GMD and general manager
1990 1993 Hans Peter Doll Artistic Director 1987 1990 Gary Bertini GMD and general manager
1993 2002 Martin Steinhoff Managing
1993 1996 Sylvain Cambreling GMD and
artistic director
1996 1999 Klauspeter Seibel GMD
1999 2008 Paolo Carignani GMD
2002 today Bernd Loebe Intendant
2008 today Sebastian Weigle GMD

World premieres at the opera

In the course of time, numerous works had their world premieres or German premieres at the Frankfurt Opera. The following table contains a complete overview of the productions that premiered between 1880 and 1944 as well as the most recent world premieres. In the case of German premieres, it is stated when and where the world premiere took place.

Only a few of the premieres have made the leap into the repertoire. However, some works, notably Carmina Burana and, more recently, the works of Nono and Cage, are still played today.

date Opera Composer /
Conducting (D) / Direction (R) / Set Design (B) / Costumes (K) Remarks
before 1880
September 16, 1810 Silvana Carl Maria von Weber  /
Franz Carl Hiemer
1818 fist Louis Spohr  /
Joseph Carl Bernard (1780–1850)
Louis Spohr (D) German premiere
( first performance 1816 in Prague)
April 4, 1819 Zemirs and Azor Louis Spohr  /
Johann Jakob Ihlée (1762–1827)
Louis Spohr (D) premiere
January 20, 1851 The opera rehearsal Albert Lortzing premiere
November 26, 1853 Rübezahl Friedrich von Flotow  /
Gustav Heinrich Gans zu Putlitz
Public premiere (private performance 1852 in Retzin [Prignitz])
1880 to 1900 (Artistic Director Emil Claar)
December 8, 1881 The little girl from Heilbronn Carl Martin Reinthaler  /
Heinrich Bulthaupt
Gernot Goltermann (D) premiere
February 17, 1887 Henry the Eighth Camille Saint-Saëns  /
Pierre-Léonce Détroyat (1829–1898) and Paul-Armand Silvestre (1837–1901)
Felix Otto Dessoff  (D) German premiere
( first performance 1883 in Paris)
October 1, 1887 Le Cid (The Cid) Jules Massenet  /
Adolphe d'Ennery , Louis Gallet (1835–1898) and Édouard Blau (1836–1906)
Felix Otto Dessoff (D) German premiere
( first performance 1885 in Paris)
September 26, 1899 iris Pietro Mascagni  /
Luigi Illica
Ludwig Rottenberg  (D) German premiere
( first performance in Rome in 1898)
May 3, 1900 The May Night Nikolai Rimskij-Korsakow  /
(after evenings in the hamlet near Dikanka by Nikolai Gogol )
Ludwig Rottenberg (D) German premiere
( first performance 1880 in St. Petersburg)
1900 to 1911 (director Paul Jensen)
November 12, 1902 sleeping Beauty Engelbert Humperdinck  /
Elisabeth Ebeling (1828–1905) and Bertha Filhés (1819-after 1887)
Ludwig Rottenberg (D) premiere
February 1, 1903 Götz von Berlichingen Karl Goldmark  /
Alfred Maria Willner
Ludwig Rottenberg (D) German premiere
( first performance 1902 in Budapest)
April 19, 1903 Orestes Felix Weingartner Felix Weingartner (D) (Trilogy. First performance February 15, 1902 in Leipzig)
April 19, 1907 Pelleas and Melisande Claude Debussy  /
Maurice Maeterlinck
Ludwig Rottenberg (D) German premiere
( first performance 1905 in Paris)
August 18, 1912 The distant sound Franz Schreker Ludwig Rottenberg (D) premiere
1912 to 1917 (director Robert Volkner)
March 15, 1913 The game and the princess Franz Schreker Ludwig Rottenberg (D) Simultaneous world premieres in Frankfurt and Vienna
1917 to 1920 (director Karl Zeiß)
April 25, 1918 The drawn Franz Schreker Ludwig Rottenberg (D) premiere
October 21, 1919 Fennimore and Gerda Frederick Delius Gustav Brecher (1879–1940) (D) premiere
January 21, 1920 The treasure hunter Franz Schreker Ludwig Rottenberg (D) premiere
July 1, 1920 The first people Rudi Stephan  /
Otto Borngräber
Ludwig Rottenberg (D) premiere
1920 to 1923 (Intendant Ernst Lert)
March 26, 1922 Sancta Susanna Paul Hindemith  /
(after August Stramm )
Ludwig Rottenberg (D) / Ernst Lert (R) / Ludwig Sievert (B + K) premiere
May 13, 1922 Bluebeard's Castle Béla Bartók  /
Béla Balázs
Eugen Szenkar (1891–1977) (D) German premiere
( first performance 1918 in Budapest)
May 13, 1922 The wood-carved prince Béla Bartók /
József Újfalussy and Béla Balázs
Eugen Szenkar (D) German premiere?
(First performance 1917 in Budapest)
July 9, 1924 The jump over the shadow Ernst Krenek Ludwig Rottenberg (D) premiere
1924 to 1929 (Clemens Krauss)
November 8, 1924 Sakahra Simon Bucharoff (1881–1955) /
Isabel Buckingham
Clemens Krauss  (D) premiere
February 25, 1926 The ten kisses Bernhard Sekles  /
Karl Erich Jaroschek
Clemens Krauss (D) premiere
November 14, 1926 The golem Eugen d'Albert  /
Ferdinand Lion
Clemens Krauss (D) premiere
December 25, 1926 The blasphemy school Paul von Klenau  /
Rudolf Stephan Hoffmann (1878–1939)
Clemens Krauss (D) premiere
February 14, 1929 The Makropulos affair Leoš Janáček  /
(German text version by Max Brod )
Josef Krips  (D) German premiere
( first performance 1926 in Brno)
1929 to 1933 (director Josef Turnau)
February 1, 1930 From today to tomorrow Arnold Schönberg  /
Max Blonda (= Gertrud Schönberg)
Hans Wilhelm Steinberg  (D) / Herbert Graf (1903–1973) (R) premiere
March 23, 1930 Attention, admission !! Wilhelm Grosz (1894–1939) /
Béla Balázs
May 25, 1930 Transatlantic George Antheil Hans Wilhelm Steinberg (D) premiere
1933 to 1944 (Intendant Hans Meissner)
January 31, 1934 Prince Eugene the noble knight Max Pflugmacher premiere
May 18, 1934 Münchhausen's last lie Hansheinrich Dransmann (1894–1964) /
Theo Halton
(World premiere in Frankfurt and / or Dortmund?)
May 22, 1935 The magic violin Werner Egk  /
Ludwig Strecker the Younger
Bertil Wetzelsberger (D) / Oskar Wältin (R) / Walter Junk (Choreography) / Caspar Neher  (B + K) premiere
May 26, 1936 Doctor Johannes Faust Hermann Reutter  /
Ludwig Strecker the Younger
Bertil Wetzelsberger (D) / Walter Felsenstein  (R) / Walter Gondolt (B) premiere
June 8, 1937 Carmina Burana Carl Orff  /
(based on texts from the Carmina Burana collection )
Bertil Wetzelsberger (D) / Oskar Wältin  (R) / Ludwig Sievert (B + K) premiere
May 5, 1939 The rose from the love garden Hans Pfitzner  /
James Grun (1868–1928)
Clemens Krauss (D)
First performance of the (abridged) new version (first performance of the first version in 1901 in Elberfeld)
January 13, 1942 Columbus Werner Egk Franz Konwitschny  (D) / Hans Meissner (R) / Helmut Jürgens (B) / Charlotte Vocke (K) World premiere of the stage version
(radio version 1932; ballet oratorio 1951)
September 7, 1942 Odysseus Hermann Reutter /
Rudolf Bach (1901–1957)
Franz Konwitschny (D) premiere
February 20, 1943 The clever Carl Orff Otto Winkler (D) / Günther Rennert  (R) / Helmut Jürgens (B) premiere
December 4, 1943 Las Golondrinas (The Swallows) José Maria Usandizaga (1887–1915) /
Gregorio Martínez Sierra (1881–1947)
Franz Konwitschny (D) German premiere
1951 to 1968 (Artistic Director Harry Buckwitz)
March 1, 1962 The Alcestiad Louise Talma  /
Thornton Wilder
Wolfgang Rennert (* 1922) (D) / Harry Buckwitz  (R). With Inge Borkh premiere
1964 Lady leprechaun Gerhard Wimberger  /
(after Calderón / Hofmannsthal)
November 30, 1965 The end of a world Hans Werner Henze  /
Wolfgang Hildesheimer
Wolfgang Rennert (D) / Hans Neugebauer  (R) / Jacques Camurati (B + K) World premiere of the stage version
November 30, 1965 A country doctor Hans Werner Henze  /
(after Franz Kafka )
Wolfgang Rennert (D) / Hans Neugebauer (R + B + K) World premiere of the stage version
1977 to 1987 (Michael Gielen)
June 26, 1978 Al gran sole carico d'amore Luigi Nono  /
Jurij Lyubimow (* 1917)
Michael Gielen  (D) / Jürgen Flimm  (R; stepped in for Ruth Berghaus ) / Karl-Ernst Herrmann  (B + K) German premiere of the 2nd version
(first performance of the 1st version in 1975 and the 2nd version in 1978 at the Teatro alla Scala , Milan )
1986 The journey to the centre of the earth Hans-Joachim Hespos  /
June 15, 1986 Stephen Climax Hans Zender Peter Hirsch (D) / Alfred Kirchner (R) premiere
1987 to 1991 (Gary Bertini)
December 12, 1987 Europeras 1 & 2 John Cage Gary Bertini  (rehearsal) / Heinz-Klaus Metzger and Rainer Riehn  (dramaturgy) premiere
May 18, 1989 What Where Heinz Holliger  /
(after Samuel Beckett )
Ingo Metzmacher  (D) / Peter Mussbach  (R + B) / Klaus Bruns (K) premiere
1992 to 2002 (Artistic Director Martin Steinhoff)
January 31, 2000 The walls Adriana Hölszky  /
Thomas Körner
Bernhard Kontarsky  (D) / Hans Hollmann  (R) / Rosalie (B + K) German premiere
( first performance 1995 at the Theater an der Wien )
June 14, 2002 Dr. Booger's nasty trap Moritz Eggert  /
Andrea Heuser
Roland Böer  (D) / Aurelia Eggers (R) / Marion Menzinger (B) / Heike Ruppmann (K) Premiere; Children's opera with the
choir of the Lessing-Gymnasium
2002 until today (Artistic Director Bernd Loebe)
May 20, 2005 night Georg Friedrich Haas  /
(based on texts by Friedrich Hölderlin )
Roland Böer  (D) / Friederike Rinne-Wolf (R) / Rosalie (B + K) German premiere
(premiere 1996 [concert] / 1998 [scenic] in Bregenz)
March 11, 2006 The Wedding Day June H. Lim /
Young-Jin Oh and Sang-Woo Lee
Eun-Sung Park (D) / Chul-Lee Kim (R) / Il-Jin Im (B + K) / Young-Soo Na and Sung-Jin Ko (choirs) Premiere; Guest performance by the National Opera of Korea
October 7, 2006 Caligula Detlev Glanert  /
Hans-Ulrich Treichel
Markus Stenz  (D) / Christian Pade  (R) / Alexander Lintl (B + K) / Olaf Winter and Joachim Klein  (lighting) / Lior Lev (choreography) / Andrew Ollivant (choirs) / Norbert Abels  (dramaturgy) premiere
November 9, 2007 Into the Little Hill George Benjamin  /
Martin crimp
Franck Ollu (D) / Daniel Jeanneteau (R + B) German premiere
(premiere 2006 in Paris)
May 17, 2008 L'espace dernier Matthias Pintscher  /
(based on texts by Arthur Rimbaud )
Paolo Carignani  (D) German premiere (concert version)
(first performance 2004 at the Opéra Bastille , Paris)
September 14, 2014 Sirens - images of desire and destruction Rolf Riehm
(based on texts by Homer , Caroline von Günderrode and Isabelle Eberhardt )
Martyn Brabbins  (D) premiere
November 12, 2017 The tenant Arnulf Herrmann
Händl Klaus (based on the novel Le Locataire chimérique by Roland Topor , 1964)
Kazushi Ōno  (D) / Johannes Erath (R) / Kaspar Glarner (B) / Katharina Tasch (K) / Joachim Klein (L) World premiere, commissioned by the Frankfurt Opera



  • Paul Bartholomäi: The Frankfurt Museum Orchestra - two centuries of music for Frankfurt , CF Peters, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-87626-224-0 .
  • Hilmar Hoffmann: Frankfurts Stardirigenten , Societäts-Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-7973-1069-9 .
  • Albert Richard Mohr : The Frankfurt Opera House 1880–1980 . Kramer, Frankfurt am Main 1980, ISBN 3-7829-0232-7 .
  • City administration Frankfurt am Main (ed.): 1945–65 Frankfurt am Main , Frankfurt am Main 1965.
  • City administration Frankfurt am Main (ed.): 1965–68 Frankfurt am Main , Frankfurt am Main 1969.
  • Martin Steinhoff (Ed.): Aufbruch: Oper Frankfurt 1987–2002 . Oper Frankfurt, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-00-009479-2 .
  • Otto Bacher: The history of the Frankfurt Opera in the 18th century . Englert and Schlosser, Frankfurt / M. 1926, DNB 578789191 .


  1. ^ University Library Johann Christian Senckenberg , Music, Theater, Film Department of the Johann Wolfgang Goethe University in Frankfurt am Main .
  2. ↑ For the schedule, see the Girolamo Bon traveling opera in Frankfurt am Main .
  3. Quoted from Paul Bartholomäi: Das Frankfurter Museums-Orchester - two centuries of music for Frankfurt , CF Peters, Frankfurt am Main 2002, ISBN 3-87626-224-0 , p. 10 f.
  4. ^ Hector Berlioz: Memoirs . Rogner & Bernhard, Hamburg 1990, ISBN 3-8077-0157-5
  5. Sabine Hock : Caruso, Enrico in the Frankfurter Personenlexikon (article as of June 10, 2018). Query date: June 20, 2018
  6. ^ The stage of the city - the future of Frankfurt's municipal theaters. Accessed June 16, 2020 (German).
  7. ^ Art - Future City Theaters Frankfurt. Accessed June 16, 2020 (German).
  8. ^ Report of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung on the renovation needs of the municipal theaters of June 6, 2017 , FAZ website. Accessed on August 23, 2017.
  9. ^ Report of the Frankfurter Rundschau on the need for renovation of the municipal theaters of June 19, 2017 , website of the Frankfurter Rundschau. Retrieved August 23, 2017.
  10. Statistical Yearbook of the City of Frankfurt am Main 2001 (PDF; 49 kB), 2002 (PDF; 44 kB), 2003 (PDF; 65 kB), 2004 (PDF; 65 kB), 2005 (PDF; 153 kB), 2006 ( PDF; 296 kB), 2007 (PDF; 265 kB), 2008 (PDF; 169 kB), 2009 (PDF; 164 kB), 2010 (PDF; 151 kB), 2011 (PDF; 182 kB), 2012 (PDF; 182 kB), 2013 (PDF; 168 kB), 2014 (PDF; 258 kB), 2016 (PDF; 173 kB), 2017 (PDF; 204 kB).
  11. Product budget 2015/16 of the City of Frankfurt am Main, pp. 707–714
  12. Numbers and statistics for the 2016/2017 season (as of August 31, 2017) , accessed on March 15, 2018.
  13. For the period from 1880 to 1944 cf. Albert Richard Mohr, Das Frankfurter Opernhaus 1880–1980 . Frankfurt am Main, Verlag Waldemar Kramer, 1980, ISBN 3-7829-0232-7 . For the period between 1944 and 2005, the relevant data may not be complete. From 2006: Current schedule.
  14. Theater Verlag. Retrieved October 11, 2018 .

Web links

Commons : Städtische Bühnen Frankfurt  - Album with pictures, videos and audio files
This article was added to the list of excellent articles on November 28, 2006 in this version .