Semper Opera

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Logo of the Semperoper

The Semperoper in Dresden is the opera house of the Saxon State Opera Dresden , which has a long historical tradition as the court and state opera of Saxony . The Semperoper is located on Theaterplatz in the historic city center of Dresden near the Elbe . It is named after its architect Gottfried Semper .

The Dresden Semperoper in the evening (2007)

The Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden together with the Staatsschauspiel Dresden form the Staatsbetrieb Sächsische Staatstheater . The State Opera include the sectors the traditional Staatskapelle Dresden , the Semper Opera Ballet and the young scene as well as a sound body of the Saxon State Opera Chorus Dresden. The Swiss Peter Theiler has been director of the State Opera since the 2018/19 season . Christian Thielemann has been the chief conductor since 2012 .

In the 2017/2018 season, around 290,000 visitors attended the symphony concerts, opera and ballet performances in the opera. The occupancy rate was 93 percent. With a good 300 events, the Semperoper achieved a turnover of 17 million euros and thus achieved a cost recovery rate of almost 40 percent.

History of the building

Predecessor building at the Zwinger

The earliest forerunner was the opera house on Taschenberg , which was inaugurated in 1667 but converted into a Catholic court orchestra in 1708. The opera house at the Zwinger , which existed from 1719 to 1849, is often referred to as the "predecessor building" of the Semperoper. The three-tier theater, which can hold up to 2000 visitors, not far from today's porcelain pavilion of the Zwinger , was only used as an opera until 1763. After that, the so-called Morettian Opera House was used until 1841 , while the Opera House at the Zwinger became a redoubt and concert hall.

The first construction

The first opera house in Semper

From 1838 to 1841, the master builder Gottfried Semper (1803–1879) built a new royal court theater. The rotunda in the forms of the Italian Early Renaissance became famous as one of the most beautiful European theaters. A digital clock by the Dresden watchmaker Gutkaes , which was installed above the stage , also caused a sensation. Semper's first opera house was considerably closer to the palace than his second theater building, which still exists today; In front of the opera, the forerunner of today's theater square was laid out in 1840 . On September 21, 1869, the building was completely destroyed in a fire.

Interim construction

Construction work on an interim theater on Zwingerwall behind the ruins of the old theater began just four weeks after the fire disaster. After only six weeks of construction, the venue, which was built with simple construction equipment, offered space for around 1,800 visitors and was popularly known as the “Shack”, was opened on December 2, 1869 with Goethe's Iphigenie on Tauris .

The second building

The second building after 1880, photograph by August Kotzsch
Semperoper on Theaterplatz (with the King Johann monument ) around 1900; in the background the chimney of the district heating plant , on the right the old Hotel Bellevue on the Elbe and on the left in the background the striking building of the Yenidze cigarette factory
Semperoper, July 1945

Gottfried Semper had to flee in 1849 because of his participation in the May uprisings and was not allowed to step on Saxon soil for many years. During this time abroad, for example, he created the Vienna Burgtheater together with Carl von Hasenauer . After the destruction of the first Semperoper in 1869, construction of the second court theater began in 1871. During the construction work, Gottfried Semper was still not allowed to return to Saxony, so his new design was carried out under the supervision of his eldest son Manfred Semper (1838–1913) from 1871 to 1878 on Theaterplatz . The grand opening of the house took place on February 2, 1878 with Carl Maria von Weber's jubilee overture and Goethe's Iphigenie on Tauris .

The theater building has a magnificent interior. Manfred Semper commissioned Ludwig Teubner , a former Gutkae employee, to create a new digitally displaying clock based on the Gutkae model. The ceiling painting and the design of the frieze above the proscenium were carried out by James Marshall according to Semper's designs .

This second building suffered severe damage at the end of the Second World War from the air raid on Dresden on the night of February 13, 1945. As a result of the air raid, the building burned out to a large extent. The fire destroyed the audience and stage area and the rear wall of the stage building collapsed. Only the walkways were spared from the fire.


From 1948, the theater could continue in the Great House of the State Theater , which at that time served as a multi-branch house for opera, ballet, drama and the Staatskapelle. The opening ceremony took place on September 22nd, 1948 with Beethoven's Fidelio .

The Semperoper 2013
The aerial photo of the Semperoper with the King Johann monument in front of it shows the proximity to the Elbe
The location of the Semperoper over the Elbe

After the Second World War , security work and conceptual studies from 1968 to 1976 prepared the reconstruction from 1946 to 1955.

The foundation stone was laid and the reconstruction took place on June 24, 1977 under the direction of Wolfgang Hänsch as chief architect. On the one hand, the auditorium was expanded and, on the other hand, the walls in the stage area were moved outwards in order to meet the increased space requirements of modern operas. The number of seats has been reduced to 1300. Otherwise the building was rebuilt according to Semper's plans.

A modern building was added, which is used as a rehearsal stage, second venue, functional building and administrative headquarters. It is connected to the opera building by bridges. The outer facade is adorned at the corners with four sandstone masks by Peter Makolies , which were made between 1982 and 1984. The masks have a size of 2.7 by 5.2 meters. The new building extends into the Bernhard-von-Lindenau-Platz / Terrassenufer area .

In 1983 there was an administrative separation between opera, ballet, Staatskapelle and drama: the Staatsschauspiel and the Staatsoper Dresden were created, the latter comprising the opera, ballet and Staatskapelle divisions.

On February 13, 1985, the 40th anniversary of the war's destruction, the Semperoper was able to reopen with Carl Maria von Weber's opera Der Freischütz under the direction of Artistic Director Max Gerd Schönfelder - it was with this work that the opera house did on August 31st Closed in 1944. On the 30th anniversary of the reopening, a Semperopenair again took place with the Freischütz in May 2015 .

In 1985 a central box office was set up. It is located in the neighboring old town main guard .

Although it was already a state opera , the opera also received the official title "Saxon State Opera" after the fall of the Wall . The flooding of the Elbe in August 2002 damaged the opera house by 27 million euros. Three months after the flood disaster, dancers from the Semperoper Ballet and the Saxon State Orchestra opened the season with the ballet Illusionen - wie Schwanensee - on November 9, 2002 .

As part of the 800th anniversary celebrations of the city of Dresden, a Dresden Opera Ball was held in the hall and on the stage for the first time on January 13, 2006 as a continuation of a tradition that had already existed from 1925 to 1939 . For this ball, which has been held annually since then, some of the seating in the opera has been removed.

At the beginning of 2013, the State Opera and State Theater were reunited under the roof of the Saxon State Theater .

Architecture and artistic design

The quadriga above the main portal
Semperoper with Theaterplatz seen from the tower of the Residenzschloss
View of the opera hall with ceiling decorations
Panoramic view of the opera hall
Stage prospectus for concerts
The shell ornaments serve to distribute the sound

See also: List of sculptures at the Semperoper

The reputation that Gottfried Semper enjoyed as a good architect during his lifetime was based on his masterly treatment of form. His impressive architectural compositions were not only of artistic value, but also functional and at the same time functionally correct. This, in turn, was the basis of the appreciation that Semper was still accorded when the use of historical forms was viewed as superfluous and therefore worthy of criticism.

His urban planning so effective structure is above the main entrance of a bronze panther - Quadriga with Dionysos and Ariadne by John Schilling crowned. The west facade of the back stage is adorned with the Saxon coat of arms, the figures "Love" and "Justice" as well as a bust of Gottfried Semper. Next to the entrance are the statues of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe and Friedrich Schiller , and William Shakespeare , Sophocles , Molière and Euripides in the side niches of the facade .

The interior has a logical spatial structure which, in terms of the basic shape and arrangement of the rooms, can be seen as a prototype for theater buildings. It guarantees a safe, clear and also impressive guidance of the visitors to the auditorium and is just as well suited as an architectural setting for social encounters during the theater breaks. Above all, however, the design of the auditorium offers the best acoustic conditions for theater and opera.

Semper realized this functional spatial organism in forms that are indebted to ancient tradition and primarily follow models from the Italian Renaissance . They cover the surface of the building structure and are mainly made of stucco inside the building, which is applied to the walls and ceilings that encompass the space. The historicizing cover had to meet the intellectual demands that the audience placed on his theater in Semper's time: a rich, decorative and festive dress of historical forms had to illustrate the ideality of humanistic ideas and at the same time to present cultural events with a representative, out-of-the-ordinary, To give frame. Semper had already described this “cladding” of structural components with decorative shapes in 1863 in his clothing theory.

Ornamental curtain

One of the most impressive elements of the interior design of the Semperoper is the 17 by 12 meter and 400 kilogram decorative curtain by Ferdinand Keller , which was created for the reconstruction of the house by the painters Gerhard Keil and Walter Teichert in the palace in the Great Garden . The curtain is made of hand-sewn Belgian linen, which has been painted with colors mixed according to ancient techniques.

The painted decorative curtain shows a large figural composition, framed by richly decorated friezes. The upper and lower friezes contain putti with garlands of fruit and flowers, above with six picture medallions by poets, below by seven composers. The upper middle medallion bears the intertwined initials of the Saxon royal couple AC - Albert and Carola. The following poets are depicted: Sophocles , Shakespeare , Molière , Lessing , Schiller and Goethe ; as composers: Gluck , Mozart , Beethoven , Weber , Rossini , Meyerbeer and Wagner .

The figure composition in the middle is framed by a lush fruit wreath in which theatrical masks are interwoven. A winged female figure sits on a stone stepped throne - the allegory of fantasy - and lifts up a burning torch with her right hand. At her side on the left is a woman with a book and quill, looking at her, the allegorical figure of serious poetry. To the right of the imagination, there are two female figures with lyre and violin who represent the instrumental music. This middle group is covered by a curtain raised by two flying angel putti. Two female figures lie in the foreground. A putto leads to the left, who is about to put a fool's cap on the woman. She holds a harlequin staff in her right hand; it is the poetry of comedy. The vase with Dionysian motifs in the lower left corner of the picture is related to them. The term of a Faun is also tailored to these themes, while the serious standing figure in the background, to which a putto holds an open book, symbolizes the story. In the lower right corner of the picture sits a singing woman, a putto holds an open book in front of her. The attribute of the figure of the art of singing is the swan. Two dancing figures are shown in the background. The torch of the inspiring imagination lights up tragedy, comedy and history on the one hand, and music, song and dance on the other. There is a loose reference to the muses Melpomene , Thalia , Klio , Erato , Polyhymnia and Terpsichore , although their classical attributes have been partially replaced by those of modern theater.

After almost 30 years, the curtain was cleaned and restored in 2013. The cost was around 40,000 euros.

Proscenium frieze

The stage portal of the Semperoper is adorned with a frieze showing characters from drama and opera who are oriented towards the allegory of Justitia Poetica (poetic justice) depicted in the center of the frieze (from left to right): Papageno, the mayor, Colombine (ballet), Pierrot , Basilio, the barber, Samiel, Max, Agathe, Tannhäuser, Fenella, Masaniello, the water carrier, Florestan, Don Juan, Steinerner Gast, Donna Anna, Iphigenia, Euterpe, Komos, Justitia Poetica, Eumenide, Antigone, Oedipus, Melpomene, Othello , Desdemona, Mephistopheles, Gretchen, Faust, Nathan, Wallenstein, Donna Diana, Puck, the Miser, Caliban, the Capuchin (Wallenstein's camp), the Page and Falstaff.

Stage prospectus for concerts

Since October 2015, the Semperoper has had a new stage prospect for concerts , a so-called “concert room”. A design by Gottfried Semper for the Royal Court Theater in Dresden served as a model . According to his idea, the auditorium should find an analogue continuation on the stage. The acoustics were tested with different designs, after which a model was made. Production and construction was carried out by the Italian companies Suono Vivo Padua and Arianese Milan . The prospectus is adorned with medallions with the heads of musicians and patrons. In detail these are Elector Moritz , Heinrich Schütz , August II. , Johann Adolph Hasse , August III. , Johann Gottlieb Naumann , Carl Maria von Weber, Gottfried Semper, Richard Wagner , Ernst von Schuch and Richard Strauss . At the front are the names: Ernst von Schuch - Nikolaus Graf von Seebach - Fritz Busch .

Semper Two

Sandstone masks by Peter Makolies on the functional building

As a second venue, the Saxon State Opera Dresden operates Semper Zwei in the former canteen wing, an extension in the 1980s style. It was converted from 2014 to 2016 into another venue with 200 seats. Semper Zwei serves as a stage for the young scene, for more experimental music and dance theater formats.



General manager of the Saxon Court Theater in Dresden
General director of the Saxon State Theater in Dresden
General director of the Dresden State Theater
Director of the Dresden State Opera
Director of the Saxon State Opera in Dresden
  • Christoph Albrecht , 1991-2003
  • Gerd Uecker , 2003-2010
  • Ulrike Hessler , 2010–2012
  • Serge Dorny , originally from September 1, 2014 (had been under contract in Dresden since October 1, 2013 to prepare his artistic director); on February 21, 2014 the contractual relationship was terminated with immediate effect
  • Wolfgang Rothe, acting
  • Peter Theiler since 2018

Opera management

Opera and general music director Fritz Busch

Artistic management

Chief conductor

Kapellmeister Richard Wagner
General Music Director Karl Böhm

Important conductors worked at the respective Dresden opera houses, for example

World premieres

In Semper's first court theater
In the interim theater "Bretterbude"
In Semper's second court theater
In the "large" or "small house of the State Theater" (Dresden theater)
In the rebuilt (third) Semperoper


see list of singers at the Semperoper Dresden .

Richard Strauss tradition

The close connection between the composer Richard Strauss and Dresden goes back to Ernst von Schuch . From 1872 until his death on May 10, 1914, Schuch performed four Strauss operas in a row in Dresden, including Feuersnot , Salome , Elektra and Der Rosenkavalier . His successors Fritz Busch and Karl Böhm continued this tradition. Several new productions came out as early as the first decades of the 20th century. To this day, the operas and orchestral works by Richard Strauss are among the repertoire focal points of the Semperoper: "He gave this house so rich gifts that we simply owe it to him," said Christian Thielemann as acting chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden on the occasion of the Richard Strauss Days 2014 said.

Between 1901 and 1938 nine of Richard Strauss' fifteen operas were premiered in Dresden:


  • Adolph Kohut : The Dresden Court Theater in the Present. With original contributions from the members of the Dresden Court Theater: Charlotte Basté , Marie Bayer [… u. a.]. With 142 portraits . Pierson, Dresden 1888. Digitized
  • Michael Heinemann , Hans John : The Dresden Opera in the 19th Century. Laaber-Verlag, Regensburg 1995, ISBN 3-89007-310-7 .
  • Jürgen Helfricht : The Dresden Semper Opera Ball. Saxophon-Verlag Dresden 2014, ISBN 978-3-943444-36-0 .
  • Jürgen Helfricht: The Dresden Semper Opera Ball. The most beautiful night of the year. Husum-Verlag, Husum 2020, ISBN 978-3-89876-995-2 .
  • Wolfgang Hänsch : The Semperoper. 2nd Edition. Verlag für Bauwesen, Berlin 1988, ISBN 3-345-00017-2 .
  • Winfried Höntzsch: Opera metropolis Dresden. Verlag der Kunst, Leipzig 1996, ISBN 90-5705-003-X .
  • Kurt Milde, Christian Borchert , Heinz Czechowski : Semperoper Dresden - Pictures of a building landscape. 263 pages, format> A4, with numerous black and white documentary photos by Christian Borchert, 3rd edition, Verlag der Kunst, Dresden 1987, ISBN 3-364-00019-0 .
  • Friedbert Streller: The Dresden State Opera and the new music theater. In: Matthias Herrmann, Stefan Weiss (ed.): Dresden and advanced music in the 20th century. Part III: 1966-1999. ( Music in Dresden 6). Laaber 2004, ISBN 3-89007-511-8 , pp. 171-180.
  • Heinrich Magirius : The Semperoper in Dresden. 2nd Edition. Edition Leipzig, Leipzig 2000, ISBN 3-361-00515-9 .
  • Foundation for the Promotion of the Semperoper (publisher): Only change is constant: supra-regional encouragement from the Semperoper - artistic director Gerd Uecker 2003-2010. Dresden Book, Dresden 2010, ISBN 978-3-9812287-5-5 .

Web links

Wiktionary: Semperoper  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Commons : Semperoper  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ History of the Semperoper - Semperoper Dresden. Retrieved April 13, 2020 .
  2. A strong team . In: Saxon newspaper . July 6, 2018 ( online [accessed July 6, 2018]).
  3. Dirk Syndram , P. Ufer: The return of the Dresden castle . edition Sächsische Zeitung, Dresden 2006, ISBN 3-938325-28-3 , p. 88.
  4. ^ Entry about Ludwig Teubner in the Watch Wiki
  5. ^ The Semperoper's five-minute clock
  6. Individual images of the ceiling painting from 1944 on color slide archive, accessed on December 8, 2015.
  7. Götz Eckardt (ed.): Fates of German architectural monuments in the Second World War. Henschel-Verlag, Berlin 1978, Volume 2, p. 405.
  8. Radio Treasures - Dresden Opera Chronicle 1948-1949 (accessed on January 4, 2021)
  9. The history of the Semper building at
  10. Rabiat respectfully: Extension of the Dresden Semperoper converted. In: Deutsche Bauzeitung. July 11, 2017. Retrieved June 27, 2019 .
  11. ^ Art in public space . Dresden Cultural Office, Dresden 1996.
  12. Semperopenair .
  13. a b Decorative curtain on the way to the beauty cure . In: Saxon newspaper . July 13, 2013 ( paid online [accessed July 15, 2013]).
  14. Bernd Klempnow: Wagner with water damage . In: Saxon newspaper . July 25, 2013 ( paid online [accessed July 25, 2013]).
  15. ^ Staatskapelle Dresden - October 2015 (accessed December 5, 2015)
  16. Photos of the concert room (accessed December 5, 2015)
  17. ^ Opening of Semper Zwei. October 18, 2016.
  18. ^ Christian Schönwetter: Extension of the Dresden Semperoper converted. Rabiat respectfully. In: Deutsche Bauzeitung , July 11, 2017.
  19. ^ Semper Zwei , Semperoper, accessed on August 28, 2019.
  20. ^ Semperoper - Signing of the contract by Serge Dorny. September 18, 2013, accessed April 22, 2020 .
  21. of February 21, 2014: Ministry of Art terminates Serge Dorny's contract for the Semperoper Dresden. accessed on February 21, 2014.
  22. Information  ( page no longer available , search in web archives ) of the Saxon State Theater , accessed on March 26, 2017@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /
  23. For example Salome see Sandra Meinzenbach: Dresdens Salome. Pictures of women between 1905 and 1988.
  24. ^ Christian Thielemann: Editorial. Strauss tradition in all its facets. In: Semper! ( Memento from February 27, 2015 in the Internet Archive ) Magazine. Number 2, 2014/15, p. 3.

Coordinates: 51 ° 3 ′ 16.2 ″  N , 13 ° 44 ′ 6.6 ″  E