Theater Aachen

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Aachen theater at night

The Theater Aachen is a cultural institution for drama and music theater opened in 1825 in the city of Aachen . It follows on from the no longer representative old comedy house at Katschhof , the first public theater in Aachen built in 1751 by Johann Joseph Couven . In 1920 the previously independent Aachen Symphony Orchestra was affiliated with the theater .

The current two-part house is located in a classical building complex designed by Karl Friedrich Schinkel and Johann Peter Cremer on Aachen's Kapuzinergraben. The individual performances take place either on the "large stage" with 730 seats or in the "small chamber" with 168 seats and are attended by an average of more than 130,000 people each year. The mirror foyer is available for chamber music performances, whereas the large symphony concerts are usually performed in the Eurogress Aachen .

The so-called Mörgens with its 99 seats also belongs to the Aachen theater as an external venue . In addition to its use as a rehearsal stage, productions by young directors, improvised youth theater, crossover projects, readings as well as game and film evenings take place there.


In 1802 the French government in the occupied Aachen decided that the previous Komödienhaus am Katschhof, which no longer met the increased structural and representative requirements, should be extensively rebuilt and modernized or, as an alternative, a new building should be designed. The architect Jaques Cellerier (1742–1814) took on the design for the renovation and expansion, but due to a massive lack of money and a possible new building, it was not possible to realize it for the time being.

Theater in 1826, lithograph by Jean Nicolas Ponsart

After the French had left and Prussia took over Aachen, the theater question was again up for debate in 1815. During a visit by Karl Friedrich Schinkel to Aachen on September 12, 1816, the plans for the new building and Cellerier's designs for the renovation of the old theater were presented to him. In his report, Schinkel initially recommended the conversion, but after King Friedrich Wilhelm III in July 1816 . Having handed over the property of the former Capuchin monastery in Aachen at the Kapuzinergraben to the city of Aachen, the city council decided to build a new theater. In the course of the extensive urban development changes in the city center of Aachen based on plans by Adam Franz Friedrich Leydel in the 1820s, the site for the theater in the former garden of the Capuchin monastery was selected. The new theater was supposed to promote tourism and, according to Leydel's plans, at the same time form the central starting point for a splendid connecting road between the Aachen and Burtscheid spa districts . However, since Cellerier's plan was too costly, on July 13, 1817 Johann Peter Cremer was commissioned with the preparation of a new design. Supplemented by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, Cremer's design was finally implemented and the new Aachen theater opened on May 15, 1825 with the opera Jessonda by Louis Spohr . In the following week, was here as part of the Lower Rhine Music Festival , which was specially awarded for this opening ceremony in Aachen, the Ninth Symphony of Beethoven for the first time after the first performance in Vienna listed. The performance was performed by 422 singers and musicians, although difficult passages were omitted. In 1829/30 Karl Fischer took over the management of the house.

A harmony corps reorganized in 1804 was responsible for the musical performances at the Aachen Theater, which was under the direction of a music director and from which the city orchestra was founded in 1852 under Karl von Turanyi. Initially, it was not under the control of the theater, but was responsible for the design of the entire public music program in Aachen on behalf of the city, such as the spa concerts in the Neue Redoute or the Elisengarten . It was not until 1920 that the orchestra was officially affiliated to the Aachen Theater and its management was transferred to General Music Director Peter Raabe , who now also became the artistic director of the music theater division. The German-nationally minded Raabe viewed Aachen's musical life as exemplary and, in his capacity as President of the Reich Chamber of Music , he succeeded in ensuring that the ideas he developed in Aachen of a symphonic monoculture covered by collective agreements remained a reality throughout Germany as a so-called cultural orchestra system for all larger municipalities from 1938 until today.

From the very beginning, the acting division of the theater was subordinate to the respective acting directors , who were appointed artistic directors as part of the organizational change in 1920 and, from 1950, were general directors of the theater.

During the Second World War , the theater building was largely destroyed on July 14, 1943. The performances then took place temporarily in the auditorium of the TH Aachen until this was also destroyed in 1944. A few months after the end of the war, the theater management was able to start again with the first performances at provisional venues, including in the Aachen City Library . The reconstruction in the old style that has now been started on the previous square under the direction of building director Philipp Kerz was financially supported , among other things, with the income from a benefit concert by the Vienna Symphony under Herbert von Karajan in the Eden-Palast in Aachen. Finally, on December 23, 1951, the Meistersinger performance under the musical direction of long-time Bayreuth conductor Karl Elmendorff celebrated the reopening. The following performances of the Meistersinger took place under the direction of the former musical headmaster of Aachen, Paul Pella , who emigrated in 1933 because of his Jewish origins .

Over the next few decades, the theater was continuously expanded and modernized, both technically and artistically. Under General Director Paul Mundorf , the small "chamber" was converted into an experimental stage in 1953, and under General Director Elmar Ottenthal in the 1980s the "Stadttheater Aachen" was renamed "Theater Aachen" due to the increasing national catchment area and area of ​​use.

As early as the 1990s, due to tight public budgets, the theater was threatened with partial liquidations and / or amalgamations almost every year. In 1992, for example, the current theater budget was blocked, which meant that orchestral positions could not be filled, which in turn had an impact on the selection of works and the quality. In this escalating dispute, to which the Deutsche Bühnenverein also commented in a press release, the incumbent Mayor of Aachen Meike Thüllen ( FDP ) and the Lord Mayor Jürgen Linden ( SPD ) advocated the preservation of the theater, but then stepped down a little later Protest against the massive cuts plans of their coalition partner, the CDU , from their office. The city administration continues to announce plans that the city theater or individual sections of it should be merged or even closed with other institutions, preferably the Grenzlandtheater Aachen . The fact that this has not yet happened in recent years is largely thanks to General Manager Michael Schmitz-Aufterbeck and General Music Director Marcus R. Bosch , who was in office until the summer of 2012 , who, due to their artistic planning and the high-quality ensemble for increased and, most recently, constant audience numbers. This convinced the city council to approve the necessary subsidies until further notice.

Architecture of the theater building

The theater before the renovation (1899)
The theater as it was after Heinrich Seeling's renovation
The tympanum of the theater building

The foundation stone of the building took place on the occasion of the 25th anniversary of the throne of the Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm III. instead and took place on November 16, 1822. The original design by Johann Peter Cremer from 1821 was edited by Karl Friedrich Schinkel, who was active in the Oberbaudeputation in Berlin at the time, insofar as it made that of Cremer with six columns a little narrower planned portico to eight columns and thus the entire building width increased. The eight fluted Ionic columns are made of Devonian Aachen bluestone . Five steps lead to the prostyle of the free-standing temple of the Muses with a flattened apse at the rear. This wing contains, among other things, the organizational, artistic and technical areas such as administration, the artists' rooms, the costume designers and the delivery depot for the decorations for the set .

The design of the gable field with allegorical figures goes back to an idea by Schinkel, which Johann Baptist Joseph Bastiné implemented in drawings. A 245 cm wide and 102 cm high model of the gable field was made in the summer of 1824 by the sculptor Wilhelm Joseph Imhoff from Cologne . Using this model, he worked the gable relief on the theater out of soft marl stone within four months . In the center of the tympanum , a standing female genius with wings is depicted, flanked on the left by the muse Melpomene as a symbol of tragedy and on the right by the muse Thalia as a symbol of comedy . Both muses receive a wreath of leaves from the genius.

The construction work was in the hands of the Aachen builder Andreas Hansen . When building the foundations, the stone material from demolished city fortification towers was used. The Düsseldorf artist Ludwig Pose was responsible for the painterly decoration. Whose work continued Jean Nicolas Ponsart , who in 1825 received an engagement as decoration and scene painter, continues.

In 1893 the iron curtain was built in and electrical lighting was installed. In the years from 1900 to 1901, the architect Heinrich Seeling, who is renowned for his theaters, made profound structural changes. In addition to an enlargement of the stage area, the conversion of the cloakrooms and the design of the auditorium, the viewing side was significantly changed by redesigning the superstructures behind the triangular gable, in particular with two low corner towers.

On July 4, 1943, the theater building was completely destroyed in a bombing raid, only the front tympanum and the prostylos remained. After the end of the war, the building was rebuilt by the building director Philipp Kerz according to old plans by Cremer and Seeling without Schinkel's modification. The original three-tier house has now become two-tier. Since 1951, two cast stone reliefs by Helmuth Schepp have flanked the entrance of the first-tier central box . Art in architecture also includes two bronze busts each in the foyer and on the first tier as well as two mermaids in the rear tympanum field.


According to the Latin-Greek inscription Musagetae Heliconiadumque Choro ("The Guide to the Muses and the Choir of the Heliconiads") above the main portal , it is dedicated to Apollo (Guide to the Muses ) and the Choir of the Muses of Helicon .

The Roman numerals on the back MDCCCCL (1950) indicate the completion of the post-WWII restoration.

Artistic design

For more than 190 years, the Aachen Theater was the station for many important artists and for some of them the starting point of their further careers. These include conductors Leo Blech (1893–1899), Fritz Busch (1912–1918), Herbert von Karajan (1935–1942), Albert Lortzing (1818–1826), Wilhelm Pitz (1918–1951), Paul van Kempen (1942–1946), Wolfgang Sawallisch (1946–1953), Wilhelm Schüchter (1941–1943) and Wolfgang Trommer (1961–1974), the singers Elisabeth Grümmer , Tiana Lemnitz (Gerstung-Lemnitz - 1922–1929), Ludwig Suthaus ( 1928–1932), Irmgard Seefried (1938–1943), Margarete Teschemacher (1925/26) and the actors Willy Birgel (1919–1924), Hansjörg Felmy (1953), Jürgen Prochnow (1968–1970), Tom Witkowski (1979– 1985), Heinrich Schafmeister , Sophie von Kessel (1992), and the directors Max Ophüls (1921–1923) and Hans Schalla .

Characterized by the artistic preferences of the respective general managers and general music directors, the repertoire of the Theater Aachen includes the great works of classical drama and music theater literature. This program was significantly restricted between 1931 and 1945 by the National Socialist rulers, who considered it appropriate to have the majority of musical works performed by composers of German origin and at the same time banned works by Jewish composers such as Paul Hindemith and Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy . Herbert von Karajan , who was appointed Staatskapellmeister and joined the NSDAP , provided a suitable program during his time at the Aachen Theater.

After the Second World War, a normal game plan could be set up again without restrictions. Under the general manager Paul Mundorf and the music director Wolfgang Sawallisch it came in addition in 1956 with the performances of Wagner's opera The Flying Dutchman at the Royal Theater in Liege and a year later Mozart's The Abduction from the Seraglio in Antwerp in the presence of King Baudouin I. also to the first successful performances of the Aachen Theater abroad. Until the appointment of Klaus Schultz as general manager, it was mainly the well-known classic standard works that were performed, but he now focused on the performances of contemporary theater and music productions from the 20th century. Under his successor Elmar Ottendahl, musicals came to the fore in line with contemporary tastes . The world premiere of the musical Gaudí by Eric Woolfson on October 9, 1993, which Ottenthal and his ensemble performed for a long time in the specially created Musical Dome in Cologne , received great attention . One of the highlights of the world premiere was then under Paul Esterházy , who presented eight contemporary music theater works during his five years of service, including four works by Klaus Lang .

Especially since the era of Schmitz-Aufterbeck and Marcus Bosch, the Aachen theater began to open up more and more and to approach the citizens. With selected performances in restored and appropriately culturally prepared industrial plants, large company headquarters, but also in schools and in so-called problem areas, new groups of visitors could be won. In order to make the theater better known in schools and to win over the children and young people for age-appropriate plays, especially for the performances as part of the Young Theater in Mörgens , a theater pedagogue was specially appointed. This recruiting also includes the regular family concerts, where selected classics for children are performed in a relaxed atmosphere.

Further public relations measures include the annual theater day at the season opening, on which excerpts from the planned program are presented all day long, as well as the participation of the Aachen symphony orchestra with its horse and symphony program as part of the CHIO Aachen and the three-day open-air event Kurpark Classix in the Kurpark Aachen as a summer highlight.

Organizationally and with donations, the Theater Aachen is supported by numerous partners from the public, commercial and private sectors. In addition, the Society of Music and Theater Friends of Aachen eV, founded in 1924, has been promoting musical life in Aachen for more than 90 years and has been enabling chamber concerts by the Aachen Symphony Orchestra for almost 10 years.

Artistic Director

Private directors appointed by the city (until 1920)

  • 1859–1861 Georg J. Meisinger
  • 1861–1862 Michael Greiner
  • 1862–1864 Auguste Greiner
  • 1864–1865 Moritz Ernst
  • 1865-1869 Julius Witt
  • 1869–1875 Josef Hochheimer
  • 1875–1878 Ludwig Ubrich
  • 1878-1881 William Grundner
  • 1881-1883 Alfred R. Ritz
  • 1883–1886 Moritz Ernst
  • 1886–1889 Hans Julius Rahn
  • 1889–1896 Moritz Ernst
  • 1896–1904 Paul Schroetter
  • 1904–1919 Heinrich Adolphi
  • 1919–1920 Fritz Adolphi

Director (from 1920) / General Director (from 1950)

General Music Directors


  • Alfons Fritz : On the building history of the Aachen city theater. In: Journal of the Aachen History Association , Vol. 22 (1900). Kaatzer , Aachen 1900.
  • Alfons Fritz: Theater and music in Aachen since the beginning of Prussian rule. In: Zeitschrift des Aachener Geschichtsverein (ZAGV), Vol. 39 (1917), pp. 1–154.
  • Alfons Fritz: City Theater Aachen. Official commemorative publication for the centenary of the Aachen City Theater in 1925. LaRuelle, Aachen 1925.
  • Alfons Fritz: The development of the Aachen city music from the city harmony corps to the city orchestra (1721-1852) and its relationship to the cathedral music. In: Zeitschrift des Aachener Geschichtsverein (ZAGV), Vol. 48/49 (1926/27), pp. 121–189.
  • Klaus Schulte, Peter Sardoč: 150 years of Aachen City Theater in photos and documents. Aachen 1975.
  • Klaus Schulte, Peter Sardoč: From Ringelhardt to Mundorf. Artists and personalities of the Aachen city theater. Aachen 1977.
  • City of Aachen (Hrsg.): Dates of Aachen music history. Aachen 1993. ( digitized version )
  • Klaus Schulte, Peter Sardoč: Herbert von Karajan. His career began in Aachen. A documentation for the 100th birthday. Trier 2008.
  • Klaus Schulte, Peter Sardoč: For the birthday of the Führer Fidelio. The Aachen theater under the swastika. Trier 2010.
  • Klaus Schulte, Peter Sardoč: Theater in ruins. Mainz, Aachen 2012.
  • Klaus Schulte, Peter Sardoč: We were crazy about theater. Contemporary witnesses remember the early years of Aachen's cultural and theater life after the Second World War. Mainz, Aachen 2013.
  • Karl Faymonville among others: The art monuments of the city of Aachen. The secular monuments and collections of the city of Aachen. (= The Art Monuments of the Rhine Province , Vol. 10, Section 3.) Schwann, Düsseldorf 1924.
  • Klaus Schulte, Peter Sardoč: Medea on the Lousberg. The forgotten history of the open-air theater on the Lousberg. Mainz, Aachen 2014.
  • Klaus Schulte, Peter Sardoč: Iron Times. The theater and cultural life in Aachen during the First World War. Mainz, Aachen 2014.
  • Keys of a city - a journey through time through the history of music in Aachen , ed. by Lutz Felbick, 292 pages, 304 illustrations, bibliography with 502 titles (= series Crous collection; 11), Aachen 2018. ISBN 978-3-9817499-4-6 . [Authors: A. Beaujean (+), L. Felbick, N. Jers, H. Leuchter and T. Mengler].
  • Lutz Felbick:  Aachen. In: MGG Online (subscription required).

Web links

Commons : Theater Aachen  - Collection of pictures, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. T. R. Kraus: On the way to modernity - Aachen in the French time 1792/93, 1794-1814 . Aachen 1994, p. 610 .
  2. Lutz Felbick : The “high cultural assets of German music” and the “degenerate” - on the problem of the concept of the cultural orchestra , in: Zeitschrift für Kulturmanagement , 2/2015, pp. 29–59.
  3. Theater in ruins . City Aachen. Archived from the original on February 16, 2012. Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. Retrieved January 24, 2012. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  4. ^ Resurrected from ruins , Aachener Zeitung, December 24th, 2011  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Dead Link /  
  5. Press release of the German Stage Association of March 18, 2003.
  6. Theater fusion with the Grenzlandtheater ( Memento of the original from October 18, 2013 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The archive link was automatically inserted and not yet checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. . Article on the website of the SPD Aachen. @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot /
  7. ^ Emergency program for the theater . In: .
  8. ^ Aachener Nachrichten of November 27, 2011.
  9. ^ Karl Faymonville , Joseph Laurent , Richard Pick , Max Schmid-Burgk : Die Kunstdenkmäler der Stadt Aachen . Vol. 3, 2 The secular monuments and the collections of the city of Aachen. Schwann, Düsseldorf 1924, p. 814.
  10. KD III, pp. 198/814.
  11. Holger A. Dux : Aachen from A to Z. Aschendoff, Münster 2003, ISBN 3-402-05465-5 , p. 384.
  12. Holger A. Dux: Aachen - the way it was. Droste, Düsseldorf 2011, p. 102: "The vestibule itself was degraded to a backdrop by the portico behind it with the small towers on the sides, popularly referred to as donkey ears."

Coordinates: 50 ° 46 ′ 21 ″  N , 6 ° 5 ′ 14 ″  E