A prelude for the Berlin State Opera
After seven years’ renovation, the State Opera was officially reopened on 3 October 2017, German Unification Day. A week-long programme consisting of two opera performances and three concerts – known as the prelude – provided a taster before the theatre was closed again to the public for completion. The first season in the freshly renovated theatre is due to begin on 7 December, the 275th anniversary of its original opening. Until then, there is still plenty to do, as many aspects of the building work have been hampered by delays.
“Setting the official opening before renovation was actually completed took up a lot of extra time and money, too, as some things had to be made temporarily workable and then dismantled again. It meant a lot of extra work for staff, but it was also motivating to get the place going and watch the public come in,” said Technical Director Hans Hoffmann.
Just over a month later, and a few days before the grand ceremony, a press conference was held. General Music Director Daniel Barenboim quite rightly pointed out the beautiful work done by the painters, stucco specialists, upholsterers, decorators, flooring fitters and all the other craftsmen who ensured the theatre regained its former glory, according to or based on the original plans. When asked about the acoustics in the hall, Barenboim responded with obvious delight. “The sound is better than I dared to hope,” he enthused, adding that there are few opera houses in the world where symphonic music also sounds so good. When the Staatskapelle gives a concert, the orchestra is seated on the stage.
Ready to go
The architects of the firm HG Merz have created a reverberation gallery to increase reverberation time from 1.1 seconds to 1.6 seconds and lend the orchestra more volume. There are new seats, which look the same as the old ones but offer greater comfort, and improved views from many of them. But the major elements of the renovation were the building of a new stage tower and backstage, an underground magazine and rehearsal stages.
Then the big day arrived! As hoped, Germany’s big names in politics and the arts turned up for the opening celebration on German Unification Day, showing their affinity with the opera genre. This was great publicity, and proof that the “prelude” achieved its goal. Now we can all look forward to the start of the season in December, when BTR will take a closer look at the project.
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