Opera in Germany after World War II: A Journey in Images

How German cities, how German cultural life reemerged after the Second World War has interested me for a long time. Earlier on today I was browsing the LIFE photo archive that contains quite a few images relating to the post-war music scence in Germany. Here are some of the treasures I found.

Berlin 1945 – Staatsoper Unter den Linden

This is the Berlin Staatsoper Unter den Linden in an image from the days shortly after the war. If you watch carefully (you will probbaly want to click on the image to get to a higher resolution), you will see a pedestrian in the left corner of the image, who has stopped to take a look at the bomed-out building. Is he looking at some of the sculptures that have miracolously survived the heavy air raids?

Other places were not as lucky. In Hamburg the opera house had to be partially reconstructed:

Hamburg 1955 – Reconstruction of the Opera

This is the model for the new opera house. Lots of glass, open spaces. If 1950s architecture is done well it has a irresistable aura of lightness.

The model for the Hamburg Opera House

Same building in use (much friendlier, don’t you think?)

Hamburg Opera House

Here are two images from Münster. As you can see (once you click on the image to enlarge), the entire structure is built around the remains of two 19th-century residential houses. A very powerful image, especially if one considers the integral role that opera plays in German (bourgeois) society nowadays.

Münster Opera House

Münster Opera House – Interior

As you can see in the image above, one interesting feature of the post-war opera houses is their conspicuous lack of a middle box. This often exuberantly decorated middle box was in most cases reserved for royal patrons or (ironically) the socialist/communist rulers of the post-war era, as the following image shows:

East-German and Russian socialists/communists in the Royal middle box of the Bolshoi Theater, Moscow

Thanks to Michael Scott Cuthbert for bringing this wonderful archive to my attention.


2 comments for “Opera in Germany after World War II: A Journey in Images”

  1. Not that it is Germany (at least not after 1945), but the case of Vienna is also very interesting. They rebuilt the opera house in a virtually identical way to the original as they did with the Musikverein. In the opera house, the royal box stayed, although it now holds more seats. The website (www.staatsoper.at) explicitly states the connections between the old and new, as opposed to emphasizing the new.

    Posted by Zoë Lang | December 14, 2008, 3:48 pm
  2. Interesting! As you may probably know there was a huge debate going on in Berlin about whether to rebuild the Stadtschloss. The East-German Republic tore it down after the war and put in its place a “Palast der Republik”, which the German government took down after the reunification (actually they are still in the process of destruction).

    Posted by Matthias Röder | December 15, 2008, 4:18 am

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