During the nearly forty years of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) thousands of these pre-fab Plattenbau apartment buildings were built all over the country.
These buildings have not aged gracefully, for the most part, and some have been torn down, but others are now being modernized and successfully marketed.
Opera in Dessau
My first visit to Dessau was in March 1994, in the fourth year of German reunification. The streets were deserted and dimly lit after sundown. Lots of people were still driving their old Trabbis and the town still smelled of brown coal dust. The Adult Education Center was still in its old building from the GDR era.
The theater, with over one thousand seats, was still reasonably full thanks to the old GDR system of bringing in busloads of organized groups from all over the countryside to see popular light operas and operettas such as Der Vogelhändler (The Bird Dealer) by Carl Zeller (1842-1898), played by an enthusiastic and largely intact ensemble that was also left over from GDR times.
For many years in Frankfurt I used to have a colleague named Christel, and as a foreigner I was vaguely puzzled by the tendency among some of the older people to refer to her as "Christel von der Post" (she had never worked for the post office, as far as I knew) -- but I was never puzzled enough to ask anybody about it.
In Dessau this minor mystery was cleared up when it turned out that there was a nice character in Zeller's operetta called "Christel von der Post", the girl friend of Adam, the Tirolean bird dealer. In the first act she really does work for the post office, and in the third act, after all the complications and misunderstandings are cleared up, she and Adam are reconciled and presumably live happily ever after.
Since I had ordered my theater ticket in 1994 by mail, I remained on their mailing list and read with great interest that they were doing all sorts of interesting-sounding projects such as a cycle of Giuseppe Verdi's four Schiller operas in German re-translation: Johanna d'Arc, Die Räuber, Louise Miller and Don Karlos, all based (loosely) on classic plays by the German dramatist, poet and historian Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805).
In November 2005 I was again sent to Dessau, and it turned out that the theater had scheduled Don Karlos (with a K because it was in German) on the weekend I would be there. So I ordered a ticket -- and was highly disappointed. For one thing, seven-eighths of the seats in the theater were empty; there was exactly one bus out front, which had brought in a dozen or so people from out of town.
Perhaps the empty house had a demotivating effect on the singers and musicians; in any case, the performance was not up to the normal high standards of German city and regional theaters.
By the way, in the VirtualTourist database there are two places in Land Sachsen-Anhalt called Dessau. The one I'm talking about is the second one on the list, 5.55 km from Roßlau, 11.44 km from Wörlitz and 13.86 km from Aken. The other Dessau is a much smaller place and is further north, near Arendsee; it's a part of Kleinau.