Luck wasn't with this building!
In 1838, Gottfried Semper started construction of a neo-renaissance Opera house. In a few years it was completed, only to be destroyed by fire in 1869. Again, Semper was chosen to design another Opera House, this time built in High Renaissance style between 1871 and 1878. This one was destroyed by bombs in 1945.
Forty years later, it was rebuilt to how it once was. The interiors were reconstructed by local craftsmen to the original plan and of course the stage machinery and technical fittings were updated to the most modern available.
This beautiful Opera house has been built in what is known as "Dresden-Baroque" architecture. Looking upwards, I could see a magnificent Chariot, drawn by four Panthers. In the Chariot was the statues of Dionysos and Ariadne.
Dionysos is the protector of art and theatres.
At the main entrance are two large statues of famous German writers - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to the left and Friedrich Schiller to the right. Then in niches along the side of the building are more, including Moliere, Shakespeare, Sophocles, and Euripides as well as Greek and Roman heroes and gods.
Tours of the Opera house are available.
We looked at the mile long queue and decided against waiting. You can book online, might be a good idea!
check the website for performances.
Semper Opera as built by German architect Semper, as the name of building clarifies. As Opera house, it is one of the most famous and the most oldest, also, as I should tell after sightseeing, one of beautiful looking.
Opera as constructed in 1838 – 1841, but hardly destroyed in Second World War. The full restoration was finished in 1985. As for me, word „opera“ is like a synonym to Dresden, and also vice versa.
OK, I had already seen this production of Verdi's Don Carlo at the Semper Opera four years earlier, but the special thing this time (2008) was that I was able to attend with two VirtualTourist members, Kathrin_E (Kathrin), who was in Dresden to attend a week-long conference, and german_eagle (Ingo), who lives in Dresden and was kind enough to organize the tickets.
Ingo has posted an album with a nice photo of the three of us in the lobby of the Semper Opera.
Over the years Verdi wrote seven different versions of this powerful opera, some in French and some in Italian. I have seen the five-act French version in Strasbourg and a five-act Italian version in Wiesbaden and Frankfurt am Main, also a four-act Italian version in Braunschweig, Dresden and Geneva, as well as a German translation in Dessau.
Verdi's opera Don Carlo is based on a classic German play by Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805). Don Carlo is a Spanish prince who falls in love with a French princess, but for reasons of state she is forced to marry someone else -- Don Carlo's own father, the king of Spain!
Second photo: Balconies at the Semper Opera house.
Third photo: Applause after Verdi's Don Carlo.
Named after the architect, Semper, the building was constructed in 1841, but destroyed by fire in 1869, and his son rebuilt it again to finish in 1878. There were all the famous opera starts like Wagner and Strauss of the time. It was Neo-Renassaince back then and then Baroque style.
During WWII, it was completely destroyed, but rebuilt over 40 years and completed in 1985 to original state. It is said to have the best acoustics in Europe, and today the orchestra plays to operas and ballets, with about 20 for the last season.
It is open Tuesday-Sunday for tours inside. The lines may be 1/2 hour or longer to get in to view. Entry is 8 Euro.
The architect Gottfried Semper (1803-1879) believed in using local materials and craftsmen whenever possible. So what looks like marble in the Semper Opera usually isn't. It's plaster, carefully molded, painted and polished by skilled craftsmen who passed their professional secrets down from father to son, or took the secrets with them to their graves.
Some of them mixed honey with the final layer of plaster to give it a particular mute shimmer, and then painted and polished it carefully.
Even a lot of the apparent wood paneling isn't made of wood at all, but is plaster carefully painted to look like wood.
The tour guides are usually people who were directly involved in rebuilding the Semper Opera from 1977 to 1985, so they can explain all this in great detail.
For more tours of German opera houses, see the travelogues on my Leipzig, Karlsruhe and Frankfurt am Main pages.
The opera house of Dresden was first built by Semper in 1841. Over the years, it had been subjected to its fair share of natural calamities and the ravages of World War II. Wagner premiered three of his operas at this magnificent opera house. Most of the opera house was destroyed during World War II but reconstructed between 1977 and 1985. Today, the opera house stands proud in the Opera Square and on closer examination, you can make out the original older portion and the newer rebuilt portion of the building. It is the performing home of the Staaskapelle and Staasopern Dresden.
On the walls in all the various foyers of the Semper Opera there are elaborate decorations and paintings in honor of composers, dramatists and librettists who were well known at the time.
Some of them are still well known today, but most have been forgotten.
Richard Brinsley Sheridan, for instance, was a London playwright and politician who lived from 1751 to 1816. He rates a mention in gold letters on a wall of the Semper Opera (enlarge the photo to see his name) because one of his plays, The Duenna, was made into an opera which was very popular in its day, composed by his father-in-law Thomas Finley.
the operahouse is beautiful from the inside and the outside! A night at the opera would truly be something special, but taking a tour through the Semper Oper might be a great alternative as well!
The Semperoper has suffered greatly from the flood, but has re-opened meanwhile!
The paved square was originally located on the edge of the city, which was centered around the Altmarkt, a historic square just southeast of the Theaterplatz.
The most prominent building at the mostly pedestrianized square is the Semper Opera House, originally known as the Hoftheater, hence the name of the square. A first version of the opera house was built in the 17th century, but was replaced by a new, grander structure between 1838 and 1841.
On the west side, the square is bordered by a large wing of the Zwinger Palace. The wing houses two museums, the Gemälderie Alte Meister - an art gallery - and the Rüstkammer, an armory. Flowerbeds and two 19th century fountains grace the area in front of the Zwinger.
Opposite the palace, along the Elbe River, is the Italian Dörfchen. The low baroque structure was built in 1912 by Erlwein. It is named after the Italian stonemasons who lived here when they were working at the nearby Hofkirche, which borders Theaterplatz on the south-east side.
The glory to Dresden as a city of music was brought by its drama and opera theatres. The most beautiful and perfect of them is located on the Theatrical square and was erected by architect Gottfrid Semper in the second half of XIXth century.
The Semperoper surpassed even Milan La Skala on acoustics.
The Theatre became the sample for construction of many opera theatres of the world.
The construction of the Semper Oper or the Royal National Opera building was started in 1838.
The design was by architect Gottfried Semper. The building is known for the many world premieres of world works of Richard Wagner.
The opening was on April 12, 1841 with a play by Goethe called Torquato Tasso and Carl Maria from Webers Jubel Ouverture.
In 1869 the building was detroyed by fire causing by workers in the attic. In 6 weeks time a wooden temporary theater was constructed that stayed in use till 1878.
The construction of the second Semper Oper was started in 1871 under supervision of Gottfried Semper's son Manfred. The opening was on February 2, 1878.
The building was complety destroyed during the WWII bombardments in the night of February 13 to 14, 1945.
Between 1952 and 1956 the outer walls were restored, but the reconstruction lasted till the seventies. The restored builing was opened at February 13, 1985.
In the nineties the big hall was reconstructed.
In 2002 the Elbe river water level became that high, it flooded the area including the Semper Oper. The Dresden Fire Brigade worked hard to save as much as possible and to pump as much water out of the building.
The building was partly reopend at November 9, 2002.
Most Dresden buildings have been, to put it mildly, rather unlucky. And the Semperoper has certainly had it's share of back luck -
1. To start with, it burned down a couple of decades after it was first opened, and it took over 30 years to rebuild
2. Then, there was World War II when much of Dresden's city centre was razed to the ground, and again it took over 30 years to rebuild and some more to get the musicians back in
3. And, as if that was not enough, the recent floods have damaged the building rather badly
When it was open in the middle of all of this, it was the venue of choice for the premieres by some of Europe's most celebrated composers - R. Strauss, Wagner, Carl Maria v. Weber: the Flying Dutchman, Tannhauser, Daphne, DOktor Faust just to name a few
Today, it is as much a concert venue as it is an architectural gem which fits in perfectly with the nearby Zwinger and Dom.
1. Paintings on the ceilings
2. Looking up from the ground floor
Not only the walls, also the ceilings in the Semper Opera foyers are elaborately decorated with designs and paintings.
Since these were painted directly onto the final smooth coat of plaster, the artists had to spend days, weeks, months or probably years lying on their backs on scaffolding to paint all these pictures.
In some places in the Semper Opera House there are square gaps in the floor and ceiling so you can look up from the ground floor, as in the second photo, and see the painting on the ceiling of the next higher floor (one flight up).
The first opera house at this place was built by Gottfried Semper 1838 - 41. It was destryed by a fire in 1869. Although G. Semper had to go in exile after the revolution 1848/49 the citizens of Dresden insisted he had to be architect of the new opera house as well. So it happened that Gottfried Semper delivered the plans and his son Manfred directed the construction of the new opera house (1871 - 78).
This one was destroyed completely in WWII but reconstructed (almost) originally 1977 - 85. The re-opening was celebrated with a performance of C.-M. von Webers opera "Der Freischütz".
The building is part of the gorgeous Theaterplatz square ensemble. While the first opera house was built in gracious Early Renaissance style, Semper chose High Renaissance style for the second. Many of the sculptures of the first opera house are preserved and were integrated in the new one. Works of the best sculptors and craftsmen of Dresden and Germany make the building a masterpiece - Ernst Rietschel, Ernst Julius Hähnel, Johannes Schilling etc.
The decoration inside, especially the staircases and upper lobby, is stunning. Stucco marble and beautiful paintings/frescos everywhere.
Join a guided tour of the Opera house to see the splendid interior. If you want to attend an opera, ballet or concert make your ticket reservations far in advance!
I feel very fortunate to be able to attend performances in this beautiful opera house a couple of times every year. Prices for tickets are still reasonable (about 60 Euro for a good seat). My favourite performances so far are La Boheme (a once in a lifetime experience with star singer Ramon Vargas and local singer Ute Selbig 14 Dec 2003), The Magical Flute, The Nutcracker (at Christmas Time!).
As the previous paragraphs were written in 2004 you'll not be surprised my favourite performances that I attended have become a longer list, LOL. And my taste in opera has significantly changed - I prefer Strauss and Wagner now. So, my more recent favourites are FRAU OHNE SCHATTEN (Strauss), THE RING OF THE NIBELUNG and PARSIFAL (both Wagner). For outstanding singing I'd like to add two more performances: LUCIA DI LAMMERMOOR (Edita Gruberova singing) and RIGOLETTO (with Diana Damrau, Juan Diego Florez and Zeljko Lucic). I do have fond memories of other operas/concerts, but the list would become *way* too long ...
Please see the travelogue on my homepage also.
Saxony’s state opera house is a monumental building at the north-western corner of Theaterplatz, impressive by day and magic when illuminated at night. It is not a really big opera house but one of Europe’s most beautiful ones.
It is named after its architect Gottfried Semper who had already designed the first opera house on this site – that one was inaugurated in 1841, but burnt down in 1869. The new one – and original of what you see as a reconstruction today - was built from 1871 to 1878 in neo-Renaissance style. The reconstruction took until 1985.
What strikes me most is the portal, as it reminds me more of the interior of a Byzantine church than of an opera house, and especially you would not expect such a open dome on the outside of a building. But everything has a name – it is called Exedra. The paintings in this Exedra – with a lot of gold - depict the Three Graces between Marsya and Apollon.
The front side to Theaterplatz is crowned by a bronze Panther Quadriga. The sculptures depict Dionysos and Ariadne.
A lot more sculptures adorn the building, and they are not only figures of the Greek mythology but also important playwrights like Goethe, Schiller, Shakespeare and Molière, further figures from plays, like Faust, Mephisto, etc.. Goethe and Schiller sit on architrave blocks beside the entrance.
The interior is as impressive as the exterior. The special thing about the building is that if you know the layout of the interior you can recognise that it was built around the halls, and not the halls hidden in a shell.
Capacity of Semperoper is 1323 people.
Guided tours (1 hour) only in times of no pending shows and rehearsals. You have to check the schedules on the Tour website (Führungen) under “Termine” (dates). No bookings; just show up on the day before the tour. (Bookings only possible for groups.) Information available 2 to 3 months in advance.
Admission 7 Euro.
Info phone (0351) 4911 496
Info about operas, ballets and other performances on the general Semperoper website.
Ticket hotline (0351) 4911 705
Photo 2 shows more of the building and a dramatic sky above.