Flatrate is one of those English words that has very quickly become a part of the German language, so much so that most Germans couldn't spontaneously tell you any other word for it. (There is a German word Pauschalangebot which means more or less the same thing, but it doesn't sound nearly as suave.)
This poster on the Altenburg Theater says:
Be a flatrater!
FOR THE FINANCIAL CRISIS
for about 200 performances per year
= 44 cents per performance
Absolute freedom of choice!
For that spontaneous theater-urge!
Great theater right close by!
Small venues in Altenburg and Gera!
If I lived in Altenburg or Gera I would surely get one of these, even though like most people I wouldn't really attend two hundred performances a year. (I need a few evenings for teaching, after all, and for writing VirtualTourist tips.)
1. The female version
2. One of the male versions
3. The other male version
When I was in Altenburg in 2009 the whole town was full of posters advertising theater subscriptions for the combined theaters of Altenburg and Gera.
The posters came in pairs. On one side of the cylindrical advertising column (known in Germany as a Litfaßsäule) there is a back view of a young woman wearing jeans and nothing else, with two slips of paper marked "ABO Season 2009/2010" protruding from her back pocket.
On the other side of the column is one of the male versions, either a back view of a guy wearing jeans and an T-shirt (second photo) or the same guy from the front with the word ABO tattooed on his bicep (third photo).
This is all part of a valiant (or should I say desperate?) campaign to get more young people into the theaters. I would have been very interested in hearing some reactions to this campaign from people in the target group, adults in their twenties and thirties, but unfortunately the streets of Altenburg were deserted and there was no one to talk to.
(It turns out there are two more female versions that I didn't see on the streets. In one she is wearing a double-stranded pearl necklace with an ABO slip pinned onto it, and in the other she is again just wearing jeans and has the word ABO tattooed on her bare back.)
1. Rathaus (City Hall)
2. Balcony of the City Hall
3. Evening at the Market Square
The Renaissance-style City Hall was built on the Market Square from 1561 to 1564, and is still used by the city administration.
The restaurant "Ratskeller" is located in the City Hall, with additional outdoor seating on the Market Square when the weather permits.
1. Seckendorffsches Palais
2. Auf dem Brühl
This baroque building was erected from 1721 to 1725 on behalf of the Field Marshall Friedrich Heinrich von Seckendorff (1673 - 1763).
Its most famous resident was the publisher F.A. Brockhaus, who lived here from 1810 - 1817. (Today there is still a Brockhaus publishing company, and the best-known German encyclopedia is known as The Brockhaus.)
My second photo shows the square "Auf dem Brühl" with the Seckendorffsches Palais at the corner.
1. Lindenau Museum
2. Plaster cast of an antique statue in Hotel Astor
3. Poster about the Lindenau Museum
The Lindenau Museum was named after the statesman, scholar and art collector Bernhard August von Lindenau (1779 - 1854), who donated his large private art collection and library to the museum shortly before his death.
The museum includes plaster casts of statues from Antiquity and the Renaissance -- but the one in my second photo was on display in the Hotel Astor, which is where I took the picture.
The museum is open Tuesdays through Fridays from 12:00 to 18:00, Saturdays, Sundays and holidays from 10:00 to 18:00. Closed Mondays. Admission is 4 Euros, or only 2 Euros if you are entitled to a reduction.
The first manufacturer of playing cards began production in Altenburg in the year 1509. Cards have been produced here ever since by a succession of workshops and companies. And, as I have already mentioned, the card game "Skat" was invented in Altenburg around 1810, so Altenburg likes to advertise itself as the "Skatstadt" or Skat City.
Today playing cards are manufactured here under the brand name ASS Altenburger, which claims to be the market leader in Germany. In 2002 the Altenburg playing card factory was acquired by the international playing card company Carta Mundi, which is based in Turnhout, Belgium.
Up in Altenburg palace there is a museum dealing with all this. Unfortunately I have never arrived early enough to go in, but the opening hours are Tuesday-Sunday from 9:30 to 17:00, last admission at 16:30.
1. The empty Tea House
2. Sign on the Tea House
At the highest point in the Palace Gardens there is a "Tea House", now empty and boarded up, which was built from 1706 to 1712 on orders of Duke Friedrich II. of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg.
At the same time, the old castle was being expanded into an imposing palace and the hilltop garden was being transformed into classical French-style park modeled on the one in Versailles. The purpose of all this was to provide the Duke with a splendid Second Residence (the first was in Gotha) befitting his rank and function as an Absolute Ruler by the Grace of God.
The Tea House was used for nearly three centuries for leisure time activities and festivities, at first only by the Dukes and their courtiers, but later as an elegant café which was open to the general public. During the forty years of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) the Tea House was often used for popular concerts and festivities, and the adjoining Orangerie was the home of the "Club of the People's Solidarity", which was a meeting place particularly for older people.
Since German reunification in the 1990s the Tea House complex has been standing empty and unused, but there is now a society with 159 members which was established in 2004 for the purpose of restoring and preserving and Tea House and Orangerie.
1. Schlosspark = Palace Park
2. Friedrich Schiller monument
Behind the palace, the rest of the hilltop is taken up by the attractive Palace Park (Schlosspark), where there is also a small monument to the dramatist and historian Friedrich Schiller (1759-1805).
Schiller never set foot in Altenburg, as far as I know, but he spent much of his adult life in the nearby cities of Leipzig, Jena and Weimar. The university in Jena is now named after him.
1. Poster advertising the festival
2. Bleachers set up in the palace courtyard
When I visited Altenburg in 2009 they were just taking down the bleachers that had been set up in the palace courtyard for an open-air spectacle depicting one of the most exciting historical events -- well, probably the only exciting historical event -- that ever occurred in Altenburg, namely the Abduction of the Princes in the year 1455.
It happened right here in this palace, which at the time was still a castle, when a knight named Kunz von Kauffungen stormed in with two other knights and thirty soldiers on the night of July 7-8, 1455, and abducted two Sachsen princes, Ernst and Albrecht, who were 14 and 12 years old at the time. Albrecht, the younger prince, succeeded in freeing himself the next day and went for help. (After that he could do no wrong; his reputation was made.)
Kunz von Kauffungen was arrested, tried, convicted and beheaded within six days of the abduction.
This historical event serves as the basis for a theatrical spectacle that is held every summer in the palace courtyard, with over four hundred people on or behind the stage. In 2009 they had fifteen performances with a total of 12,500 spectators.
1. The Palace Church in Altenburg
2. Construction site exhibition in Leipzig
3. Text about Altenburg
In September 1739 the great composer Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) came to Altenburg to try out the new organ that had just been built in the Palace Church by Gottfried Heinrich Trost.
By coincidence I found out more about this when I went to Leipzig, where they had a temporary "construction site exhibition" about Bach's travels pasted on construction site fences in various parts of the city center.
My second photo shows the Trost organ in the Palace Church in Altenburg, as displayed on a fence in Leipzig. My third photo shows the accompanying text, which says that Bach probably suggested adding a very deep register to the organ. Later one of Bach's pupils, Johann Ludwig Krebs, became the organist at the Palace Church.
1. Altenburg Castle/Palace
2. Archway to enter the Palace grounds
Up on a hill overlooking Altenburg is the Palace complex. It started a thousand or more years ago as a castle and then in the eighteenth century was transformed into a palace to serve as the Residence of the Dukes of Sachsen-Gotha-Altenburg, who were the absolute rulers here and in various other disconnected parts of what is now Thüringen.
I took this first photo from the front steps of the theater, before walking up to the palace on the winding path that is visible in the lower right hand corner of the photo.
One of the new things in Altenburg since my previous visit in 2003 is the Heizhaus.
Actually it was there all the time, but was just a nondescript old building with a furnace in it. Now they have transformed it into a small theater for alternative, experimental productions.
They even put on small operas there, such as The Rape of Lucretia by Benjamin Britten (1913–1976), which I saw last season at Frankfurt's alternative opera venue, the Bockenheimer Depot.
1. Side view of the Altenburg Theater
2. Looking up towards the church
My first visit to Altenburg was in 2003, when I saw a very good performance by the combined Gera/Altenburg theater company of the opera Die tote Stadt (The Dead City) by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (1897-1957).
This is an opera that Korngold completed in 1920, when he was only twenty-three. It had two simultaneous world-premieres in Hamburg and Cologne, and went on to be one of the most successful and often-performed operas in Germany and Austria in the 1920s.
Like other successful operas of the same period -- for instance Die Frau ohne Schatten (The Woman without a Shadow) by Richard Strauss -- this is a huge opera with a huge orchestra and lots of very dramatic music, even in situations that in retrospect don't seem all that dramatic. The end of the second act of Korngold's opera, for instance, is a scene between a man and a woman with music so dramatic and emotional that it sounds like some great existential crisis, which is no doubt what the composer intended, but to us blasé 21st century types the whole scene boils down to the simple question: "Shall we go to your place or my place?"
(She gets her way and they go to his house, where the whole situation gets decidedly out of hand -- click on the link below for a synopsis in English.)
1. The Altenburg Theater
2. From just up the road
3. The front entrance
This neo-Renaissance theater building from the year 1871 was originally modeled after the Semper Opera in Dresden.
The front entrance, however, was added in 1904/05 and makes this theater look quite different.
It's not a big theater. There are only 536 seats, but that's usually enough for such a small town. Also I once had a look at the backstage area, which is really tiny by present-day standards.
This was originally known as the "ducal" theater, since this area was ruled by a duke in the 19th century. Throughout the 20th century this little theater had its own opera, ballet and drama companies, but then to survive in the 21st century it was merged with the theater in nearby Gera. People at the Gera Theater, especially in the orchestra, were highly skeptical about this merger at the time, but it seems to have worked, at least as far as an out-of-town audience member can tell.
The combined theater, now known officially as "Theater&Philharmonie Thüringen", sells about 185,000 tickets per year and is thus the theater in Thüringen with the most spectators. It has a full program of opera, ballet, spoken drama, musicals and operettas, as well as puppet shows for adults and children.
Looks like this festival is held the first weekend in May, Skat is a popular card game invented in Altenburg and Skatsbrünnen is a fountain celebrating this. So, lucky enough to be in town to witness the opening but had a flight to catch so not able to stop for long - looks like the kind af party we would enjoy.
Managed a couple of beers and a quick lunch before we had to leave, a return visit on the cards? hope so.