The first steps of Opera in Berlin was made in 1741, the Court Opera was founded. The first opera was badly destroyed by fire in 1843. Famous German architect Carl Ferdinand Langhans projected new opera house, that is working till these days.
During Second World War this opera was destroyed even two times. Now it is under reconstruction (at least in June 2012). Many famous people was as guests of opera, let say, Richard Strauss as one of the most important of them.
When the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, West Berlin found itself without a major opera house, since both the State Opera and the Comic Opera happened to be just behind the wall on the eastern side. So they quickly built a new one here on Friedrichstraße, on the site of the former Charlottenburg Opera, and called it the German Opera Berlin.
It turned out to be very large and square and monolithic. I personally find it hard to warm up to, but it does have a large and faithful audience (of West Berliners, I suppose) who pay high prices and fill up the house quite regularly.
The Frankfurt Opera bought one of their productions a few years ago, namely Hänsel und Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck (1854-1921). I've seen it both in Frankfurt and here, which was weird because the stage set and the entire staging, down to the smallest gestures by all the singers, were exactly the same in both places.
But otherwise the Frankfurt performances were much better (even allowing for the fact that as a Frankfurt resident I might be somewhat biased). For one thing, the Frankfurt Opera Sound Department used all its considerable ingenuity to create funny sound effects, for instance when the witch's boom went flying across the stage. Also the orchestra and the singers were much better in Frankfurt. In Berlin they put in second and third string singers, perhaps on the assumption that the kids and their grandmothers in the audience wouldn't know the difference anyway. In Frankfurt all the best sopranos took turns singing Gretel, which is a beautiful and quite demanding role -- even Diana Damrau sang it on Sunday afternoons, and the kids loved her. In Frankfurt the attitude is that if you can get a new generation to come to the opera you should give them the very best you've got, so as to keep them coming.
A few years ago I took a very interesting tour of the Komische Oper, but this was unfortunately before I discovered the joys of digital photography, so I can't post any backstage photos.
During the tour they were setting up the stage for that evening's performance of the operetta The Merry Widow (Die lustige Witwe) by Franz Lehar (1870-1948), starring the Frankfurt baritone Johannes Martin Kränzle as Count Danilo Danilowitsch. Which of course I also saw that evening.
Second photo: Flutist In the orchestra pit of the Komische Oper Berlin.
On another recent visit I saw a very serious opera here, namely Fidelio by Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1857), in an interesting staging by Harry Kupfer, who for many years was the chief stage director here at the Komische Oper.
Fidelio is Beethoven's only opera. I saw it several times in Frankfurt am Main a few years back, and most recently in a fine production by Scottish Opera at the Edinburgh Festival Theatre.
Update: In 2007 the Komische Oper in Berlin was voted Opera House of the Year (along with the city theater in Bremen) by the critics in Opernwelt magazine.
The Deutsche Oper on Bismarck Strasse was only a 15 minute walk from our hotel in Charlottenburg, so on the first evening I walked up to the Box office and got tickets for that night's performance. The tickets at EUR 17 could hardly have been more reasonable.The performance, "Der Freischutz" a German Romantic opera by the composer Carl Maria von Weber, I had never heard of and didn't even know what the title meant.
This didn't seem to matter though and in a state of blissful ignorance, I thoroughly enjoyed it. The music, especially the extremely long overture was wonderful and the singing incredibly moving. The action, especially the love story aspect and the pact with the devil were relatively easy to follow and visually, I was completely blown away by the stage sets.
The Deutsche Oper opened in 1961 and from the outside it's not at all impressive. In fact it's large, ugly side wall bears an uncany resemblance to the side of our own equally functional and uninspiring opera house in Cork. The foyer area is very pleasant though and we enjoyed wandering around it during the interval. Obviously it has none of the pomp and splendour of the Berlin Staat Oper but it has a solid record of higly regarded performances behind it and strives for 'artistic perfection and courageous innovation.'
This is Berlin's largest music theatre with a seating capacity of 1,865, so it's usually possible to get tickets. The EUR 17 tickets were absolutely fine, although we did move forward as there were several empty rows in front of us.
A night at the opera for EUR 17 is an opportunity and experience not to be missed and if you are in Berlin be sure to check it out.
Box Office: Mon- Sat from 11 a.m. to the start of the performance and on Sundays from 10-2 and an hour before the performance starts.
Reservation by phone : +49 (0) 30_343 84 343
Online: www.deutscheoperberlin.de. An administrative fee of EUR 2 is charged and tickets can be posted or collected on the night.