Cologne Opera

Cologne Opera

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The Cologne Opera refers both to the main opera house
Opera house
An opera house is a theatre building used for opera performances that consists of a stage, an orchestra pit, audience seating, and backstage facilities for costumes and set building...

 in Cologne, Germany and to its resident opera company.

History of the company

From the mid 18th century, opera was performed in the city's court theatres by travelling Italian opera companies. The first permanent company in the city was established in 1822, and performed primarily in the Theater an der Schmierstraße (built in 1783 as a private theatre and also used for plays and concerts). The opera company later performed in Theater in der Glockengasse (built in 1872) and in the Theater am Habsburger Ring (built in 1902). The Theater am Habsburger Ring was constructed by the city of Cologne and became its first theatre to be specifically designed as an opera house.

In 1904 the company came under the management of the city and took the name Oper der Stadt Köln, performing exclusively at the Theater am Habsburger Ring from 1906 until World War II
World War II
World War II, or the Second World War , was a global conflict lasting from 1939 to 1945, involving most of the world's nations—including all of the great powers—eventually forming two opposing military alliances: the Allies and the Axis...

, when it was badly damaged by allied
Allies of World War II
The Allies of World War II were the countries that opposed the Axis powers during the Second World War . Former Axis states contributing to the Allied victory are not considered Allied states...

 bombs. Immediately after the war, the company performed first at the University of Cologne
University of Cologne
The University of Cologne is one of the oldest universities in Europe and, with over 44,000 students, one of the largest universities in Germany. The university is part of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, an association of Germany's leading research universities...

 and then in the repaired Glockengasse and Habsburger Ring theatres. Both theatres were eventually torn down, and the company moved into its current opera house which was completed in 1957. The modernist design of the new opera house reflected the repertoire that was to characterise the post-war company which has premiered many new operas (normally one per season) and produced controversial stagings of older works. The company performs approximately 25 different operas on the main stage during its regular season which runs from September to June. It has also performed at the Edinburgh International Festival
Edinburgh International Festival
The Edinburgh International Festival is a festival of performing arts that takes place in the city of Edinburgh, Scotland, over three weeks from around the middle of August. By invitation from the Festival Director, the International Festival brings top class performers of music , theatre, opera...

 and the Vienna Festival during the summer months.

World premieres

World premieres staged by the company include:
  • Erich Korngold
    Erich Wolfgang Korngold
    Erich Wolfgang Korngold was an Austro-Hungarian film and romantic music composer. While his compositional style was considered well out of vogue at the time he died, his music has more recently undergone a reevaluation and a gradual reawakening of interest...

    's Die tote Stadt
    Die tote Stadt
    Die tote Stadt is an opera in three acts by Erich Wolfgang Korngold. The libretto is by the composer and Paul Schott , and is based on Bruges-la-Morte, a short novel by Georges Rodenbach.-Performance history:When Die tote Stadt had its premiere on December 4, 1920, Korngold was just 23...

    (4 December 1920)
  • Siegfried Wagner
    Siegfried Wagner
    Siegfried Wagner was a German composer and conductor, the son of Richard Wagner. He was an opera composer and the artistic director of the Bayreuth Festival from 1908 to 1930.-Life:...

    's Der Heidenkönig (16 December 1933)
  • Wolfgang Fortner
    Wolfgang Fortner
    Wolfgang Fortner was a German composer, composition teacher and conductor.-Life:Fortner was born in Leipzig. From his parents - both singers - Fortner very early on had intense contact with music...

    's Die Bluthochzeit (8 June 1957)
  • Nicolas Nabokov
    Nicolas Nabokov
    Nicolas Nabokov was a Russian-born composer, writer, and cultural figure. He became a U.S. citizen in 1939.-Life:...

    's Der Tod des Grigorij Rasputin (Rasputin's End) (27 November 1959)
  • Bernd Alois Zimmermann
    Bernd Alois Zimmermann
    Bernd Alois Zimmermann was a post-WWII West German composer. He is perhaps best known for his opera Die Soldaten which is regarded as one of the most important operas of the 20th century...

    's Die Soldaten
    Die Soldaten
    Die Soldaten is a four act opera in German by German composer Bernd Alois Zimmermann, based on the 1776 play by Jakob Michael Reinhold Lenz. It is dedicated to Hans Rosbaud. Zimmermann himself faithfully adapted the play into the libretto, the only changes to the text being repeats and small cuts...

    (15 February 1965)
  • Manfred Trojahn
    Manfred Trojahn
    -Professional career:Manfred Trojahn was born in Cremlingen in Lower Saxony and began his musical studies in 1966 in orchestra music at the music school of the city of Braunschweig. After graduating in 1970 he concluded his studies as a flutist at the Hochschule für Musik und Theater Hamburg with...

    's Limonen aus Sizilien (22 March 2003)

Music Directors

The company's Music Director
Music director
A music director may be the director of an orchestra, the director of music for a film, the director of music at a radio station, the head of the music department in a school, the co-ordinator of the musical ensembles in a university or college , the head bandmaster of a military band, the head...

s from 1904, when it officially became the Oper der Stadt Köln, have been:
  • Otto Lohse
    Otto Lohse
    Otto Lohse was a German conductor and composer.Born in Dresden, Lohse studied with Hans Richter and Felix Draeseke at the Dresden Conservatory. In 1882 he became conductor of two music societies in Riga, the Wagner Society and the Imperial Russian Music Society; seven year's later he became the...

  • Gustav Brecher (1911–1916)
  • Otto Klemperer
    Otto Klemperer
    Otto Klemperer was a German conductor and composer. He is widely regarded as one of the leading conductors of the 20th century.-Biography:Otto Klemperer was born in Breslau, Silesia Province, then in Germany...

  • Eugen Szenkar (1924–1933)
  • Fritz Zaun (1929–1939)
  • Günter Wand
    Günter Wand
    Günter Wand was a German orchestra conductor and composer. Wand studied in Wuppertal, Allenstein and Detmold. At the Cologne conservatory, he was a composition student with Philipp Jarnach and a piano student with Paul Baumgartner...

  • Richard Kraus (1948–1955)
  • Otto Ackermann
    Otto Ackermann
    Otto Ackermann was a Romanian conductor who made his career mainly in Switzerland.He studied at the Hochschule, Berlin, conducted the Royal Romanian Opera when aged only 15, and then held many important appointments as operatic conductor, beginning with Düsseldorf Opera, 1928-1932...

  • Wolfgang Sawallisch
    Wolfgang Sawallisch
    Wolfgang Sawallisch is a retired German conductor and pianist.-Biography:Sawallisch was born in Munich, and studied composition and pianoforte there privately: at the conclusion of the war, in 1946 he continued his studies at the Munich High School for Music and passed his final examination for...

  • Siegfried Köhler (1964)
  • István Kertész
    István Kertész
    István Kertész was a Hungarian orchestral and operatic conductor.-Childhood:Kertész was born in Budapest, Hungary, in 1929, the first child of Margit Muresian and Miklós Kertész. His sister, Vera, was born four years later...

  • John Pritchard (1973–1988)
  • James Conlon
    James Conlon
    James Conlon is an American conductor and the current Music Director of the Los Angeles Opera.-Early years:Conlon grew up in a family of five children on Cherry Street in Douglaston, Queens, New York. His mother, Angeline L. Conlon, was a freelance writer. His father was an assistant to the New...

  • Markus Stenz
    Markus Stenz
    Markus Stenz is a German conductor. He studied at the Hochschule für Musik Köln with Volker Wangenhein and at Tanglewood with Leonard Bernstein and Seiji Ozawa....

     (2004 – )

The opera house

The current Oper der Stadt Köln was designed by the German architect, Wilhelm Riphahn
Wilhelm Riphahn
Wilhelm Riphahn was a German architect.Riphahn studied at the technical universities in Berlin-Charlottenburg, Munich, and Karlsruhe. He worked for a Siemens construction office in Berlin and in 1912 for "Gebrüder Taut & Hoffmann"...

. It was inaugurated on 8 May 1957 in the presence of Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Adenauer
Konrad Hermann Joseph Adenauer was a German statesman. He was the chancellor of the West Germany from 1949 to 1963. He is widely recognised as a person who led his country from the ruins of World War II to a powerful and prosperous nation that had forged close relations with old enemies France,...

, then the Chancellor of Germany
Chancellor of Germany
The Chancellor of Germany is, under the German 1949 constitution, the head of government of Germany...

 and a former mayor of Cologne. The first opera to be performed there was Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria von Weber
Carl Maria Friedrich Ernst von Weber was a German composer, conductor, pianist, guitarist and critic, one of the first significant composers of the Romantic school....

's Oberon
Oberon (opera)
Oberon, or The Elf King's Oath is a 3-act romantic opera in English with spoken dialogue and music by Carl Maria von Weber. The libretto by James Robinson Planche was based on a German poem, Oberon, by Christoph Martin Wieland, which itself was based on the epic romance Huon de Bordeaux, a French...

. In June of that year the house saw its first world premiere, Wolfgang Fortner's Die Bluthochzeit. The following month the opera company of La Scala
La Scala
La Scala , is a world renowned opera house in Milan, Italy. The theatre was inaugurated on 3 August 1778 and was originally known as the New Royal-Ducal Theatre at La Scala...

 appeared there on tour with Maria Callas
Maria Callas
Maria Callas was an American-born Greek soprano and one of the most renowned opera singers of the 20th century. She combined an impressive bel canto technique, a wide-ranging voice and great dramatic gifts...

 in La sonnambula
La sonnambula
La sonnambula is an opera semiseria in two acts, with music in the bel canto tradition by Vincenzo Bellini to an Italian libretto by Felice Romani, based on a scenario for a ballet-pantomime by Eugène Scribe and Jean-Pierre Aumer called La somnambule, ou L'arrivée d'un nouveau seigneur.The first...


The house has a seating capacity of 1,300 and an orchestra pit which can accommodate 100 musicians. It is part of an arts complex on Offenbachplatz which includes the Schauspiel Köln (Cologne Playhouse), also designed by Wilhelm Riphahn and built in 1962. At the end of the 2009/2010 season, both theatres closed until 2013 for extensive refurbishment and redevelopment.


External links