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The Hamburg State Opera

In 1678, the citizens of Hamburg vote in the Senate to build a public opera house on the corner of the Gänsemarkt and the Colonnaden. The opera house is not uncontroversial: the Lutherans are for the idea; but the Pietists regard the theatre as too much of a place of worldly pleasures. Nevertheless, the “Operntheatrum” develops into one of the leading centres of music in Europe. Telemann is the Director of Music of the City of Hamburg starting in 1721; Handel is employed as a violinist and harpsichordist. Financial mismanagement and lack of audience interest lead to an end of the enterprise in 1738, but the building serves as a venue for travelling comedy companies until 1763, when it is torn down.

In 1765, the “Ackermann ́sche Comödiantenhaus” opens with a mixed program of plays and operas. From 1767 on it is called the “Deutsches Nationaltheater,” due to the influence of Lessing. His “Hamburger Dramaturgie” establishes the program of a modern theatre: “When we have pity with kings, then we have it with them as men, and not as kings.” The plays of Lessing, Schiller, Goethe and Shakespeare are given, but soon operas that meet Lessing ́s standards are performed as well: “Die Entführung aus dem Serail”, “Don Giovanni”, “Die Hochzeit des Figaro” and “Die Zauberflöte”; Beethoven ́s “Fidelio” and Weber ́s “Freischütz”. In 1827, the old wooden building on the Gänsemarkt served its purpose, and the new “Stadt-Theater” with a seating capacity of 2800 opens with Goethe ́s “Egmont” on the Dammtorstraße. The long-termfinances of the theatre appear to be finally secure in 1873, when Bernhard Pollini as the house ́s director establishes the institutional support of the theatre through the public authorities. Gustav Mahler is the musical director for six years starting in 1891.

During the First World War, the number of performances is not reduced. In 1925 the stage house is rebuilt, and is used in this form until the present day. After the National Socialists take power in 1933, the “Stadt-Theater” is renamed the “Hamburgische Staatsoper” in 1934. The auditorium is destroyed in an air raid in 1943. The “Stiftung Wiederaufbau der Hamburgischen Staatsoper” raises 1.5 million Marks from sponsors for a new auditorium with 1690 seats, and the opera house opens with Mozart´s “Zauberflöte” on October 15th, 1955. 

With the “opera stabile”, an experimental stage is created in 1975. In the following years the Hamburgische Staatsoper is shaped by personalities such as Rolf Liebermann, Günther Rennert, Placido Domingo, August Everding, Götz Friedrich, Christoph von Dohnányi, Peter Ruzicka, Gerd Albrecht, Günter Krämer, Harry Kupfer, Albin Hänseroth, Ingo Metzmacher, Peter Konwitschny, Louwrens Langevoort, Simone Young, Claus Guth, and David Alden. In the years to come, the Hamburg State Opera regularly brings out new pieces on both stages and commissions compositions: outstandingly, Wolfgang Rihm's "The Conquest of Mexico" in 1992 or Helmut Lachenmann's "Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern" in 1997. This tradition will be consistently continued after 2015, the beginning of the dual leadership of Georges Delnon and Kent Nagano, including "Don't cry, sing" by Michael Wertmüller, "Stilles Meer" by Toshio Hosokawa, "La Passione" by Romeo Castellucci, "Senza Sangue" by Péter Eötvös, "Frankenstein" by Jan Dvorak, "BENJAMIN" by Peter Ruzicka, "I. th.Ak.A." by Samuel Penderbayne, "Lessons in Love and Violence" by George Benjamin / Martin Crimp, "THÉRÈSE" by Philipp Maintz and "IchundIch" by Johannes Harneit.

In times of pandemic, the Hamburg State Opera opened the 2020/21 season with molto agitato - a new production under the musical direction of Kent Nagano and directed by Frank Castorf. Also in 2020/21, the Hamburg State Opera re-produced Udo Zimmermann's chamber opera Weiße Rose: to mark the 100th anniversary of Sophie Scholl's birth, the work was seen for the first time as a film and in a completely new form. David Bösch, together with Patrick Bannwart and Falko Herold, staged The White Rose as a graphic opera. The production was awarded the prize "special mention for extraordinary artistic achievement" by the 58th Golden Prague International Television Festival.

The 2021/22 season will feature three world premieres: Playing Trump by Bernhard Lang in a production by State Opera Director Georges Delnon, Unser kleines Scheißkaff by Samuel Penderbayne and La Luna by Lorenzo Romano, and a German premiere: Bella und Blaubart by Isabelle Aboulker. Conductors and directors: Daniele Finzi Pasca, David Bösch, Dmitri Tcherniakov, Yona Kim, Kornél Mundruczó, Kent Nagano, Adam Fischer, Giacomo Sagripanti, Matteo Beltrami.

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