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National Theatre in Munich

Classical settings: concert halls and opera houses

Classical music is an experience for all the senses. The appeal of concert halls and opera houses lies not only in the stage and the auditorium but in the exterior, the acoustics, the atmosphere and the charm. Both the music and the architecture blend the traditional and the modern in a number of different ways.

The neo-Renaissance Alte Oper building was inaugurated in 1880 in the presence of the Kaiser. It witnessed the premieres of works by Hindemith, Orff and Schoenberg but was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War and reopened only in 1981. Alte Oper Frankfurt is now no longer an opera house but a versatile concert and events centre. The main auditorium is panelled in mahogany and has 2,500 seats.

Baden-Baden Festival Theatre's reputation is founded on grand opera productions, international guest performers, light-flooded foyers and an outstanding restaurant. It is Germany's largest opera house and concert hall, and although it only opened in 1998, the entrance hall is around 100 years older. This exquisite, neo-Renaissance part of the building was once Baden-Baden's railway station.

In 1818 Munich finally gained an 'opera house for all' in the form of the Royal and National Theatre at Max-Joseph-Platz. By 1825, however, Klenze's neo-classical structure had to be rebuilt because of a fire, this time with a pillared portico. Since 1875 it has been the venue for the Munich Opera Festival. The National Theatre is home to Bavaria's state orchestra, state opera and state ballet. At 2,500 square metres, this is the third-largest opera stage in the world.

The German Opera House in Berlin opened in 1912 and was destroyed in an air-raid in 1943. A more functional and modern building, which is still the city's biggest opera house, was christened Deutsche Oper Berlin in 1961. Audiences here love the great operas (by Wagner, Verdi, Puccini) but also premieres of works by Henze, Kagel and Rihm. The orchestra and chorus of Deutsche Oper Berlin are both highly renowned.

After the Second World War, Frankfurt Opera required new premises so it took up residence in the Schauspielhaus, the playhouse on Theaterplatz square. In 1960 the theatre company moved out into the next door building and in 1962 the two were linked by a glass frontage. The opera house and the theatre share the same foyer, which is adorned by a painting by Marc Chagall. Frankfurt Opera is one of the leading opera houses in Europe.

The Gasteig arts and education centre has been a landmark above the river Isar in Munich since 1985. This red brick complex, which is freely accessible and attracts 6,000 visitors per day, is not only the Munich Philharmonic's home, it's also the central library and the adult education centre. There are three concert halls in addition to the main Philharmonie auditorium, as well as numerous lecture rooms and multi-purpose spaces.

In 1781 a Leipzig concert society moved into an old trading house of the city's textile merchants. It has been known ever since as the Gewandhaus Orchestra. The present-day Gewandhaus at Augustusplatz, the third building to bear this name, boasts Europe's biggest ceiling fresco. It was opened in 1981 after a campaign by conductor Kurt Masur and became a focal point for the peaceful demonstrations by Leipzig citizens in 1989.

As early as 1687 Hamburg had an opera house at Gänsemarkt that soon began staging works by Telemann and Handel. In 1827 the company transferred to the municipal theatre on Dammtorstrasse, which was designed by architect Karl Friedrich Schinkel in the neo-classical style. Paganini, Liszt, Wagner and Mahler all performed there before the theatre was renamed Hamburg State Opera in 1934. It is today one of Europe's leading opera houses.

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