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Semperoper at night

The Semperoper is the opera house of the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden (Saxon State Opera) and the concert hall of the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden (Saxon State Orchestra). It is also home to the Semperoper ballet. The building is located near the Elbe River in the historic centre of Dresden, Germany.

The opera house was originally built by the architect Gottfried Semper in 1841. After a devastating fire in 1869, the opera house was rebuilt, partly again by Semper, and completed in 1878. The opera house has a long history of premieres, including major works by Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.


The first opera house around 1850
Interior of the first opera house in 1841
Semperoper with the Theatre Square
Interior of the Semperoper today

The first opera house at the location of today's Semperoper was built by the architect Gottfried Semper. It opened on 13 April 1841 with an opera by Carl Maria von Weber. The building style itself is debated among many, as it has features that appear in three styles; Early Renaissance and Baroque, with Corinthian style pillars typical of Greek classical revival. Perhaps the most suitable label for this style would be eclecticism, where influences from many styles are used, a practice most common during this period.[1] Nevertheless, the opera building, Semper's first, is regarded as one of the most beautiful European opera houses.

Following a devastating fire in 1869, the citizens of Dresden immediately set about rebuilding their opera house. They demanded that Gottfried Semper do the reconstruction, even though he was then in exile because of his involvement in the May 1849 uprising in Dresden. The architect had his son, Manfred Semper, build the second opera house using his plans. Completed in 1878, it was built in Neo-Renaissance style. During the construction period, performances were held at the Gewerbehaussaal, which opened in 1870.[1]

The building is considered to be a prime example of "Dresden Baroque" architecture. It is situated on the Theatre Square in central Dresden on the bank of the Elbe River. On top of the portal there is a Panther quadriga with a statue of Dionysos. The interior was created by architects of the time, such as Johannes Schilling. Monuments on the portal depict artists, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, William Shakespeare, Sophocles, Molière and Euripides. The building also features work by Ernst Rietschel and Ernst Julius Hähnel.[2]

In the pre-war years, the Semperoper premiered many of the works of Richard Strauss.

In 1945, during the last months of World War II, the building was largely destroyed again, this time by the bombing of Dresden and subsequent firestorm, leaving only the exterior shell standing. Exactly 40 years later, on 13 February 1985, the opera's reconstruction was completed. It was rebuilt to be almost identical to its appearance before the war, but with the benefit of new stage machinery and an accompanying modern rear service building .[3] The Semperoper reopened with the opera that was performed just before the building's destruction in 1945, Carl Maria von Weber's "Der Freischütz".

When the Elbe flooded in 2002, the building suffered heavy water damage. With substantial help from around the world, it reopened in December of that year.

Present-day administration and operations[edit]

Today, the orchestra for most operas is the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden. The Generalmusikdirektor (GMD) of the Semperoper is normally a different person from that of the Staatskapelle when it presents concerts. Exceptions have been Karl Böhm, Hans Vonk, and Fabio Luisi who have held both positions. Luisi resigned as chief conductor of the Semperoper in February 2010,[4] and was succeeded by Christian Thielemann beginning in the 2012/13 season.[5]The general director of the Semperoper from the 2010–2011 season until her death in 2012 was Ulrike Hessler.[6] As of the 2010–2011 season, the opera director of the Semperoper is Eytan Pessen.[7]

The Semperoper's 2011–12 season offered 19 premieres, including eight operas, five ballet productions, two gala evenings and four productions of the youth programme, Junge Szene.[8]

Artists associated with the Semperoper[edit]





First Character Soloists

First Soloists

Second Soloists


Corps de Ballet

Operas that premiered at the Semperoper[edit]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b Fritz Löffler: Das alte Dresden – Geschichte seiner Bauten. 16th ed. Leipzig: Seemann, 2006, ISBN 978-3-86502-000-0 (German)
  2. ^ "Dresden Semperoper". Mostly Opera. Retrieved 9 August 2009. 
  3. ^ "Dresden Sights and Views – Semper Opera House –". Retrieved 9 August 2009. 
  4. ^ Daniel J. Wakin (4 February 2010). "Saxon State Opera's Music Director Quits". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2010. 
  5. ^ "Christian Thielemann Chefdirigent ab 2012" (Press release). Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden. 9 October 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2010. 
  6. ^ Norman Lebrecht, "The discreet, urbane geek who lured Thielemann to Dresden", 31 July 2012 on (With a tribute by Peter Jonas).
  7. ^ Semperoper Website, retrieved June 2013,
  8. ^ "History of the Semperoper". 2011. Retrieved 17 November 2011. 

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 51°03′16″N 13°44′07″E / 51.05444°N 13.73528°E / 51.05444; 13.73528