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 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. 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.
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.
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 . 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
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. Whilst the Semperoper does not have a GMD as of 2015, the current chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden is Christian Thielemann, as of the 2012/13 season. The current Intendant (General Manager) of the company is Wolfgang Rothe.
Artists associated with the Semperoper
- Carl Gottlieb Reißiger
- Richard Wagner
- Ernst von Schuch (1889–1914)
- Fritz Reiner (1914–1921)
- Fritz Busch (1922–1933)
- Karl Böhm (1934–1942)
- Karl Elmendorff (1943–1944)
- Joseph Keilberth (1945–1951)
- Rudolf Kempe (1949–1952)
- Otmar Suitner (1960–1964)
- Kurt Sanderling (1964–1967)
- Herbert Blomstedt (1975–1985)
- Hans Vonk (1985–1990)
- Giuseppe Sinopoli (1992–2001)
- Semyon Bychkov (2001–2002)
- Bernard Haitink (2002–2004)
- Fabio Luisi (2007–2010)
- Christian Thielemann (2012–present)
Polina Semionova is a principal guest artist at the Semperoper.
Operas given their premiere performances at the Semperoper
- 1842: Wagner – Rienzi, 20 October
- 1843: Wagner – The Flying Dutchman, 2 January
- 1845: Wagner – Tannhäuser, 19 October
- 1895: Eugen d'Albert: Ghismonda, 28. November
- 1901: Richard Strauss – Feuersnot, 22 November
- 1905: Richard Strauss – Salome, 9 December
- 1909: Richard Strauss – Elektra, 25 January
- 1911: Richard Strauss – Der Rosenkavalier, 26 January
- 1913: Ermanno Wolf-Ferrari – L'amore medico, 4 December
- 1916: Eugen d'Albert – Die toten Augen, 5 March
- 1917: Hans Pfitzner – Das Christ-Elflein (2nd version), 11 December
- 1924: Richard Strauss – Intermezzo, 4 November
- 1925: Ferruccio Busoni – Doktor Faust, 21 May
- 1926: Kurt Weill – Der Protagonist, 27 March
- 1926: Paul Hindemith – Cardillac, 9 November
- 1927: Emil von Reznicek – Spiel oder Ernst
- 1927: Othmar Schoeck – Penthesilea, 8 January
- 1928: Richard Strauss – Die ägyptische Helena, 6 June
- 1930: Othmar Schoeck – Vom Fischer and syner Fru, 3 October
- 1932: Eugen d'Albert – Mr Wu
- 1933: Richard Strauss – Arabella, 1 July
- 1935: Richard Strauss – Die schweigsame Frau, 24 June
- 1935: Rudolf Wagner-Régeny – Der Günstling, 20 February
- 1937: Othmar Schoeck – Massimilla Doni, 2 March
- 1938: Richard Strauss – Daphne, 15 October
- 1940: Heinrich Sutermeister – Romeo und Julia, 13 April
- 1942: Heinrich Sutermeister – Die Zauberinsel, 31 October
- 1944: Gottfried von Einem – Prinzessin Turandot, 5 February
- 1944: Joseph Haas – Die Hochzeit des Jobs, 2 July
- 1985: Siegfried Matthus – Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke, 16 February
- 1989: Eckehard Meyer – Der goldene Topf, 1989
- 1998: Matthias Pintscher – Thomas Chatterton, 25 May
- 2001: Peter Ruzicka – Celan, 25 March
- 2008: Manfred Trojahn – La grande magia, 10 May
- 2010: Hans Werner Henze – Gisela (Dresden version), 20 November
- 2011: Miroslav Srnka – Jakub Flügelbunt , 15 December
- 2012: Johannes Wulff-Woesten – Die Konferenz der Tiere, 8 July
- 2013: Johannes Wulff-Woesten – Prinz Bussel, 27 April
- Fritz Löffler: Das alte Dresden – Geschichte seiner Bauten. 16th ed. Leipzig: Seemann, 2006, ISBN 978-3-86502-000-0 (German)
- "Dresden Semperoper". Mostly Opera. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
- "Dresden Sights and Views – Semper Opera House –". sights-and-culture.com. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
- Daniel J. Wakin (4 February 2010). "Saxon State Opera's Music Director Quits". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
- "Christian Thielemann Chefdirigent ab 2012" (Press release). Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden. 9 October 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2010.
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