Thursday, June 15, 2017

Semperoper in Dresden

Semperoper: level 1 foyer
Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail (The Abduction from the Serial) was on at the Semperoper in Dresden during my stay so I went to see it although it is not an opera I would have chosen, because I was keen to see a performance in the Semperoper.

My seat neighbour told me she would not have gone either except that she had read in the local paper that the production was witty with lots of visual gags.
 “You have to be careful what you see nowadays,” she said. “I have been disappointed too often.”

My neighbour’s newspaper was right. It was a witty production (by Michael Dijkema) and the wit saved it as the story is silly, and three hours long. I didn't know any of the singers but they were all good.

The performance took place in a swamp, complete with crocodile and all of the performers wore elaborately muddy eastern style boots and clothes with mud encrusted hems. They often got stuck in the swamp. The German heros were silly when they weren't singing (the silly story is punctuated with lovely arias) and the Turkish servant was a buffoon. The only character to emerge honourably from the story was the evil looking Turkish Pasha.

There was a lot of spoken dialogue and I'm not sure how much was from Mozart and how much was added as I hadn't seen this opera previously.  The spoken and sung dialogue appeared as subtitles above the performers in both German and English so I imagine a lot of foreigners visit the Semperoper for a performance while they are here.

I found the opera rather long, but that gave me time to admire my surroundings. The building itself is a stunner. A prime example of Baroque building style, it was largely destroyed in the last months of the second world war. It remained a shell until rebuilding started in 1968. It was completed in 1985,  exactly 40 years after it was destroyed.

The air conditioning is interesting. Each seat has its own grill so the air gently rises instead of being blown down from above.

Top of chair with air-con vent
When you aren't admiring the air-conditioning you can look up and admire the ceiling with its depicted conductors, or the fire curtain which my neighbour told me was saved from the bombing and was carried through the streets in profession when the rebuilding was complete.
Portraits of conductors on the ceiling of the Semperoper

Semperoper: curtain saved from the firestorm.


Anonymous said...


Great to read your travelogue to the former East. Maybe it is a silly kind of thing to say, but the Semperoper is my favourite opera house.

I yearn to return there (specifically, the S-O), and also to Leipzig (where I heard Ulf S conduct Elektra and Die W).

Orchestras in each case a big part of the attraction, naturally.

Did you get to the Grassi Museum complex? I thought its Weimar-era architecture quite charming.

Elizabeth said...

Oh not silly at all - the Semperoper is wonderful, I agree. I love all the smaller opera houses with their great acoustics here and I also love that tickets are cheap so everyone can go to performances. I wish I could bring one back luggage (as well as the people that run them so well!)