A Sense of Juxtaposition – Deutsche Oper

by Elaine Cheng

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The Deutsche Oper, like many concerts venues in Berlin, is no stranger to renovation and reform, not only in its musical directions but architecturally too.
After its destruction into oblivion after the Second World War, the former “Deutsches Opernhaus” was rebuilt into a modern and sophisticated structure which would be the host to some of the world’s finest and highest standard performances of opera just as it was in the previous building.

From the outside, where it has made its mark on Bismarckstraße, it reveals a smooth and bold finish. The upper floors stick out over the ground floor and its proximity to the ground makes the building seem small. But there is a sense of juxtaposition as the sides facing east and west are transparent as if to reveal the stories and happenings of the perspective spectators inside on each level of the building while the rest of the opera house is covered in washed-out concrete, keeping everything else under a secretive blanket only to be seen by those lucky enough to hold a ticket inside.

The feeling of being close to the action is an idea carried throughout in its design and execution and a concept intended by architect Fritz Bornemann. He wanted the audience to focus on the performance inside therefore keeping the rest of the house simple and minimalist [1]. The closeness of the floor to ceiling at each floor comes again from Bornemann’s vision. The only exception to this is the main foyer where audience members gather before and after performances and during intervals. Here, in this open meeting point which links the left and right entrances of the auditorium is the arena where fellow audience members can share intellectual knowledge or discuss the performance of the night.

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As you enter the auditorium, this is the heart of the opera house, where the action happens and again, the cool and sophisticated aura is continued in the auditorium in a very effortlessly nonchalant manner. But the focus is on the stage and the stage only just as it is in traditional performance venues. The interior of the auditorium is simple, just like the building’s exterior, and a fine example of the “less-is-more” concept. The simplicity takes away any attention from the auditorium itself; there is in fact, nothing eye-catching about the room but what is already set up on the stage. As a performance stage, it executes the one thing a stage seeks to achieve and that is the sound travels right to the back of the auditorium and none of the stage is unseen at whichever part the spectator sits.

Overall, the Deutsche Oper house is an architecturally well thought out building that employs functionality with beauty. Nothing is overdone in the building, which spares the eyes from having too much to see other than the performance that they are there to see.

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[1] ‘Berlin’s most modern opera house with its elegant retro-design’, http://www.deutscheoperberlin.de/en_EN/service#magazine-170200

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