Houses & Companies | Kroll Opera | Modern Era | Opera
This unlikely opera house was the first avant-garde public arena and was funded by the Prussian Ministry of Culture. Built in 1844 by entrepreneur Josef Kroll, the theatre, with its large stage and fine acoustics, became the centrepiece for new music and production values that embraced modernity.
When Otto Klemperer was appointed musical director, he approached the project as a personal mission. Making all the important artistic decisions, he mounted both old and new works that eschewed a naturalistic production style. His first bold experiment, Fidelio, was a critical failure, but he followed with a Stravinsky triple bill – Mavra, Oedipus Rex and Petrushka – before operas by Hindemith, Schoenberg and Weill stirred public and critical evaluation of these new compositional voices.
The most radical production was of Wagner’s Der Fliegende Holländer. Since the composer’s operas were highly descriptive in terms of how he dictated performance practice and staging, Klemperer and his design and directorial team decided to deconstruct Wagner’s intentions and superimpose their own. This was a potentially dangerous concept, and one that necessitated 100 police officers attending the premiere to prevent Nazis from smashing or torching the theatre.
Although the Kroll Opera continued until its grant ran out, its demise would have been imminent due to the Nazi Party’s ban on the public performance of many new composers’ works.
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