Theatre at Berlin

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“The Berlin school, whose founder was Schinkel, the architect of the noble Berlin Theatre, and of the Museum, which is noteworthy for its magnificent façade, exhibited a decided inclination towards Grecian architecture, and strove to attain a certain purity of form, and delicacy and elegance in details, which where for the most part carried out in the Grecian style. He had to contend against a deficiency in building material. Owing to want of building-stone, the mouldings, and indeed all the architectural details, were unavoidably carried out in stucco; nor was this all, but in order to give the same durability, they were made to project as little as possible. Consequently this architectural style, with the exception of some few public buildings, seemed flat and wanting in power, especially in the case of private dwelling-houses, and frequently presented the appearance of pasteboard-work, or cabinet-work, rather than of a structural edifice. This facility also which stucco afforded for enriching the façade, caused more attention to be paid to decoration than it was entitled to, for ornament should always be kept in subservience to the main and constructive architectural forms.” The Konzerthaus Berlin (once called the Schauspielhaus Berlin) is a concert hall situated on the Gendarmenmarkt square in the central Mitte district of Berlin. Since 1994 it has been the seat of the German orchestra Konzerthausorchester Berlin. The building’s predecessor, the National-Theater in the Friedrichstadt suburb, was destroyed by fire in 1817. It had been designed by Carl Gotthard Langhans and inaugurated on January 1, 1802. The hall was redesigned by Karl Friedrich Schinkel between 1818 and 1821, and the new inauguration of the Königliches Schauspielhaus on June 18, 1821 featured the acclaimed premiere of Carl Maria von Weber’s opera Der Freischütz. Other works that have premiered at the theatre include Undine by E. T. A. Hoffmann in 1816 and Penthesilea by Heinrich von Kleist in 1876. After World War I the Schauspielhaus reopened under the name of Preußisches Staatstheater Berlin in October 1919. Under the direction of Leopold Jessner it soon became one of the leading theatres of the Weimar Republic, a tradtion ambivalently continued by his successor Gustav Gründgens after the Nazi takeover in 1933, including his famous staging of Goethe’s Faust and the premiere of Gerhart Hauptmann’s tragedy Iphigenie in Delphi in 1941. Severely damaged by Allied bombing and the Battle of Berlin the building has been rebuilt from 1977 on and reopened as the concert hall of the Berliner Sinfonie-Orchester in 1984. The exterior, including many of the sculptures of composers by Christian Friedrich Tieck and Balthasar Jacob Rathgeber, is a faithful reconstruction of Schinkel’s designs, while the interior was adapted in a Neoclassical style meeting the conditions of the altered use. The great hall is equipped with a notable four-manual pipe organ including 74 stops and 5811 pipes.


A. Rosengarten, W. Collett-Sandars A Handbook of Architectural Styles (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1895)


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