April 22, 2024

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Built General Tough

The commemorative publication “150 Years of the Altenburg Theater” also reveals bitter truths

Bitter truths

Then comes the criticism in addition to the statistics. Eckerle writes that at the time of the merger on August 1, 1995, the theater had 840 permanent positions. In 2020 there were still 300 employees remaining. “In other words: Friedrich von Schiller’s Wallenstein trilogy cannot be realized these days with 13 actors any more than Richard Wagner’s ‘Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg’ with eight vocal soloists and an opera choir with 21 singers. ”

These are bitter truths that raise a question: How much theater can and will a city with a population of over 30,000 afford? And are major operas or classic productions in the foreground here? But above all: which theater does a city like Altenburg need?

Massive budget cuts yesterday – and tomorrow?

Benjamin-Immanuel Hoff, Minister of Culture in the Free State of Thuringia, wishes in the book’s greeting that the theater remains a “place of togetherness” and formulates the claim “not only to be a chronicler of our time, but also to actively position itself with current productions and time-critical material Respectively”. The country needs a new theater culture! Especially if, due to the corona pandemic, a new string concert is likely to begin with the so-called voluntary services in culture. General director Kay Kuntze and managing director Volker Arnhold warn in their welcoming address: “The pandemic has changed our society and will take a toll on the public purse.” But they add: “Hardly any other public institution achieves such a high degree of identification in the urban fabric as our theater.”

Exciting background to the opening year 1871

The book is a good opportunity to form your own opinion by dealing with the past and the present of the theater (in Altenburg). The texts are cleverly put together on 260 pages. A multifaceted arc spans from the prehistory before the building to the present. An outstanding text by Roland Krischke: The director of the Altenburg museums writes about the political and social background of the opening year 1871, about the newly founded German Empire and its new constitution, writes about flourishing industrial landscapes, population growth and modern gas lanterns that are being installed on the streets of the city and concludes with the note:

“If the winding streets of Altenburg have become too narrow for you, you can take a look at events that moved the world then or significantly later: 1871 is the year of birth of Christian Morgenstern, Friedrich Ebert, Rosa Luxemburg, Paul Valéry and Lyonel Feininger or Vladimir Ilyich Lenin. This year ‘The Demons’ by Fyodor Dostoyevsky, ‘The Birth of Tragedy’ by Friedrich Nietzsche and Darwin’s ‘The Descent of Man’ will appear. Heinrich Schliemann is excavating ancient Troy and the crinoline is going out of fashion. At Christmas, Giuseppe Verdi’s Aida will be premiered in Cairo on the occasion of the opening of the Suez Canal. ”

Epochal: Konwitschny’s “Freischütz” 1983

In short: The book on the Altenburg theater anniversary is entertaining, offers a good introduction to cultural and everyday history and on top of that has the advantage of offering specialist knowledge for those who want to delve into the depths of Altenburg theater history. There are, for example, texts on the music archive or on special productions. Peter Konwitschny’s “Freischütz” from 1983 is recognized as an “epochal event”. In addition, the story of a GDR resistance group is told, which will be staged as a play development in 2013. There are also a lot of photos, staging photos and especially artist portraits.

Wagner’s grandson Wieland and the “Ring” 1943/44

My personal highlight is a text by the theater scholar Anno Mungen, who wrote about Wieland Wagner. For Wieland Wagner, Richard Wagner’s grandson, Altenburg became a training center for directing and stage design. Financial support came from the very highest, for probationary periods and also for the casting of the singing parts.

In fact, it was only recently during the research for this book that photos emerged showing the “Ring” that Wieland Wagner premiered in Altenburg in the middle of the war: the “Walküre” on September 12, 1943, the “Götterdämmerung” on September 19, 1943. December 1943, “Siegfried” on January 30, 1944 and “Rheingold” on May 14, 1944. The photos, which are published here for the first time, show a very reduced furnishing style, as one would aesthetically assign it to post-war Bayreuth, although 1943 / As an exception, there were still enough funds available for an opulent interior.

Anno Mungen comes to the conclusion: “The circumstance of the extreme material exceptional position of the ring production in Altenburg as well as the enormous financial support by the National Socialism there speak against the interpretation that the Altenburg ring aesthetics should be interpreted as a kind of war accident Wagner then creatively conceived with ‘Neu-Bayreuth’ like a warning. It is exactly the opposite: he developed the aesthetics of the post-war years following the ring works of the war period, which, in their aesthetic reductionist attitude, are based on moderate modernism like them the state also pursued, oriented. ”

In other words: Before the war, during the Nazi era, the Wieland-Wagner production looks exactly the same as it did after the war in the young Federal Republic. So did the aesthetic break with National Socialism and with it the artistic new beginning in Bayreuth not exist after the war? The newly discovered photos suggest it.

Information about the book
“150 Years of Altenburg Theater”
Edited by Felix Eckerle and Harald Müller
Published by Theater der Zeit
260 pages
Subscription price until April 18, 2021: 19 euros
Retail price from April 19, 2021: 24 euros
ISBN: 978-3-95749-346-0