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The State Opera House, Unter den Linden in Berlin re-opened last week after many years of reconstruction.

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Since autumn 2010, the most lavish renovation measures in the history of the Berliner Staatsoper – the Berlin State Opera – have been taking place at a cost of roughly € 296 million (gross). Contributing to the general renovation are the German federal government with about € 200 million as well as friends and patrons of the Staatsoper Unter den Linden with € 3 million.

Following public debates about the redesign of the auditorium, the architect HG Merz was commissioned to renovate the historic monument. The ensemble of buildings comprising the Staatsoper was very much in need of a general overhaul. While complying with listed building requirements, structural defects are therefore being remedied and the antiquated building equipment updated in line with modern safety requirements. The accessibility, air-conditioning and fire protection have been improved. The outer appearance of the opera house will, however, remain the same when viewed from a pedestrian perspective. The volume of the auditorium is being enlarged so as to improve the acoustics. To achieve this, the hall is being expanded upwards within the existing building structure by raising the historic ceiling some 16 feet or 5 meters.

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The opera house was opened in 1742 as a court opera house, and experienced its first premiere in the still uncompleted building. This thus saw the start of the more than 250-year successful collaboration between the Berliner Staatsoper and the current Berliner Staatskapelle.

The architect Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff was commissioned to design the building. He conceived the opera in the Palladian style. The King Frederick II selected a fortress site near the Kronprinzenpalais where he lived. By placing it on the city’s main axis – the Unter den Linden boulevard – and not as would be usual within the palace complex, this created Europe’s first independent theatre building as a cultural expression of the Enlightenment.

The building, which was conceived as a nave, comprises the Apollo Hall (banqueting hall, foyer), the Theatre Hall (auditorium, ballroom) and the Corinthian Hall (stage and concert hall). Together with the Kronprinzenpalais, the Prinzessinnenpalais and the Zeughaus, the court opera house was the fourth prestigious building on Unter den Linden.

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Just a few steps away on the Museum Island the re-construction of the City Palace is nearing completion and will open in 2019. Thus the ensemble of all the buildings built by Frederick II the Great will be complete once more on Unter den Linden reflecting the Age of Enlightenment. Berlin once again is an elegant capital full of history and culture a pleasure to visit.

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