Neues Theater/Oper – english version
Before in 1831 (in 1835 according to other sources) the Grimmaische Gate, one of Leipzig’s four inner town gates, was torn down, the area of today’s Augustusplatz was situated outside the city. Outside the town gates there were the old fortifications with a moat and ramparts. Dismantlement of these fortications began in 1763.
Under the supervision of architect Johann Karl Friedrich Dauthe a park was laid out at the Grimmaische Gate. It was designed in the English style with winding paths, trees and an artificial hill, called snail hill. A part of the former moat was left open and so a little pond was created. That park was completed in 1785.
The artifical hill, much loved by Leipzig’s citizens was removed in the 1860’s to make room for the construction of the Neue Theater.
In the years 1865 – 1867 the Neue Theater was built on the North side of the Augustusplatz in the late classicist style to the plans of architect Carl Ferdinand Langhans. In the groundfloor wings were a cafe and a restaurant.
It opened on January, the 28th, 1868 and on the opening night Goethe’s play “Iphigenie auf Tauris” was staged.
The Neue Theater was designed with a capacity for 2000 people, comprised of 1,700 seats and 300 standing places. My Grieben guidebook of 1913 lists the ticket prices as follows:
Grieben’s guidebook also explains that the three flagpoles in front of the theatre were meant for the flags of Germany, Saxony and Leipzig.
In front of the main entrance stood 2 colossal statues left and right, depicting the muses Thalia and Melpomene, created by a sculptor from Leipzig, called Knauer. The pediment rested on six Corinthian columns and on top sat a statue of Apollo with the muses Klio and Kalliope resting at his feet.
Thalia and Melpomene are missing here, probably have gone to a café 😉
At the rear side we find six caryatids instead of the six columns at the front. In front of the building was a semi-circular terrace from which 44 steps led down to the swan pond on both sides.
A lion’s head on this terrace spouted out a jet of water into a shell which was carried by turtles and from there it flowed into the pond.
There was also a water fountain.
In winter Leipzig’s citizens used the swan pond for ice-skating (when there were still proper winters!)
To quote my Grieben guidebook once more: the total costs for the building amounted to 2 million Marks. Now I don’t know how much that would be in current money but it does sound like quite a lot 😉
Here come 2 very lovely night views of the illuminated theatre:
The Neue Theater was also destroyed during the air raid on Dec 4th, 1943
Parts of the sculptures had been saved from the rubble and in 1993 remnants of the tympanon frieze which had graced the front pediment were placed on the West side of today’s opera house.
In 1950 the ruin of the Neue Theater was removed.
From 1956 – 1960 the new opera house was built to the plans of Kunz Nierade and Kurt Hemmerling. In my opinion this is one of the more successful and well made projects of a new building in the GDR.
The Augustusplatz had been renamed into Karl-Marx-Platz.
Even as a child I visited the opera house around Christmas with my father and my older sister to see Engelbert Humberdinck’s opera “Hänsel und Gretel” which was always really nice. A not so nice memory though was the permanent little electrostatic discharges which I experienced with the railings.
The Opera today. And the square is now called Augustusplatz again.
Here a blog entry about the opera house, worth reading, with photos, also of the interior and the beautiful lamps.