Alte Oper, Frankfurt

The Alte Oper (Old Opera) is a major concert hall and former opera house in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. The building was inaugurated in 1880. Many important works have been premiered at the Alte Oper, including Carl Orff's Carmina Burana in 1937.


The building was inaugurated on October 20, 1880. It was designed by the Berlin architect Richard Lucae and financed by the citizens of Frankfurt. Among the invited guests was Kaiser Wilhelm I of Germany, who was impressed and stated, Das könnte ich mir in Berlin nicht erlauben. (I couldn't permit myself this sort of thing in Berlin.)

The citizens of Frankfurt, who had to finance the structure (initially projected at a cost of two million marks), were rather skeptical in the beginning. Alluding to the inscription on the frieze

Frankfurt poet Adolf Stoltze rhymed in his best Hessian dialect:


The Alte Oper was almost completely destroyed by World War II bombing in 1944 (except parts of the façades), and in the 1960s the city magistrate planned to build a modern office building in place of the ruin. The Hessian minister of economy at the time, Rudi Arndt, earned his nickname "Dynamit-Rudi" (Dynamite Rudi) when he proposed to simply blow up "Germany's most beautiful ruin" by using "a little dynamite". Later, Arndt denied having meant this seriously.

A citizen's initiative campaigned for reconstruction funds after 1953 and collected 15 million DM. Ultimately costing about 160 million DM, the opera house was reopened on August 28, 1981, to the sounds of Gustav Mahler's Symphony No. 8, the "Symphony of a Thousand". A live recording of that concert, conducted by Michael Gielen, is available on CD.

Today, the Alte Oper consists of:

  • The Großer Saal (Large Hall) which has seating for an audience of 2,500.
  • The Mozart-Saal with 700 seats.
  • Smaller halls used for conventions.

Because the new Frankfurt Opera House had already been built in 1951, the rebuilt Alte Oper was designed for use as a concert hall from the beginning of its reconstruction. Today, it regularly hosts concerts and plays.


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