5/8 of an opera in the Palmengarten, 2004

To add to the excitement of an open-air performance, you never know how the weather is going to develop in this part of the world.

For the summer performances of the Frankfurt Chamber Opera (Kammeroper), the bandstand of the Palmengarten is used as the stage, and it has a roof on it, but both the orchestra and the audience sit out under the open sky.

On July 17, 2004, they put on a beautiful premiere of 5/8 of Mozart’s opera The Marriage of Figaro. The weather was warm and sunny for the first half, in fact during the overture some of the musicians on one side of the orchestra had to wear sunglasses because the sun hadn’t gone down quite far enough yet to get out of their eyes.

Orchestra, conductor and stage in the Palmengarten

Acts 1 and 2 went really well, allaying all fears of people who had been to the dress rehearsal and seen everything go wrong that possibly could.

During the intermission a few harmless clouds started to gather, but nobody minded that particularly.

Before the storm

Then a short ways into Act 3 some gusty winds started coming up. Conductor Anton Zapf lost some loose sheets of music that were blown off his music stand all of a sudden, but he kept on conducting. Parts of the stage set started swaying violently as gusts of wind found their way into the interior of the bandstand. Johannes M. Kösters as Count Almaviva kept on singing even though various curtains were whipping him in the face and free-standing spotlights started falling over.

Orchestra regrouping under the roof

Then the first raindrops fell, and that is always the signal for the musicians to grab their instruments and head for cover. Usually, if it’s just a bit of quiet summer drizzle, the orchestra regroups itself under the roof and the performance continues after a few minutes in concert form for those audience members who don’t mind sitting in the rain. But this time there was a storm warning and in fact a violent hailstorm was under way in other parts of Frankfurt, so they reluctantly canceled the rest of the premiere and invited everyone to come again the following Tuesday.

Which a lot of people did. The weather held that day, but for the remaining fourteen performances it was rather mixed, with some beautiful evenings alternating with stormy ones.

Bandstand in the rain

Originally the American soprano Christine Graham was scheduled to sing Susanna (the one who marries Figaro after all the complications have been resolved), but she had to cancel out because she got a full-time job (hurrah!) in the opera ensemble in Coburg. Her replacement Jana Degebrodt was also fine, however, so except for the mixed weather it was all quite successful.

My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2022.

See more posts on Frankfurt am Main, Germany.
See more posts on open-air opera performances.

9 thoughts on “5/8 of an opera in the Palmengarten, 2004”

  1. There is always that element of excitement with an outdoor performance. I remember greeting a group coming in by plane in Buffalo, New York in February. All the brass players’ valves froze. I could only play in the key of B-flat when mine froze. It would have helped if we all froze in the same key . . .

  2. We love your posts! As seasoned travellers in Europe, we love being reminded of the beauties and peculiarities of places like the Palmengarten, Konstabler Wache, Zurich, Bregenz and St. Gallen. All these places we’ve visited and loved. As an author, I used Bregenz as one of the locations in my novel “Reaction”, the second in the Jake Prescott trilogy. To combine these locations with operatic experiences makes them even more enjoyable. We too have experienced a summer cloudburst/hailstorm in Germany, in the medieval village of Rothenburg ob der Tauber.. Lots of fun!
    Keep it up, thanks
    Ian & Diana Kent

    1. Many thanks for your enthusiastic comment. I’ve never been to Rothenburg ob der Tauber, but I often go to Weikersheim, a few km downstream in the same valley, where they do open-air operas every second summer.

  3. I occasionally tweet about shows I have seem about performances before I started my stageblog – but have not done a full review that far in the past… thanks for planting that thought in my head!

    1. This is based on a post that I originally wrote 18 years ago for a now-defunct website called VirtualTourist. I revised it and posted it here to call attention to the opera company and the venue, both of which are still (or again) going strong and are well worth a visit.

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