Annaberg-Buchholz is a city of scarcely more than 20,000 people, located in a hilly region called the Erzgebirge (literally ‘Ore-Mountains’) in the German state of Sachsen, near the Czech border. Amazingly, this small out-of-the-way town has a lively professional theater with its own opera and drama ensembles which put on five or six new productions per year. (It’s a town the size of Ashland, Ohio or Libertyville, Illinois, but with its own opera house).
I had heard about this theater from two people: first from my friend Ingo in Dresden, who goes to Annaberg every winter for the Christmas market and the opera, and second from the Frankfurt opera singer Andreas Bauer, who had a two-year stint in the Annaberg opera ensemble at the beginning of his career.
This plaque explains how the theater got its name. “In this house the great German actor Eduard von Weinstein (born August 1, 1871, died July 22, 1961) celebrated his first important artistic successes as an actor.” This is followed by a quotation from Weinstein, and his signature: “Never will I forget Annaberg, where I studied the basics of my beautiful profession in practice.”
The opera I saw in Annaberg was Martha, a “romantic-comic opera” by Friedrich von Flotow (1812-1883). I first saw Martha years ago in Detmold, another small German city with a lively professional theater, and more recently I have seen it several times in Frankfurt in a brilliant production by Katherina Thoma.
Martha is a light-hearted opera with catchy melodies. It was the most-often performed opera in Germany in the second half of the 19th century, but then in the 20th it gradually went out of style and developed a reputation for being stuffy and old-fashioned. Now in the 21st it seems to be making something of a comeback, as creative stage directors take it on and bring it back to life.
This is not a large theater. It seats 295 people, and I’m told it is often sold out during the winter months, but I was there on a public holiday in May, which was a beautiful spring day and was also Fathers’ Day, when traditionally people go out hiking and end up in a nice beer garden someplace, so there were still some empty seats in the theater even after everyone had come in.
The theater in Annaberg was my fifty-ninth German opera house, out of the sixty I have been to so far.
My photos and text in this post are from 2018.
See also: Sixty opera houses in Germany.