Open-air opera at Heidelberg castle

Oblivious to the religious conflicts of previous centuries, and to the stray tourists who are still walking around looking at the ruins, stage hands from the City Theater have started putting up chairs in the castle courtyard for the evening’s open-air performance of the comic opera L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848).

The chairs and the stage are set up in such a way that the façade of the Ottheinrichbau is behind the stage and serves as a backdrop.

The singers meanwhile are getting made up all in one big room down a flight of stone steps off to the left behind the rows of chairs. Not even the lead singers have private dressing rooms here, since there aren’t that many usable rooms in the ruined castle.

Audience and orchestra in the castle courtyard

The orchestra in this photo is playing under some white umbrellas to the right of the stage, so if it should start to rain suddenly their instruments won’t get wet.

Intermission in the castle courtyard

Poor Nemorino seems to have lost his beloved Adina at the end of Act One, when she says she is going to marry Sergeant Belcore.

Then comes the intermission and the spectators can go out to the terrace to have drinks or a snack with a view out over the city and the river.

The weather on this particular evening was decidedly cool for June, and the forecast included a 20% chance of rain. At times the clouds looked quite menacing, but finally the other 80% won out, so the opera was able to continue through all the ups and downs of Act Two right up to the happy end.

(Happy for everyone but Sergeant Belcore, that is, but he consoles himself with the thought that there are thousands of other women in the world, most of whom are suckers for a spiffy uniform.)

Applause after the opera

The applause after the performance of L’elisir d’amore was long and enthusiastic, especially since this was the last opera performance of the season and several ensemble members were leaving Heidelberg to take up new engagements elsewhere.

After the show I introduced myself to the baritone Sebastian Geyer (the tall man in the glittery suit in the middle of the photo), because after four years in the Heidelberg opera ensemble he was leaving to become an ensemble member in Frankfurt. So I saw his last performance in Heidelberg and a few weeks later his first one in Frankfurt, as Count Almaviva in Mozart’s Marriage of Figaro, and two weeks after that he came as the featured guest to my opera appreciation course Opern-Gespräche.

Night in the castle courtyard

Although this was the last opera performance of the season, the Castle Festival continued for several more weeks with concerts and plays and performances of the iconic operetta The Student Prince by Sigmund Romberg, sung in the original English but with the spoken dialogues in German translation.

The Student Prince is an American operetta that takes place in Heidelberg, and as far as I know the local population has always been quite happy with it — unlike the people of Salzburg, Austria, who hated (or didn’t even know about) the musical The Sound of Music for the first fifty years after its Broadway opening.

My photos in this post are from 2010. I revised the text in 2018.

See also: A musical comes home about The Sound of Music in Salzburg.

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