Opera in Krefeld

Since Krefeld is an impoverished, de-industrialized city of only 235,000 people, it does not seem like a likely place for an opera company.

As early as 1906 the Krefeld Theater was merged with the theater of nearby Mönchengladbach, but they have been divided and re-merged at least twice since then. The current merger dates from 1950. Together, they somehow manage to put on excellent opera performances in addition to musicals, drama and ballet. Each production is shown several times in both cities.

Krefeld Theater

The current theater building in Krefeld dates from 1963 and looks a bit scruffy from the outside, but the inside is pleasant and comfortable since a thorough renovation was completed in 2009.

Stairs in the lobby

The Glass Foyer is an attractive place for a drink before the show or in the intermission, especially if you are partial to the faded charm of the 1960s.

View from the lobby

Perhaps the view from the lobby would be more interesting in the summer with the fountain turned on.

Auditorium of the Krefeld Theater

The opera I saw in Krefeld was Norma by Vincenzo Bellini (1801-1835), with Barbara Dobrzanska in the title role. This is a challenging opera for such a small theater, but I thought they did it very well. I have seen different stagings of Norma in Karlsruhe and Berlin, and most recently in Frankfurt in an excellent production by Cristof Loy.

Norma is a bel canto opera and the singing really is beautiful but the plot is often criticized. It takes place in ancient Gaul under the Roman occupation. Especially in the Berlin staging, I kept expecting Asterix and Obelix to pop up from behind the bushes at any minute. Norma is the head priestess of the Gauls, but she is secretly in love with the Roman governor and has even borne him two children. (We are asked to believe that nobody in the small Gallic village has noticed this.)

Program booklet for Norma by Vincenzo Bellini

The Krefeld production avoided this problem by setting the action in a sort of generic early-twentieth-century dictatorship. They had Norma living in a large, impoverished city where it was more plausible that she could keep her relationship with the enemy governor a secret. But of course the music was exactly as Bellini wrote it, and so was the text by Felice Romani. (It was sung in Italian with German surtitles.)

Auditorium of the Krefeld Theater

Like most theaters, the combined theaters of Krefeld and Mönchengladbach have started producing trailers to give a taste of what their opera productions are like. Here is their trailer for Bellini’s Norma.

Stage entrance of the Krefeld Theater

This is my nomination for the world’s least impressive stage entrance. Fortunately I didn’t know anybody in the cast on the night I was there, so I didn’t have to loiter around here afterwards to wait for them.

My photos in this post are from 2012. I revised the text in 2018.

See also: Opera Houses in Germany

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