Mainz is right across the Rhine River from Wiesbaden. Both are state capitals and both have good opera houses, but what I never realized is that they are both just about the same distance from Frankfurt.
I always had the feeling that Mainz was further away, since it is off on the other side of the Rhine, and in a different Land of the German federation. Land Rhineland-Pfalz, that sounds very far away, somehow, for us residents of Hessen.
But according to a website called www.koordinaten.de (which is no longer online) they are just about the same distance, in fact Mainz is all of 61 meters closer. They calculated the straight-line distance from the center of Frankfurt to the center of Wiesbaden as being 31.529 km, and Frankfurt to Mainz as being 31.468 km. Both within easy cycling distance, in any case.
The State Theater in Mainz was first built from 1829 to 1833 and underwent several expansions and remodelings before being severely damaged by bombs during the Second World War.
It was provisionally rebuilt and reopened in 1951 in a not-very-satisfactory form. Another remodeling in 1976/77 was also unsuccessful, so from 1998 to 2001 the theater was thoroughly overhauled and modernized.
This space at the top of the building was newly created during the remodeling from 1998 to 2001. It is an elegant place to wine and dine, with a fine view of the cathedral.
I’ve seen several operas in Mainz, one of which was Lady Macbeth of Mzensk, by Dimitrij Shostakovich. This passionate, violent and beautiful opera was huge success in Leningrad and Moscow when it first came out in 1934 and 1935, but then Stalin saw it and disapproved. He wasn’t about to tolerate such a sordid tale of a frustrated young housewife taking an illicit lover and killing her father-in-law and her husband, among other crimes. The opera was immediately banned in the Soviet Union.
People were being executed by the thousands in this period, and how Shostakovich managed to survive Stalin’s wrath is still not entirely clear. But survive he did, and wrote some great symphonies and chamber music up to his death at age 69 in 1975, but never another great opera.
There was at least one season when both Frankfurt and Mainz had productions of Lady Macbeth of Mzensk in their schedules at the same time. German newspaper columnists tend to get upset when this happens, saying neighboring opera houses should coordinate their planning and not both do the same opera in the same year. I hope they never do this, because one of the most exciting things is to be able to see the same opera staged in two completely different ways.
My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2018.
See also: Operas in Wiesbaden.