Bad Orb is a cute little town in the Spessart hills in the German state of Hessen, about 60 km east of Frankfurt. Since it only had 10,172 inhabitants at last count (end of 2019), you will not be shocked to learn that there is no opera house in Bad Orb.
But what is does have is the Bad Orb Summer Opera Academy, which is intended as a showcase for young singers at the beginning of their careers. Every year, fifty to sixty young singers come to auditions, and those who are chosen get the opportunity to rehearse and perform a complete opera under professional direction.
Although the singers are young professionals, the orchestra and chorus are recruited locally. This guarantees that local residents will be interested in what is going on, since everybody you meet in Bad Orb seems to have a sister-in-law or somebody who is in the chorus.
They generally only do two performances a year, on a Friday and a Sunday in August, but as these are nearly always sold out they have started opening up the dress rehearsals to the local people so they can see their friends and relatives on stage. The performances are all in German.
For over two decades, the director of the Bad Orb Opera Academy was Frankfurt opera singer Carlos Krause. He did the staging himself, and his productions were unabashedly conventional. He said young singers should have the opportunity to be in an old-fashioned no-frills production at least once in their lives, since they will be in modern productions often enough if they start singing on the stages of German opera houses.
Opera performances have been held in Bad Orb every summer since 1987 (except for the pandemic year 2020), but I only started coming in 2001, after getting to know Carlos Krause in Frankfurt. So far, I have seen eleven operas in Bad Orb, from 2001 to 2011:
- Bedrich Smetana, Die verkaufte Braut (The Bartered Bride) in 2001
- Georges Bizet, Carmen in 2002
- Albert Lortzing, Zar und Zimmermann (The Tsar and the Carpenter) in 2003
- Eugen D’Albert, Tiefland in 2004
- Peter I. Tschaikowsky, Eugen Onegin in 2005
- Ludwig van Beethoven, Fidelio in 2006
- Gaetano Donizetti, Don Pasquale in 2007
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Così fan tutte in 2008
- Johann Strauss Jr., Die Fledermaus (The Bat) in 2009
- Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Don Giovanni in 2010
- Giacomo Rossini, The Barber of Seville in 2011
Over the years, Carlos Krause has come three times as the featured guest to my German-language opera appreciation course Opern-Gespräche. Among many other things, he once told us about his hobby of going to flea markets, where he often found unusual objects that he could use as props in his Bad Orb opera productions.
My photos in this post are from 2000, 2004 and 2009. I revised the text in 2021.