Erfurt’s original opera house, now the Alte Oper or Old Opera, was first built in the nineteenth century. It survived the Second World War intact and was used as an opera venue more or less continuously until 1997, when it was condemned as a fire hazard.
Actually, they went on using it for rehearsals for quite a while after that, even when public performances were no longer permitted in the building. Opera performances in this period — which lasted until the opening of the new opera house in 2003 — were held in a large tent called the Kuppeltheater (‘dome theater’).
This tent, which from the outside looked like a circus tent, was originally built in Freiburg, where it was used for two years while their theater was being renovated. Then it was taken down and moved to Erfurt, where it stood for four years while their new opera house was being built. And after that it was moved over to Kassel, where it was used for two and a half years, from September 2004 to December 2006 while the unsightly 45-year-old State Theater (Staatstheater) was undergoing a much-needed refurbishment.
After the city of Erfurt and the state of Thüringen decided to build a new opera house, the old one was slated to be torn down, and if you just looked at the back end you might have thought demolition was imminent.
But in 2003 an entrepreneur named Wolfgang Staub, who also runs two other theaters in Erfurt and one in Zeitz, approached the mayor of Erfurt with an offer to restore the Old Opera for use as a private theater.
Staub’s company “DasDie” proceeded to renovate the inside of the theater and install a modern fire extinguishing system, and they took out a twenty-year lease on the building.
During renovation they increased the seating capacity from 700 to 970, so the Old Opera is now once again the largest theater in Erfurt as far as seating is concerned, since the new opera house seats only eight hundred people in its main hall.
On September 15, 2004, the Old Opera reopened as a privately operated theater with a revue called, appropriately enough, “The show must go on.” They went on to present a varied program (mainly on weekends) of musicals, recitals and plays, including travelling cabaret acts and light comedies done by visiting theater troupes.
As of October 2021, the company “DasDie” seems to have survived the coronavirus pandemic and is starting to re-schedule some of the many performance dates that had to be postponed in 2020 and 2021.
The address of the Old Opera is Gorkistraße 1, 99084 Erfurt.
My photos in this post are from 2004. I revised the text in 2021.
See more posts on Erfurt, Germany.