In May 2001 I was asked to take over a presentation in Halle at quite short notice. After agreeing to do it, I went online to see if Halle has an opera house (it does) and if they were performing anything on the one evening I was going to be there (they were).
My presentation went really well, and in the break I asked my local counterpart how to get to the opera house. He said I could just come with him, since he was an opera subscriber and this was one of his subscription nights.
The opera we saw was one of my all-time favorites, L’elisir d’amore (The Elixir of Love) by Gaetano Donizetti (1797-1848). This is an opera that I have seen numerous times in Frankfurt am Main, Darmstadt, Gießen, Paris, Vienna, Heidelberg and Prague. It was even the source of my member-name “Nemorino” on the now-defunct website VirtualTourist, where I was an active member from 2004 to 2017. Nemorino in this opera is a guy who does everything wrong but gets the girl anyway, which is more or less the story of my life up to now, so I decided his name would be an appropriate member-name for me.
One thing I particularly remember about the staging of L’elisir d’amore in Halle was the way the quack doctor Dulcamara made his entrance into the village in the first act. He arrived not in a golden carriage but on a huge Rube Goldberg machine with dozens of valves, whistles, gears, transmission belts, pistons and other moving parts, most of which had no function besides impressing the astounded villagers. Somebody at the opera house must have had a great time constructing this huge machine.
The opera house in Halle was originally built as the city theater in 1886. It was destroyed by bombs at the end of the Second World War, but was rebuilt and reopened six years later. Since Halle was the birthplace of the great baroque composer Georg Friedrich Händel (1685-1759), the Halle Opera makes a point of presenting at least one of his forty operas each year. In May and June 2018, for instance, they are performing his 33rd opera Berenice, Regina d’Egitto (Berenice, Queen of Egypt), which had its world premiere in 1737 at the Royal Theatre Covent Garden in London.
By the way, to pronounce the word Halle in German you need two syllables, with the stress on the first: HA-lə. The second syllable is quite weak, but you can’t just leave it off, because if you do no German speaker will have a clue what you are talking about. The same goes for the river Saale (pronounced ZA-lə), which Halle is on, and for the German author Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, who visited Halle several times in the early 19th century.
My photos in this post are from 2009. I revised the text in 2018.