“State Opera for Everyone” as the victory of music
The space next to the Staatsoper Unter den Linden is big enough, so the Staatskapelle was allowed to play there on Sunday under the conductor Barenboim. Only in front of five percent of the usual audience – but that is at least a start, believes Maria Ossowski.
2,000 instead of 40,000 visitors, seating islands with folding chairs instead of cushions on the floor, everything free of charge, as always, but with strict personal controls. The Staatsoper for All has been a tradition for the Staatsoper Unter den Linden for 14 years. But on this Sunday evening in 2020, it is unique simply because it takes place at all. This is a victory for logistics, technology and, above all, the passion for music.
There are two birthdays to celebrate: the 250th of Beethoven and the 450th of the Staatskapelle. But above all, and this is the biggest celebration: the orchestra is finally allowed to play again after five months, and even the choir is allowed to sing.
Anne-Sophie Mutter plays Beethoven romance intimately and softly
First, after the Egmont overture, the violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter makes a glamorous appearance; she plays two Beethoven romances heartily and gently. In addition, the light of the lamps on the baroque facades changes from red to yellow and blue. That is really lovely, and in these times is worth a furtive tear here and there.
Drosten in the audience
There are many healthcare workers in the audience, and the tickets are a “thank you” from the opera for their commitment. The governing mayor listens, and the virologist Christian Drosten is also in the front row. The moderator asked him at the beginning whether the distances on the square were okay. He was satisfied.
70 minutes of goosebumps, and the highlight of the evening, begin when Daniel Barenboim lifts the baton and pianissimo sounds from the Ninth Symphony. 60 choir singers have taken up positions around the audience at a distance of two meters from one another, not on the stage. They wear headsets, small microphones. It’s dark, the spotlights are shining on the Staatskapelle and its conductor; there is “joy of beautiful sparkles of the gods.”
Cheers and standing ovations
The soloists Waltraud Meier, Julia Kleiter, Andreas Schager, and René Pape also give this world-connecting music its special shine. Two large-format screens transmit the events on the stage to the last rows, unfortunately always an eighth-note too late, but that doesn’t detract from the magic of the evening.
The orchestra with its charismatic conductor is allowed to play, the choir and the soloists are allowed to sing. That’s what it’s all about, and it warranted long cheers and standing ovations.