Köln's connection with operatic performances goes back to the mid 18th century, but a permanent home for this majestic art form wasn't constructed until the very beginning of the 20th century, when the Theater am Habsburger Ring was built by the City Fathers in 1902. The buidling was a victim of allied bombing - although later repaired, a desire to embrace the new produced a building - the Oper der Stadt Köln, verging externally on the Soviet-brutal style - in 1957. This kind of architectural experimentation isn't to my personal taste, but - ultimately - what matters in an opera house is the interior...and it doesn't fail to astound.
It's vast, seating an audience of over 1,300, but strikingly beautiful in an edgy way. The boxes resemble over-scale bobsleighs, suspended precariously over the stalls waiting for the winter snow. The orchestra pit is also huge - a definite bonus from a performance standpoint.
I had to sneek in this time, as the building is currently under a major refurbishment programme which will be completed in mid-2013. But from past visits, I can confirm generally excellent accoustics and, compared to Covent Garden prices, tickets at very affordable prices. When it opens again....go!
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