Germany’s most popular operas are…  (hint: not Wagner)

Germany’s most popular operas are… (hint: not Wagner)


norman lebrecht

September 09, 2014

The annual statistics are in for 201213, and Wagner is … nowhere.

The most watched opera was:

Mozart, Magic Flute, with 479 performances of 40 productions, seen by  247,432 spectators.




In second place: Humperdinck, Hansel and Gretel, 268 shows, 35 production, 169,274 watched.

Third is Johann Strauss, Die Fledermaus, 246 performances, 24 productions, 155,435 visitors.

Fourth was Rossini, Barber of Seville. Fifth was Mozart Don Giovanni. Sixth La Traviata.

And only after that comes Wagner, with Flying Dutchman.


Source here.


  • Reinhold Martin says:

    Hopefully these operas not only have been watched but also listened to.

  • Tristan says:

    naturally those are easier to perform – that is the only rason

    • newyorker says:

      Disagree. PART of the reason, but Zauberflöte holds a special place in the imagination of Germans like it doesn’t elsewhere. It’s the one most likely to be known to children from school-years and as adults they become nostalgic for it. I have never quite understood the fixation my German associates have on this piece, which is quite strong.

    • Neil McGowan says:

      You think it’s ‘easy’ to perform The Magic Flute??


      • John Borstlap says:

        Indeed… ANY Mozart opera is really hard to bring-off, both in terms of production and of singin & playing. The popularity of the Magic Flute is probably due to a general contemporary German inclination to ‘classicism’ and decency, which cannot be said of Wagner.

  • DLowe says:

    I’m not sure how it works, but given that those figures are for the season preceding that of the Wagner bicentennary, might the opera houses not have been husbanding strength/resources/general interest for a number of Wagners the following year?

  • Jan de Jong says:

    German families like to go Die Zauberflöte with the kids. Nice tradition.
    That is one of the reasons opera houses like to put it on the program. Beside that, it is timeless beautiful work.

  • Edgar Brenninkmeyer says:

    I suspect some “Wagnererschöpfung”, Wagner exhaustion, may be at play here (pun intended). In addition, there has been no lack of – to say it charitably – troublesome or utterly failed new Wagner stagings. To name only two: Düsseldorf Tannhäuser (audience members needing emergency treatment on opening night, remember?), the Cassiers RING in Berlin (how the folks there would have gladly embraced the Lepage RING, only to have not to subject themselves to this ghastly failure!). Zauberflöte and Hänsel und Gretel are a solid part of German cultural heritage as far as popular opera goes (in Dresden, of course, it’s Freischütz).

    • Neil McGowan says:

      Perhaps these ‘failed Wagner productions’ indicate a degree of satiety among theatres – who only see a ‘marketing niche’ for over-performed works if they are directed/staged by ‘famous’ (ie scandalous) directors?

      Audiences who would very happily have accepted a high-quality performance anchored on top musical standards, excellent singing, and well-rehearsed material are instead sold a shabby show ‘because it’s the concept of the famous director Keinahnung’. (True, he has never staged an opera before. But he’s heard of opera. And he has designed wonderful furniture).

      • John Borstlap says:

        But hasn’t Helmut Keinahnung produced Ligeti’s wonderful opera, ‘The Great Macabre’, in Widerhallstein? He had the seats in the stalls removed to make place for a real car park to play the prelude on the claxons, with the result that no audiences came along, but that did not matter since the critics thought it was wonderful. It was the only time Keinahung carried-out musical indications of the score to the letter, since all his other productions showed, thus far, an admirable critique on the composer’s intentions which could only be wrong.

  • Theodore McGuiver says:

    This podium stays pretty much unchanged every year and is composed of staples which have their established place in many houses’ programming. Fledermaus, for example, is played on December 31st in many houses as well as being in their rep. As for Zauberflöte, Newyorker, Jan and Edgar sum up its status in Germany very well.

  • Michael Hurshell says:

    The ranking has been more or less like this ever since I first heard about such lists, back in the early 90’s (and probably for a century before that, bar Puccini). Zauberflöte-Hänsel-Fledermaus-Barber, every year. And it’s not about “how hard to play” the works are – Wagner requires larger orchestral forces and big voices, so many small theaters don’t offer, period. (Pretty much any theater that can, does.) It might be interesting to compare the ranking between, say, Germany’s 15 or 20 largest opera houses. My feeling is there’d by LOTS of Walküres and Frau ohne Schattens…

    • Neil McGowan says:

      Well, that’s certainly one thing you could extrapolate! 🙂

      But there’s another – that Germans like to take their family to the opera. So works like Hansel & Gretel, and Zauberflote come to the fore… whereas Salome and Wozzeck fail to score at all.

      As wisely said above, Zauberflote embraces the Enlightenment values of rational sense, good judgement and the triumph of sense over hysteria that appeal to audiences today.