At last, Ireland has a national opera house

At last, Ireland has a national opera house


norman lebrecht

October 24, 2014

The Irish Government has given Wexford Festival Opera House national status

It is now the only EU member not to have a national opera house, apparently a source of some embarrassment over Brussels  mussels.

The announcement was made at the festival’s opening this week.




  • Simon S. says:

    What is a “national opera house”? An opera house owned by the national (as opposed to regional or local) government? Then I can tell you about another EU country without a “national opera house”: Germany.

    • william osborne says:

      Well, not quite. There’s the National Theater Mannheim. And there’s the National Theater in Munich, also referred to as the Bayerischer Staatsoper. I suspect there are others in Germany. On the other hand, they don’t really function as national theaters. I doubt any national theater anywhere does. These names are remnants of 19th century cultural nationalism.

    • Max Grimm says:

      I believe in Germany’s case the title falls to the Staatsoper Unter den Linden in Berlin, which is also referred to as “Deutsche Staatsoper”. I’m not certain though.

      • sdReader says:

        Max, that’s tiny compared to Munich.

      • Simon S. says:

        As an answer to both of you: In Germany, the term “Nationaltheater” does not say anything on ownership, historically it rather refers to the fact that the building was used for plays in the national (German) language (as opposed to especially French and Italian) or later to an ideological connection with German nationalism. The “Nationaltheater” in Mannheim and Munich recieved this name long before Germany as a nation state existed – BTW, in Munich only the building is referred to as “Nationalatheater”, not the company (“Bayerische Staatsoper”). But neither of them nor the Nationaltheater in Weimar (so called since 1919) is owned by the German federal government.

        Nor is the Berlin Staatsoper, which is owned by the city-state of Berlin. The name “Deutsche Staatsoper” is no longer used (it’s now called “Taatsoper Unter den Linden” or “Staatsoper im Schiller Theater”). It used to be common in communist times, but it may also be a product of the nazi era, the company’s website doesn’t specify this.

        Anyway, if “national opera house” is just a question of naming (actually, the “Nationaltheater Mannheim is not even owned by the state government of Baden-Württemberg, but by the city of Mannheim), then there is no point in saying “Ireland is the only EU country without a national opera house”. And if it refers to “being owned by the central (as opposed to regional or local) government”, Germany has indeed no “national opera house”.

        • Kai says:

          It appears that the name “Deutsche Staatsoper” had been introduced in 1945 or 1946. A well known online encyclopedia states that the name had been suggested by Erich Kleiber, but no source at all is given for this claim and it may well be rubbish.

          In fact Berlin wanted Der Bund to take over or at least contribute to the operations of what is at present formally called “Staatsoper Unter den Linden im Schiller Theater” (does this make it the world’s opera company with the longest name?), because it serves the role of Berlin as national capital of Germany, blah blah blah. But to no avail. Thus it now operates together with Deutsche Oper and Komische Oper under the umbrella of Stiftung Oper in Berlin.

  • Stephen P says:

    Actually, it was the OH that was announced as National, not the Festival. It WAS the only EU country not to have a national opera house, but that has now changed.

    Source: I’m working on the festival.

  • milka says:

    It is nothing but a form of national pecker matching …goodness we can’t be without an” opera” house,what will the rest of the world think of us .

  • Derek Gleeson says:

    Now let’s see if there is any Opera Performed in the “Nation Opera House” outside of the Wexford Opera Festival! 🙂