Half a billion to renovate a very late opera house

Half a billion to renovate a very late opera house


norman lebrecht

June 26, 2019

That’s what Cologne is spending on its theatre, and the bill is rising as the project runs ever later.

It is now scheduled to cost between 554 and 571 million Euros (=dollars) – more than double the original approved estimate – and it will not be finished until well into 2023.

The reasons for the delay? Air conditioning, climate warming, the usual excuses.

The Cologne opera house dates from 1957. Renovation work started in 2012.

Not terribly efficient.


  • Thomas Silverbörg says:

    I was in the house in 2011, after a long period of time. The ‘Kantine’ looked just as I left it in 1983.

  • John Smith says:

    “But what about all the poor people?” – All the losers who said the same thing about Notre Dame

  • Caravaggio says:

    Another hall badly needing an update/upgrade is Berlin’s Philharmonie. It has been showing its age for quite some time.

  • Bill says:

    If the air conditioning system hasn’t been updated since 1958, upgrading /modernization would be a very big expense, but at this point, necessary. Modern systems are so much more efficient, but it essentially means replacing every part of the existing system without destroying the building in the process. That’s not an insignificant project.

  • We can dream says:

    Efficiency aside (We can’t even finish a football stadium on time!) Imagine living in a country that would happily spend half a billion on an opera house- just one of… 58? Not to mention the world class concert halls. That kind of investment in culture can only be applauded.

  • Mr. Knowitall says:

    “Very late” because almost everything here bombed into little pieces by the Royal Air Force. The Cathedral was left standing as a guidepost for bombers, but not much else survived. Many of the post-war structures were assembled in haste and now need attention.

    • John Borstlap says:

      There is now a movement developing in Germany to reconstruct the bombed inner cities to their prewar state. Frankfurt has recently opened their reconstructed Altstadt, to great enthusiasm of the citizens. In Berlin, the reconstruction of the royal palace is almost finished. Other plans – all initiatives by the citizens, not by the government – mushroom elsewhere, against the inquisitional condemnations of the architectural establishment and leftwing pundits who curse such initiatives as ‘disneyfying’ expressions of reactionary rightwing etremism, and under the inspiration of visionary architect Leon Krier, the father of new urbanism: for a humanist modernity in public space.

  • anon says:

    Charge it to the Brits in their Brexit bill.

  • Nonbarihunk says:

    Much as I love this theatre it probably would have been cheaper to knock it down and build a state of the art new one. As the building has long had ‘listed’ status that was never going to happen. I heard that when the latest surveyor went in he said most of the work done so far would have to be ripped out and redone from scratch. What a waste and what a disgrace.

  • Singer says:

    My understanding is that the initial renovation work was a massive failure and the delay includes having to undo some of that, hence the greater delay. The poor opera company is split across three places in town and a rehearsal venue outside of the city. A great opera company being tested severely by the situation.