Cologne spends more on refurb than Hamburg on the Elbphilharmonie

Cologne spends more on refurb than Hamburg on the Elbphilharmonie


norman lebrecht

September 12, 2019

The calamitous refurbishment of Cologne’s opera house has just gone literally through the roof.

A recalculation of the cost of restoring the building, opened in 1957, has blown into a final bull of  841 million Euros, including interest on loan repayments up to the year 2063. This project will cost more, and take almost as long to achieve, as Cologne’s famed cathedral.

Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie, by comparison, cost 789 million Euros, which was only seven times over budget.


  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    At the end of the day, it will be the quality of the completed project that will determine whether it was all worth it. The restoration of Berlin State Opera was also beset by delays and cost blowouts. The finished product ended up being a bit of a disappointment, especially acoustically (one misses Schiller Theatre these days).

    • Novagerio says:

      At the end of the day, it is taxpayers money…

      • Gustavo says:

        No problem with taxpayers’ money being spent on opera houses.

        It’s the time scale and the result which matters.

        Just think of what buffering the consequences of Brexit will cost the taxpayer – with no benefit for any aspect of culture, including classical music.

    • Seb says:

      I die several recordings in both venues and I totally disagree on the acoustic of the berlin state opera. The Schillertheater had a very sry and miserable acoustic. The berlin State opera is actually quite nice. For me its the best part of the new Building.

  • John Borstlap says:

    The Cologne cathedral is a building, superior to this opera house.

    There are two different reasons for refurbishment of a concert hall or opera house: a) it’s getting too small for the installation of fun parts which have nothing to do with production; b) the building is a postwar modernist monstrum which usually falls apart after some 40 or 50 years, in stark contrast with traditional buildings which last for hundreds of years. The b) reason is that modern materials are expensive in building, upkeep and demolishing, and simply don’t last.

    The architect and theorist Leon Krier has made these points already years ago and explained how traditional building is superior on all those points.

  • Gustavo says:

    This project will take almost as long to achieve, as Bonn’s famed Beethovenhalle.

    It’s a shame.

  • Mr. Knowitall says:

    You’re kidding about how long it took to build the Cologne Cathedral, right. Depending on how you count, it took more or less 650 years to complete.

    • John Borstlap says:

      No. Construction was halted in the Middle Ages because of lack of funds, and only picked-up in the 19th century when the original plans were discovered. Choir was built 1248 – 1473, the rest from the 18fourties till 1880.

      • Mr. Knowitall says:

        As I said, it depends on how you count. Construction on the Opera House has also been on-and-off, although not for hundreds of years.

  • Peh says:

    … if you compare to Elbphilharmonie you have to deduct the interest, added in this newly published figure. Try and get that „transparent“ sum from Hamburg and Cologne will „shrink“ again – budgetwise …

  • Mick the Knife says:

    Germany builds symphony halls the way the US builds football stadiums. You have to admire those priorities.

    • Gustavo says:

      But the German symphony halls tend to open when the games are over – see the current Bonn case.

    • John Borstlap says:

      Germany builds modernist concert hall monstruosities without any reference to classical music for orchestras who play classical music most of the time, and reconstructs historic city centres in the midst of sky scaper quarters (Frankfurt). It cultivates classical, premodern music as no other nation, and in the same time sonic art as the obligation of Nachkriegsschuldbewältigung. Performances of classical music are required to be as best and beautiful as possible in halls which look like Snowwhite’s coffin or settlements on mars, and new music is asked to be as ugly and meaningless as possible, as to philosophically reflect the problems of modern times, as state-supported ‘mekkas’ like Darmstadt and Donaueschingen demonstrate:

      Premodern operas are rewritten into caricatures, with the best voices and conductors available, and Beethoven recast as the origin of their current modernity with Wagner as their eternal culprit.

      All of this reflects the country’s neurotic cultural confusion as no other.

  • Hans-Dieter Glaubke says:

    The word “literally” makes me figuratively insane.

  • Justin Lee Miller says:

    You could build 8 new, magnificent theaters for that price. People should go be fired or go to jail. There is no bright side to this story. Even when it’s completed Koln will still have an ugly old fashioned theater.