Germans spend one billion Euros renovating an opera house

Germans spend one billion Euros renovating an opera house


norman lebrecht

November 06, 2019

No-one ever said the EU was a level playing field but we did think the Germans were good a financial control.

Not in Stuttgart, apparently.

The cost of a makeover at the Staatsoper has just gone through the billion-Euro roof.

Cancel it? Scale it down? No, says the Burgomeister. Just push it back a couple of years to 2025.



  • Thomas Silverbörg says:

    Oh no, they know how to throw money away.. Look at the Airport in Berlin, the Theater in Cologne, the Train Station in Stuttgart. All disasters, costing billions.

    • Gustavo says:

      Still better than spending funds on corrupt German car industry!

      P.S. How much will the Brexit cost? With no benefit for anyone, not even for opera goers.

    • AnySchiffInAStorm says:

      Err, *which* airport in Berlin? The one where no planes arrive or leave? A fitting tribute to Mutti Merkel! :))

    • Dalledu Alletre says:

      They don’t want to waste money. It is that they get screwed by contractors who know they are scarce and will always get paid and are free to extend the timetables and find problems to justify those extensions, all of which keeps them employed at their gentle pace and advertises to the world Germany’s need for immigrants and ineptitude in project management.

  • Simon says:

    Looking at examples and inferring some underlying ‘essential character’ of whole nations is a highly dubious research method (not the strongest suit of commenters on this site anyway, I’ve noticed). This project goes overboard, many others don’t (and hence don’t make the news); only a systematic review (qualitative or statistical) reveals if countries are on average more prudent with their money.

    • Brettermeier says:

      “only a systematic review (qualitative or statistical) reveals if countries are on average more prudent with their money.”

      But that would make a boring headline.

    • Petros Linardos says:

      Very well said. And only insiders can understand the reasons behind cost overruns. Anyone of us who went over budget in home repairs should know that.

  • This is the estimated cost. The project hasn’t yet begun. The Staatstheater isn’t just opera. It includes a spoken theater, ballet, and opera. It’s the largest three category theater complex in the world. The plans also include renovation of an administrative building, new stage equipment, new facades, an administrative building, and countless other things.

    The Staatstheater employs 1400 people and sold 430,000 tickets last year. The ballet is very popular and sells 98% of its seats. The opera sells 71%.

    Each year the project is delayed, the cost is estimated to rise by 30 million Euros. The last renovation was in 1984.

    The annual GDP of Stuttgart is 51.5 billion Euros–an incredibly rich city. The costs of the renovation would extend over the next 12 years or so, thus making the yearly sums manageable.

    In planning the project, the Stuttgart sent experts and politicians to London and Copenhagen to study how they conducted the renovation of their opera houses.

    • LewesBird says:

      I don’t disagree at all with the substance of your message, but on a point of detail… is this really the “largest three category theater complex in the world”? What’s your source? Yes, there are three institutions, but only two stages housed in distinct, if nearby, buildings, and — without having done any research of my own, I think there are many contenders for this crown. Just off the top of my head, whether architectonically or institutionally, all of Frankfurt, Hamburg, Barbican, Washington, Lincoln Center, Paris, can lay some claim here. Unless you apply some strict criteria such as “three disciplines on two stages” in which case Stuttgart definitely is the largest in the world in its own particular bespoke category.

      • Details says:

        None of your other examples are drei-Sparten companies, as Staatstheater Stuttgart is.

        • LewesBird says:

          Splitting hairs.

          Hamburg is. There is no theatre, but the opera, ballet and the Philharmonie shared the same structure, website (in the Laeiszhalle days, at least until the Elbphilharmonie opened — now it’s got a distinctly branded website but it’s still part of the same structure). So there you have it. Still three disciplines, except that that symphonic music replaces the theatre).

          Frankfurt too, if you make some legalistic allowances. There is an opera’n’ballet building and structure that’s literally next to the state theatre (nearer to each other than in Stgt) which notionally has its own leadership structure. But both are funded as a package by the Bund and city. It’s the same in all but in name.

          Barbican and Lincoln and Kennedy centres are also *de facto* three- or four-art form structures, if not perhaps *de jure* because the symphonies, dramatic institutions, opera and ballet companies all have independent managements, if we’re being technical about it. But the overall structures — both building and patron-facing website — are unitary.

          So yeah, splitting hairs.

      • AB says:

        Also to be considered, that in Stuttgart at the large stage of the opera house the opera plays 160 opera shows a year and shares the stage with ballet with about 80 shows a year. All these shows have to be properly rehearsed, artistically and technically. The stage space is very narrow and tight, the technical equipment is very old. So the comparison to modern houses like Hamburg, Paris Bastille (where the stage is 1/9 of the actual space and one set can be easily replaced by another one in two hours) is irrelevant. The workshops and the offices are old and tight and need the reconstruction and need more space, since all the theatres are requested to produce more and more. So, the example of Stuttgart budget for the reconstruction can be honest and realistic from the very beginning (which was not the case neither with Cologne, nor with Elbphilharmonie, for example).

      • I see Stuttgart often described in print as the largest Dreisparten Theater der Welt. Here’s an example:

        Not sure though, that any of the sources would be considered completely reliable. It is no doubt, one of the world’s largest, if not the largest.

        What I can say for sure, is that the house is pretty run down. It’s amazing how they city has used the house to death. It definitely could use some fixing up.

      • V. Lind says:

        The National Arts Centre in Ottawa is multi-discipline and has three theatrical spaces.

  • Nik says:


  • Mustafa Kandan says:

    It is expensive, but may be worth it. Unlike in the English speaking world, these houses are frequented by a wide public, including school children. It is part of the mainstream culture to attend opera in Germany. These temples should be maintained in good shape without resorting to short cuts. It is also good for tourism (apart from culture what is the point of visiting Germany, when the Mediterranean world is not that far away?).

  • We privatize your value says:

    Reading the title, I thought you were talking about the Cologne opera house, and wondered why you showed a picture of Stuttgart. As a fellow commentator here says, Stuttgart, and Baden-Württemberg, are filthy rich and can afford it. Cologne and NRW on the other hand are rather poor (some cities in Nordrhein-Westfalen are terribly derelict, just read this account by a guy from Gelsenkirchen who settled in… Stuttgart:

  • Lausitzer says:

    For those who now probably believe that “whatever it takes” applies to the renovation of theatre buildings in Germany:

  • fflambeau says:

    I find the Germans to be amazing (I’m an American of half German descent). I was in Dresden a decade or so ago and saw a completely rebuilt downtown (lovingly done too). The famous cathedral had been completely rebuilt. I’m sure this cost boatloads of money but then other countries, including my own, tend to spend it on bombs and bullets. It’s nice to see a country spend money on their cultural and artistic heritage. Well done, Germany!

    • John Borstlap says:

      It may be of interest to know that the Dresden Frauenkirche was rebuilt mainly with private money, including much from the USA. The reconstruction of the city centre was and still is contested, and a political ‘hot potato’ since such reconstructions are appropriated by rightwing political parties as gestures of ethnic Heimat feelings, while the intention of such reconstructions – always initiatives by the civilians themselves – are straightforward revivals of cultural identity, politically neutral. Modernist architects however, who prefer glass-and-steel skyscrapers instead of historic buildings, look down with contempt upon initiatives like Dresden’s, and accuse its ‘perpetrators’ of rightwing, neonazi sympathies. The same controversies burden the reconstruction of Frankfurt’s city centre, and Berlin’s Stadtschloss.