The History of the Dresden State Operetta

The Dresden State Operetta and its predecessors looks back on 240 years of tradition of musical theatre in Dresden. Complex and representative theatre buildings like the Alberttheater, the Central-Theater and the Residenztheater established a tradition in Dresden that continues to have an effect even today. Temporarily, all three operetta houses were performing at the same time, regularly.

After the destruction of Dresden in February of 1945, cultural life was brought to a standstill. Yet already in the Summer of 1945 the Komödienhaus and the Central-Theater, even if it wasn’t in the same place, started their operation again. New stages shot out of the ground like mushrooms. By 1945 Dresden had only had 5 theatres, by Autumn 1945 more than 15, all of them seeking to satisfy the audiences need for distraction, diversion and entertainment in a variety of ways. The hunger for theatre seemed immense, and authorities were generous when granting licenses. Whatever hall, school auditorium, cinema or work canteen hadn’t been destroyed between Freital and Klotzsche, Cossebaude and Niedersedlitz, was performed at.
The Goldene Krone in Kleinzschachwitz was now established as the Neue Theater, the »Feenpalast« in Leuben the Apollo-Theater - now the Dresden State Operetta. After conversion of the popular inn
»Feenpalast« into a theatre, the
Apollo-Theater had its grand opening on 18. August 1947 in Dresden-Leuben. It was the first theatre reconstruction in Saxony, maybe even in the whole of the Soviet occupation zone.
On 2. October 1947, »The Merry Widow« took possession of the new domain. This date is seen as zero hour for what the Dresden State Operetta is today.

The Fight for the Future of the State

Operetta - Background
In the local election of 2001 a new constructions of the State Operetta became a subject. Mayor candidate Dr. Ingolf Roßberg announced that the Operetta is to be brought into the centre of town as highlight of both cultural and economic factors, because it was what Dresden deserves (Sächsische Zeitung, 8. June 2001).

But even after his election the location decision was postponed again and again. As if a bomb had hit, Mayor Roßberg and Deputy Mayor Department of Culture Dr. Lutz Vogel announced that the Dresden State Operetta is to be closed due to the precarious budgetary position. Later described as calculated provocation, rousing up of politics and breaking open of encrusted budget decisions of the town, this sparked up a hurricane of protests.

Director Fritz Wendrich and his number two, Jürger Eggert, fought together with artists, politicians and the citizens of Dresden for the salvation of the community theatre. Musicians of various orchestras of Dresden symbolically blew a marching tune for the city council during a demonstration, protest resolutions of reputable persons from all over Germany arrived, 107.000 signatures were handed over to the mayor, and by December the city council agreed unanimously to preserve the Operetta. Audience and employees had defended their theatre, but discussions about the legal form and the location of the venue flared up again. With a spectacular opening show for the season of 2003/04 the new management team, together with the ensemble, swept all ghosts of the impending closure away. Mayor Roßberg affirmed his promise of rebuilding and presented a new edition, hot off the presses, of the waltz »An der Elbe«, composed by the son of Johann Strauss in 1897. As Wolfgang Schaller received applause for eleven minutes amidst his ensembles, the audience was filled with many well-known faces. From the day of his calling to the city council in May 2002 he did, what his directorships of positive and negative experiences in Görlitz and Würzburg saw as a base of success: restlessly he went directly to decision-makers and lobbyists in politics and economy, to journalists and theatre people. This is how Dresden met its new operetta director, and it was clear that from now on, in every important city council session, at every premiere, in executive and editorial offices, he and his project »Operetta in the Centre« would be there to face them. The town and it’s sensitivities weren’t unknown to the freshly-elected director. Wolfgang Schaller set to bring the ensemble of the State Operetta back to where the roots of its existence started: the centre of town.

The Intention of Building a new Theatre
Encouraged by the confirmation of the town hall, all strengths were summoned in Leuben to further develop the ensemble and the repertoire to be worthy of a new theatre. The financial situation of the town however, stayed apocalyptic, new gaps opened again and again, like the eternal building pit of the Wiener Platz, which was waiting for investors since 1998 and was ridiculed as the »Wiener Hole«. That is where the music theatre of the future was supposed to go. Mayor Ingolf Roßberg brought his suggestion to the city council, which stated that a private investor should establish a theatre (on 40 percent of the building area) and commercial buildings (on 60 percent of the building area). An »Operetta-gGmbH« was to function as the anchor tenant, rental incomes from the commercially used areas was to be used as counter funding for the low annual rent of the operetta of EUR 1,4 million. Personnel costs of the theatre were to be arranged by an agreement which was to be made with waiver of increase in pay for ten years. »Surprisingly«, in October 2007 no investor saw themselves in a position to realise the project at the Wiener Platz for EUR 1,4 million annual rent and a duration of just 12 years. Now, variants of renovation in Leuben and cooperation with the Staatsschauspiel Dresden were discussed again.
Once more, insistent protests of citizens, politics, culture and economy managed to change the thinking process. Under the impression of a versatile perspective of the decommissioned plant all candidates spoke in favour of the mayoral vote in spring of 2008 for an operetta in the centre of town. A month later, Helma Orosz was voted mayor of Dresden and, shortly after taking up her duties, committed to the new construction project of the State Operetta during a staff meeting. Subsequently, town and unions agreed on a modified wage agreement with an tremendous investment for the employees for the future of the theatre: The staff, represented by the fierce and constructively cooperating staff council under prop manager Martin Liebe, waived 8 percent of their salary for the theatre reconstruction from 2009 to 2021, thus making EUR 13 million available.Should there be no construction, the contract would end in 2014 and the withheld money be paid out. At the beginning of 2009 Helma Orosz started the fundraising campaign »Your Name on a Chair«. Nevertheless, in the budget draft of 2009/10, not one cent was adjusted for the project, the nearly perfect package was tied up and all other possibilities were gone through again – true Dresden decision making.

In October 2010 the SPD, Linke and Bürgerfraktion decided with narrow majority that the Kraftwerk Mitte was to be location for both State Operetta as well as the Theatre of the Young Generation. The mayor considered vetoing this, but the resistance and willingness to make sacrifices of the theatre people, the creativity and artistic successes of the ensemble, the loyalty of the citizens of Dresden to their operetta as well as the long-term advantages for the profitability of the theatre, the development of the town and its tourism kept her from it.

From now on she set the city council resolution in motion. In July 2011, the city council approved the double location of Kraftwerk Mitte and discarded the investor model with 57 votes in favour, instead the cities project corporation Stesad was to realise the construction project. Construction costs were estimated at EUR 96 million, in 2013 the Ed. Züblin AG won the tender for the execution of construction, with designs by architecture professor Jörg Friedrich. On 8. July 2014, after 25 years of discussion, the foundation stone for the theatre in the Kraftwerk, the new home of muses in the heart of Dresden, was laid by mayor Helma Orosz, Saxon Minister for Interior Markus Ulbig, manager of Kommunale Immobilien Dresden Axel Walther and the directors Felicitas Loewe and Wolfang Schaller.