The Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg GmbH is a theatre community serving the cities of Düsseldorf and Duisburg that represents a lengthy tradition of collaboration between these two urban centres. Ever since it was founded in 1956 it has been regarded as one of Germany’s leading opera houses. With an ensemble of top quality soloists, distinguished chorus and the nationally- and internationally-acclaimed Ballett am Rhein company, it has evolved into one of Europe’s premier addresses for both opera and dance. Its home lies within one of Germany’s largest and most densely populated cultural regions. The two cities of Düsseldorf and Duisburg alone account for almost 1.1 million inhabitants, but numerous neighbouring districts and a large number of outside visitors also benefit from the range of excellent work offered by the Deutsche Oper am Rhein.
The Deutsche Oper am Rhein’s level of provision is impressive when compared with other major opera houses. Its two venues, with a total of 2,400 seats, stage over 260 events a year between them. These include opera, operetta, ballet, dedicated productions for young audiences, gala concerts and numerous special events. The programme for the 2017/18 season, for example, includes the premieres of eleven operas and seven evenings of ballet featuring the work of 18 choreographers as well as a further 19 productions - this gives some indication of the stylistic breadth of the artistic programme.
This varied repertoire is performed by the artistic ensembles that come together at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein. The largest company of soloists in the world comprises established and experienced singers with international reputations together with a number of younger artists who are launching their careers from Düsseldorf and Duisburg. The current resident company consists of 47 soloists plus seven members of the opera studio. It is regularly supplemented by a series of visiting artists, many of whom have enjoyed a close working relationship with the Deutsche Oper am Rhein lasting several years.
General Director Prof. Christoph Meyer has been responsible for the Deutsche Oper am Rhein’s artistic programme since 2009 along with Music Director Axel Kober and Martin Schläpfer as Ballet Director and Chief Choreographer. The leading team was joined by Alexandra Stampler-Brown as Managing Director in 2014 and Remus Şucheană as Ballet Director alongside Martin Schläpfer in 2016. Together they have made it their mission to consistently raise the house’s artistic standards, to uphold its great musical tradition and to open up new perspectives. As a consequence it is not only the major classics of the operatic canon – the works of Mozart, Verdi, Puccini and Strauss – that make up the repertoire but also rare works of baroque opera, influential pieces from the modern era and commissioned works by contemporary composers.
While the orchestras of the two respective cities – the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker and the Duisburger Philharmoniker – make important contributions to the artistic success of both opera and ballet performances in Düsseldorf and Duisburg, the Deutsche Oper am Rhein Chorus appears on both stages in almost all the company’s opera productions as well as selected ballets and it is appreciated by audiences as an important artistic link within the theatre community.
The Ballett am Rhein directed by Martin Schläpfer and Remus Şucheană is one of Europe’s leading companies. The magazine tanz voted Martin Schläpfer “Choreographer of the Year 2010” and the Ballett am Rhein “Company of the Year” in 2013, 2014, 2015 and again in 2017. The ensemble that can be seen on the stages of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf and Duisburg consists exclusively of soloists and is made up of 45 dancers. The company’s numerous touring engagements have included performances in Amsterdam, Berlin, Bilbao, Cologne, at the Edinburgh International Festival, in Geneva, The Hague, Ludwigsburg, Maastricht, Moscow, Munich, Muscat (Oman), as well as Paris, St. Pölten, Tel Aviv and Wiesbaden.
One key feature of the Ballett am Rhein’s repertoire is the choreography of Martin Schläpfer, who – in addition to a world premiere in collaboration with the composer Adriana Hölszky – will also stage a new version of one of the great ballet classics ‘Swan Lake’ in 2017/18. This award-winning artist, who has received numerous prizes including the Prix Benois de la Danse, the FAUST Theatre Prize, the Swiss Dance Prize, the Taglioni – European Ballet Award and the Duisburg Music Prize, is regarded as one of today’s most innovative and successful choreographers. Alongside his works, the Ballett am Rhein’s repertoire is noted for its carefully selected interplay of historic ballets, contemporary masterpieces and numerous world premieres by both established and emerging artists, featuring names such as George Balanchine, Kurt Jooss, Antony Tudor, Frederick Ashton, Jerome Robbins, Paul Taylor, Merce Cunningham, Hans van Manen, Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe, Mats Ek, Jiří Kylián, Nils Christe, Marco Goecke, Amanda Miller, Hubert Essakow, Natalia Horecna and Remus Şucheană. The ensemble is also one of the leading interpreters of Hans van Manen, who has entrusted the company with nine of his works to date and in 2014 presented it with a world premiere, the ballet ‘Alltag’. The same year, 2014, also marked the company’s first collaboration with the WDR radio chorus Cologne with ‘DEEP FIELD’ by Adriana Hölszky.
In order to promote young choreographers, in 2015/16 Martin Schläpfer initiated the artistic platform ‘Young Moves’ which offers dancers within the ensemble an annual opportunity to choreograph their own pieces with the professional support of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein and to present them on one of the main stages in Düsseldorf or Duisburg.
In the field of opera a distinctive feature of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein’s work is its extensive and varied programme for young audiences. Considerable efforts are devoted to the large-scale family operas that are presented on both stages in Duisburg and Düsseldorf. These are supplemented by smaller foyer productions such as ‘The Magic Flute for Children’, a series of age-appropriate projects and a wide-range of educational packages. In its 2013/14 season the Deutsche Oper am Rhein initiated a co-operation with Oper Dortmund and Theater Bonn entitled “Junge Opern Rhein-Ruhr”. This project, which is unique in Germany, aims to create an enthusiasm for music theatre amongst children and young people by composing new works especially for them. The children’s opera ‘Gulliver’s Travels’ by Gerald Resch in 2016/17 was the fourth commissioned opera to be presented in Düsseldorf, Duisburg and the two other commissioning cities. A new commissioned composition is already in preparation for 2017/18.
The Deutsche Oper am Rhein plays a prominent part in the cultural life of two cities with contrasting images. As the state capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf is one of the five most significant economic centres in Germany and has a strong network of international links. The city is well known for fashion, shopping, culture and hosting events and as a lifestyle destination on the Rhine. The river Rhine connects Düsseldorf with Duisburg, the city with the largest inland harbour in the world and a richly varied history: Duisburg developed from a medieval trading centre to become the world’s largest steel producer and is now regarded as a city that has successfully negotiated structural change and emerged with an impressive industrial heritage. Both cities are keen to acknowledge their “theatrical marriage” that has lasted over 60 years, enabling both of them to present high culture while simultaneously demonstrating one of the most cost-effective theatre organizations in the country.
The Deutsche Oper am Rhein employs more than 580 workers with 35 different nationalities. They are living proof that music and art brings people together irrespective of geographical, political and linguistic boundaries and can start a dialogue which is important and essential to us all.