The site of the current Semperoper has a long history. Already in 1678, an opera house was built on the current site of the Semperoper, near the Theaterplatz. However, the first Semperoper was first built between 1838 and 1841 and has gotten its name the main architect, Gottfried Semper.
The problems begin..
As implied above, the Semperoper of today is not the original Semperoper. During 1869, disaster struck the opera house as a fire destroyed major parts of it. However the people of Dresden were determined to restore the Semperoper to its former glory. For the man in charge of the operation they wanted the same man who originally built it, Gottfried Semper.
There was one small problem though. Gottfried Semper had previously been banned and was at the time in exile due to his activities in the May Uprising in Dresden 1849.
The May Uprising was a part of a series of revolutionary events which took place in several German cities at the time, caused by political instability. To solve the problem with his exile, Gottfried had his son, Manfred Semper, complete the reconstruction using his father’s plans. The reconstruction was completed in 1878 and looked much the same as the original Semperoper, but with a touch of Neo-Renaissance style.
The bombing of Dresden
As if the fire disaster wasn’t enough, the Second World War brought even more destruction to the Semperoper. During the allied bombings of Dresden in 1945, the majority of the Semperoper was yet again destroyed. This time reconstruction work was delayed; quite understandable considering not only the opera house, but almost the whole city center of Dresden had been flattened by the 650.000 bombs that were dropped.
Exactly 40 years after the bombings, the Semperoper was rebuilt to an almost exact replica of how it was prior to the war. To symbolize that the opera was back, and as a way to put the horrible past behind, it reopened with the same opera that was last performed, before the destruction in 1945: Weber’s “Der Freischütz”.
To top it all off, the Semperoper suffered heavy water damage during the flood of the Elbe in 2002. However, with substantial help from around the world, it managed to reopen already in December the very same year.
The fact the Semperoper still stands here today, despite all its unfortunate and troublesome past, is quite incredible. Even though it is not the same stones and walls that made up the original opera from the mid 19th century, all the reconstruction and restoration efforts show the people of Dresdens dedication to preserve and protect this magnificent building.
Why visit Semperoper ?
The beautiful Dresden Operahouse, more commonly known as the Semperoper, is considered to be a prime example of the “Dresden-Baroque” architecture. Visitors paying extra attention to the impressive portal will see that it is crowned by a panther drawn quadriga with a statue of Dionysos and his said to be wife, Ariadne.
A quadriga is a chariot drawn by four animals. Dionysos is the Greek wine god who represents festivities and joy. Dionysos is also – quite fittingly – known as the protector of art and theatres.
Visitors looking towards the main entrance will see two large statues. The main statues on either side are Johann Wolfgang von Goethe to the left and Friedrich Schiller to the right – both of them famous writers. In niches at the sides of the building stand the statues of many famous art legends, including Moliere, Shakespeare, Sophocles, and Euripides as well as Greek and Roman heroes and gods.
Not only is the building itself detailed with beautiful sculptures, but there are also some in its surrounding. For example at the center of the Theatherplatz, in front of the Opera house, stands the statue of the Saxon King John. This statue was added later in 1889.
While the exterior of the Semperoper if magnificent, the same is also true for its interior. The interior was created by several famous architects of the time together with skilled local craftsmen.
One thing to note regarding the inside of the Semperoper is that some materials inside the opera is not what they seem to be. What might look like marble usually is plaster, carefully molded, painted and polished by skilled craftsmen. Even a lot of the wood paneling is made the same way.
This little interesting detail wasn’t due to cheapness, but rather the result of the fact the Gottfried Semper believed much in using local material and craftsmen whenever it was possible. Many people even find the inside more beautiful after they heard that the marble they though was real, was actually a painted replica.
The beautiful architectural style of the original Semperoper has been debated among many, as it had features that appear in the Early Renaissance style, Baroque and even features Corinthian style pillars which are typical of classical Greek architecture.
The most suitable label for this style would be Eclecticism; a style where influences and parts from many styles are used. One thing that is certain is that the Semperoper is one of the greatest architectural pieces around.