Berlin's Metropol Theater, closed since the summer of 1997 due to bankruptcy, may reopen September 3 under new management.
Cultural Senator Peter Radunski stated at a press conference on Thursday, May 7 that the artistic concept and business plan presented by Rainer Robert Vogele, President of Dekra Promotions, offers the troubled operetta stage a promising future.
For decades, the Metropol Theater was the only theater in Germany presenting operettas with a resident ensemble in a repertory season. Directly across the Friedrichstrasse from the Berlin Ensemble, the Metropol became one of the beloved fixtures of the East German entertainment landscape.
After the fall of the Berlin Wall, attendance dropped, as in nearly every theater in Berlin. In a move to revitalize the troubled theater, Rene Kollo was appointed director at the start of the 1996-97 season. Kollo, a world-famous opera tenor, is the grandson of Willi Kollo, one of the most well-known operetta composers active in Berlin in the 1930s and 1940s.
Attendance dropped further and costs soared under Rene Kollo's leadership, and he declared the Metropol Theater bankrupt after only one year. Since June 1997, the theater has remained closed and speculation about its future has been rife.
The Metropol building sorely needs renovation, and both its ensemble and repertoire were increasingly regarded as old-fashioned. Many observers expected cultural senator Peter Radunski to seize Kollo's mismanagement as an opportunity to close the theater for good, and thus save the 18 million dollars in subsidies which had been earmarked for its operations.
Soon after the end of the Kollo era, Radunski was approached by Rainer Vogele, president of Dekra Promotions and chief executive officer of the newly-opened Baden-Baden Festival Theater. This building, opened to much fanfare in early April, is the second largest opera house in Europe, eclipsed by only the Bastille Opera in Paris.
The festival theater is the only privately-financed opera house in Germany. During the summer, a broad palette of operas and symphonic programs will be presented. To fill the theater in the non-festival months, Vogele has proposed to finance the reopening of the Metropol Theater, and to develop popular operetta productions which will be shown both in Berlin and in his Baden-Baden Festival House. He additionally promised to loan the Metropol Theater 1.3 million marks for necessary renovations.
Vogele presented his artistic partner at Thursday's press conference: Gunter Konemann, who successfully led the Karlsruhe opera house for 20 years. Konemann spoke eloquently of operetta as a "lively and up-to-date genre" and revealed his hopes to engage respected stage-directors such as Luc Bondy, Loriot, and Peter Lund, the celebrated director of Berlin's Neukollner Oper. Four new productions each year are planned.
Konemann plans to present a Berlin revue to celebrate the reopening of the house on September 3, the 100th birthday of the Metropol Theater. The first full production planned is Paul Burkhard's Feuerwerk.
--By Scott Lawton