HIstory of the DNT
The Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar is one of the oldest theatres in germany with a long tradition and a history dating back to the 18th century when the most famous german author of the classical period – Johann Wolfgang von Goethe – directed the theatre. Today the Deutsches Nationaltheater offers a broad repertoire of classical and modern opera and theatre productions as well as concerts in four very different venues: Großes Haus, Studiobühne, E-Werk and Weimarhalle.
Goethe, Schiller, Bach, Hummel, Liszt, Strauss – only few german theatres can look back onto such a rich background of famous artists like the Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar. Its history reaching from 18th to 21st century, the theatre not only needs to reflect the tensions between classic and modern times but also between humanism and most recent german historical developments. As a point of artistic reflexion and cristallisation the theatre and its artistic and political development stood between avant-garde and the maintenance of tradition, between ideals and their betrayal for propaganda or the need to economise.
Next to a strong ensemble of singers and actors another important branche of the Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar is the Staatskapelle – one of the oldest orchestras in germany and the only one of its size in thuringia.
With up to 600 performances and concerts per year, Staatskapelle and DNT have a major part in forming the cultural calendar of the city of Weimar. A continuing contemporary discussion of the classical repertoire is an important part of the theatres program alongside world premieres of contemporary pieces and operas or the development of plays by young writers. With a rich and diverse range of programs for kids and teenagers the theatre- and concert paedagogical department of the DNT offers a variety of possibilities for the young generation to develop an artistic and socio-political awareness and understanding of the past and future.
The neoclassical theatre building with a modern interior was built 1906/07 at the location of the former court theatre. 1945 the building was destroyed shortly before the end of the war and was rebuilt 1947-1948 as the first german theatre. The auditorium where the weimar republic was proclaimed in 1919 received its actual optic in the 1970ies.
The former electricity station, now called E-Werk and under monument conservation, has been an alternative venue for unconventional projects of the DNT since 2000. It has since developed to be an attractive meeting point for the young generation, where mostly contemporary theatre works are performed in variable play-rooms.
The Staatskapelle Weimar, founded in 1491, is one of the oldest, most illustrious orchestras in the world and is closely associated to some of the world’s best known musicians and works. In 1756, Duchess Anna Amalia made the orchestra the primary musical institution of ‘Classical Weimar’. Thanks to the influence of Grand Duchess Maria Pavlovna, a number of prominent musical figures of the 19th century, including Mozart’s former student Johann Nepomuk Hummel, were appointed to lead the orchestra. The famous musician, Franz Liszt, served as Hofkapellmeister from 1848 to 1858 and produced the world premieres of numerous contemporary pieces, such as Wagner’s “Lohengrin” (1850), which he helped make an international success. Richard Strauss served as second Kapellmeister from 1889 to 1894 and produced the world premieres of his own “Guntram” and Humperdinck’s „Hansel and Gretel“. Under his direction, the court orchestra also performed the world premieres of his orchestral works “Don Juan”, “Macbeth” and “Death and Transfiguration”.
The positive progress of the orchestra, renamed the “Weimarische Staatskapelle” in 1919, came to an abrupt end when the National Socialists seized power in 1933. Following the calamitous events of World War II, the conductor Hermann Abendroth re-established the Staatskapelle Weimar to its former grandeur and quality, making it one of Germany’s leading orchestras. Since the 1980s, the conductors Peter Gülke, Oleg Caetani and Hans-Peter Frank as well as the present honorary conductor George Alexander Albrecht, who headed the orchestra from 1996 to 2002, have left a lasting mark. As General Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Deutsches Nationaltheater and Staatskapelle Weimar, Albrecht was succeeded by Jac van Steen (2002 to 2005), Carl St. Clair (2005 to 2009) and Stefan Solyom (2009 to 2016).
Both in its extensive concert activities and opera productions at the Deutsches Nationaltheater Weimar, the Staatskapelle has worked to cultivate its great tradition in combination with innovative aspects. A wide range of CD recordings reflect its impressively diverse repertoire with works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Liszt, Richard Wagner, Richard Strauss, Wilhelm Furtwängler, and several contemporary composers.
World-class soloists and conductors perform regularly with the Staatskapelle Weimar which is nationally and internationally renowned as a first-class concert orchestra. In past years, the ensemble has made guest appearances in Japan, Israel, Spain, Italy, Austria, Switzerland, Great Britain and most recently in the United States on a monthlong tour as well as at renowned festivals and major concert halls throughout Germany.
At the beginning of the 2016/17 season, the Ukrainian conductor Kirill Karabits took the reigns as General Music Director and Principal Conductor of the Deutsches Nationaltheater and Staatskapelle Weimar – the only A-level orchestra in the state of Thuringia.