Oper Köln's international standing has been revealed time and again since the ceremonial opening of the opera house on Offenbachplatz in 1957. At that time, Cologne productions such as "Oberon" with Leonie Rysanek & Karl Liebl and the world premiere of Wolfgang Fortner's "Blood Wedding" were joined by guest performances by La Scala in Milan with Maria Callas and the Paris Opéra Ballet, among others. The era of Oscar Fritz Schuh as General Manager and Wolfgang Sawallisch as General Music Director (1959 - 1964) saw events such as the production of Richard Wagner's "Der Ring des Nibelungen" directed by Wieland Wagner. A distinguished soloist ensemble complemented by the guest engagements of top-class singers has always been a decisive criterion for the work of the house. With the International Opera Studio, Oper Köln has also had the oldest institution for the promotion of young talent of this kind in the German-speaking world since 1961, numerous singers have started their careers here, such as Anne Schwanewilms, Helen Donath, Samuel Youn and Matthias Klink.
Oper Köln is currently a venue for relevant and innovative music theatre of the highest quality. The company aspires to be an open opera house for the citizens of Cologne and sees itself out as a young and international opera that draws upon its rich traditions. With important world premieres and first German performances of contemporary works such as "Die tote Stadt" by Erich Wolfgang Korngold (premiere 1920), "Der Zwerg" by Alexander von Zemlinsky (premiere 1922), "Bluthochzeit" by Wolfgang Fortner (premiere 1957), "Die Soldaten" by Bernd Alois Zimmermann (premiere 1965), "SONNTAG" from "LICHT" by Karlheinz Stockhausen (premiere 2011), "Solaris" by Detlev Glanert (DE 2014) and "Tree of Codes" by Liza Lim (premiere 2016), strong artistic impetus linked to current events have always emanated from the cathedral city. An international jury of critics from the trade journal "Opernwelt" awarded Oper Köln the coveted title of "Opera House of the Year" for its artistic work in 2012. In 2019, Oper Köln was awarded the Cologne Culture Prize 2018 for its production of “Die Soldaten". Guest performances have taken the theatre to China, Iraq and Oman in recent years. Oper Köln is a sought-after co-production partner (Salzburg Festival / Bregenz Festival / Teatro Real Madrid / Theater an der Wien and others).
Since the 2015.16 season, the StaatenHaus am Rheinpark in Cologne-Deutz has served as the interim home of Oper Köln.
WILHELM RIPHAHN FROM THE EXPLANATORY REPORT ON THE CONSTRUCTION OF THE OPERA HOUSE
Visualisierung: Sanierung Bühnen Köln
"At the city council meeting on 17th September 1953 you gave me the commission for the new Cologne theatre: (Opera house). I would like to take this opportunity to thank the city councillors for the trust you have placed in me by entrusting me with this task, which is so particularly important for Cologne. (...)
What I am presenting to you today has been worked out together with the Theatre Building Committee. And not only in the 3 committee meetings, but in the closest cooperation with city councillors of all factions, who constantly came to my studio for instruction and gave me valuable suggestions! (...) I have already told the gentlemen of the theatre construction committee that I have the wish and the will to carry out the construction as quickly and uncomplicatedly as is possible for such an important cultural building. However, this is only possible if time losses and obstacles, which normally result from administrative practice, are reduced to a minimum”
("Wilhelm Riphahn. Architekt in Köln. Eine Bestandsaufnahme.", with contributions by Gudrun Escher and Monika Läuferts and texts by Wilhelm Riphahn, edited by the Museum of Applied Arts Cologne, 2012)
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