Germany’s northern-most state of Schleswig-Holstein is one its most rural and has only a few major centres of population, though the separate city state of Hamburg abuts it to the south. Otherwise, there are just the port cities of Flensburg (on the Danish border), Kiel and Lübeck, but all three places are very worthwhile visiting – for their opera as much as their other attractions.
2015/16 repertoire: Le nozze di Figaro, Die Zauberflöte, Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny, Das Rheingold, My Fair Lady, Carmen, Tosca, Die Walküre, Orpheus und Eurydike.
Theater Lübeck maintains an achievement and reputation above and beyond the confines of this historic Hanseatic city, cemented in 2010 when its particularly resourceful Ring cycle was filmed for DVD and won major prizes. Its Wagnerian credentials were maintained for a few years more, though changes in music director and intendant have in the meantime begun to take the company in different directions. It’s a classic ensemble-based company, which means it can operate a broad semi-stagione regime that can keep productions on the go right through the season – for instance, its keystone season launch production in the autumn is usually picked up at least once monthly until the spring. It is often possible to see two or more operas in a single visit, though the theatre also stages as many plays, dance and some musicals.
Theatre: Theater Lübeck is one of the most exquisite in all Germany, an intimate, Jugendstil gem of a building that survived the war largely unscathed and was fully modernised in the 1990s. Its Parkett and three tiers seat roughly 950. It sits in the heart of the old part of the city, a 20-minute walk from Lübeck Hbf, via the Holstentor and Rathaus square.
2015/16 repertoire: Fidelio, West Side Story, Les contes d’Hoffmann, Così fan tutte, Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk, I Capuleti e i Montecchi, Attila, plus revivals of The Fairy Queen, L’elisir d’amore, Hänsel und Gretel, La bohème, Im weißen Rößl.
Reviews of previous performances in Lübeck: Der Zwerg/Ein florentinische Tragodie, Armide, Tristan und Isolde
Tickets: €12–51, bookable online and printable.
Practicalities: although Hamburg is in easy reach, Lübeck makes for a far pleasanter place to stay, with plenty of decent hotels, several of them close to the station, and there are eateries close to hand along the river-front facing the Holstentor. At a push the city can be used as a base to see operas in Hamburg, Kiel and Lüneburg.
Daytime: with its museums, churches, medieval townscape and waterways, Lübeck is one of Germany’s most beautiful cities and has plenty to warrant several days’ exploration. Among highlights are the Buddenbrooks House, the home of Thomas Mann’s family that has become a museum to the great author, and the central Marienkirche, where Bach famously came to hear Buxtehude play the church’s organ. Unfortunately the organ was destroyed by wartime bombing – the church’s bells lie embedded in the floor where they landed – though in general Lübeck got off lightly once designation as a Red Cross transit port saved it from further raids.
Away from the city itself, there’s the coastal resort of Travemunde 20 minutes north by train, the little island town of Ratzeburg among lakes the same distance south, the rolling country of ‘Holstein Switzerland’ further to the north and the former East German cities of Wislar and Schwerin an easy day trip to the east (see here for a travelogue).
Nearby (average journey times by train / per-hour frequency pre-performance / per-hour frequency post-performance): Hamburg (42/2/1), Kiel (75/2/1), Lüneburg (75/1/1).
2015/16 repertoire: Les troyens, Le nozze di Figaro, Stilles Meer (WP: Hosokawa), Guillaume Tell, La passione (Bach’s St Matthew Passion), Daphne, plus revivals of Il turco in Italia, Elektra, Don Carlos, The Cunning Little Vixen, Carmen, Die tote Stadt, Manon Lescaut, Hänsel und Gretel, Die Fledermaus, Pelléas et Mélisande, La traviata, Così fan tutte, Der fliegende Holländer, Il barbiere di Siviglia, Luisa Miller, Katya Kabanova, Eugene Onegin, Tristan und Isolde, Der Freischütz, La fanciulla del West, L’elisir d’amore.
Tickets: €9–119, bookable online and printable.