The Ruhr Region possesses an intense culture that is hard to match anywhere in Europe. Maybe this is why it was named the Cultural Capital of Europe for 2010. Five artistic divisions—the Aalto Music Theatre, the Aalto Ballet Theatre of Essen, the Essen Philharmonic, the Schauspiel Essen (Essen Dramatic Theatre) and the Philharmonic Orchestra of Essen—make up one of the largest theatre operations in Germany, under the auspices of the Theater und Philharmonie Essen (TUP). We’d like to introduce you to the venues, where around 350,000 guests per season are enthralled.
Located in the centre of the city, the Philharmonie Essen (Essen Philharmonic) is housed in the historic Saalbau Essen (Essen Hall). No less a figure than Richard Strauss opened the house in 1904, and it can look back on a significant musical tradition. After extensive renovations, the Philharmonie was ceremoniously reopened in June 2004 to great international acclaim as one of the most beautiful and acoustically best concert halls in Germany. The centrepiece is the great concert hall for up to 1906 people, named after the last personal owner of the Krupp company, Alfried Krupp von Bohlen und Halbach (1907-1967). Besides having superlative acoustics, the hall is a technical masterpiece, for the stage, which consists of multiple platforms, can be adjusted to the various ensemble sizes. And even the complete parquet area can be raised up to the level of the foyer. Experience events with special flair at the Essen Philharmonic! P.S.: The view into the green city gardens is free (and priceless), such as during intermission on the large terrace.
The Aalto Theatre was named after the Finn architect Alvar Aalto, who designed the strikingly beautiful building. Not only the approximately 175 events taking place annually from September until July are a highlight—the architecture is an attractions in itself. Organic, fluid basic forms and a bright granite shell are reminiscent of Nordic landscapes. The curved rows of seats before the stage and the asymmetrical form of the auditorium are based on the Ancient Theatre of Delphi. When observing the house, one also notices the lack of a stage tower; the stage area is integrated into the overall form of the building—a peculiarity in theatre construction. Not surprising, since Aalto won the architectural competition for new construction back in 1959. That notwithstanding, the theatre was first opened in 1988, for it was almost 30 years before the Aalto could be built. Today it’s considered one of the best opera houses in the German-speaking world, with 1,125 seats and one of Germany’s largest opera stages in terms of area.
Opened in 1892, the Grillo Theatre is one of the oldest in the Ruhr Region. It was named after the Essen entrepreneur and industrial figure Friedrich Grillo, who funded the theatre. The magnificent building was built in the neo-baroque style after a design by the famous Berlin theatre architect Heinrich Seeling–the celebratory dedication was solemnised with Lessing’s “Minna von Barnhelm”. A few years later, the Grillo Theatre was given an orchestra pit for opera performances, but with the population explosion after the turn of the century it was too small for the three divisions of opera, dance and drama. With 400 seats, today the Grillo Theatre is the main playing venue for the dramatic ensemble in Essen.