If you speak English, live in or near Frankfurt and are interested in opera, be sure to sign up for Germany’s only English-language opera appreciation course, Frankfurt OperaTalk, at the Volkshochschule (vhs), the city’s non-profit, public service adult education center.
At Frankfurt OperaTalk, English-speaking opera fans meet at the VHS to get acquainted with each other and with the lively Frankfurt opera scene. Native and non-native speakers of English are cordially invited to enroll. The discussions are friendly and unpretentious, and you don’t have to be an opera expert to take part.
Often an English-speaking singer or musician is on hand to answer questions about current opera productions and about life on the international opera circuit.
The eighteenth round of Frankfurt OperaTalk is scheduled to take place on four Monday evenings in the autumn of 2015: September 21, October 5, November 9 and November 23. Enrollment has already begun at www.vhs.frankfurt.de.
Full disclosure: Since I am the teacher of this course, I might be somewhat biased, but I do think it’s a great way to meet English speaking opera fans (and singers) in Frankfurt. This is why I go on teaching Frankfurt OperaTalk, even though it is more work than any of my other courses and brings in the least money.
Second photo: Baritone Nathaniel Webster at Frankfurt OperaTalk.
Third photo: Bass-Baritone Simon Bailey at Frankfurt OperaTalk.
Fourth and fifth photos: Baritone Zeliko Lucic at Frankfurt OperaTalk. See also: New York Metropolitan Opera Live in Frankfurt.
Address: VHS, Sonnemannstraße 13, 60314 Frankfurt am Main
Directions: Across the intersection from the new headquarters of the European Central Bank.
See also: Frankfurt Skyline Countdown, # 7 on my Land Hessen page.
Location of the VHS on Google Maps.
Phone: (0 69) 212-71501
See also: Frankfurt OperaTalk on Facebook.
- Arts and Culture
- Theater Travel
Here on the roof of the Zeilgalerie you can have something to drink and look out over parts of Frankfurt. If you can get a seat, that is.
Otherwise you can walk across the roof to the department store next door, where there is a cafeteria with lots of indoor seating and limited outdoor seating. Here you have a good view of the Frankfurt Skyline, especially mornings and evenings. (On a sunny afternoon you are looking right into the sun, so you can't see the buildings that well.)
This is a nice place to go for a view, and it's free unless you order something to eat or drink, but it's only the seventh floor so the views are good but not spectacular.
Second photo: How to get up there. At the Hauptwache, look for this "dachcafe" sign which says: "Roof Cafe / Roof Terrace / Observation Platform / Express Elevator". You can also get up to the roof by going up the escalators in the Zeilgalerie or in the "Galeria Kaufhof" department store.
Update 2015: According to local news reports, the commercially unsuccessful Zeilgalerie is scheduled to be demolished (only 1/4 century after it was built) to make room for expansion of the department store "Galeria Kaufhof".
The Frankfurt Opera
This new opera house is not one of the architectural wonders of the world, I must admit, but it's a great place to go and see operas. It has one of the largest stages in Europe, with two revolving stages -- a small one inside a larger one -- that can both start turning at the same time if need be. And they have since built a third revolving stage to go on top of the other two.
If by any chance you are in Frankfurt when they are showing Benjamin Britten's opera "The Turn of the Screw" you can see all these revolving stages in action at once, which is very appropriate considering the title of the opera. Their "Turn of the Screw" is a brilliant production, and it's even in English because they do most of their operas in the original languages. (With German surtitles, if that is any help.)
Second photo: View from the foyer, with the twin Deutsche Bank Towers in the background and part of the Euro Tower on the right.
Third photo: Inside the Large Hall of the Frankfurt Opera.
Fourth photo: Stage entrance, with bicycles.
Fifth photo: Under the golden clouds in the lobby.
Historical postcard views: Even though this is a quite new opera house, it is already present on Carthalia with several postcard views from previous decades.
Video: Have a look at their trailer on Keith Warner's new staging of Hänsel & Gretel by Engelbert Humperdinck as well as trailers on other recent productions.
- Theater Travel
Operas at the Bockenheimer Depot
This barn-like structure served for many decades as a depot for streetcars. I can remember when the whole place was full of tracks, and they drove the streetcars in at night when they weren't being used.
Now the tracks are long gone, and the depot is used as an alternative venue for experimental theater and opera productions.
In the spring of 2004 there was a really special opera premiere at the Bockenheimer Depot -- The Emperor of Atlantis by Viktor Ullmann (1898-1944).
This is an opera that Ullmann wrote in the 1940s when he was imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. He was even allowed to rehearse it with imprisoned musicians and singers, but after the dress rehearsal the Nazis banned it because they finally realized that it had a strong anti-war and anti-Nazi message. Ullmann and his librettist Peter Kien were immediately shipped off to Auschwitz, where they were murdered in 1944.
One of Ullmann's fellow prisoners buried the score and the text of the opera. Years later it was dug up, and was first performed in Amsterdam in 1975.
The emperor in this opera is a dictator who is so brutal that even Death goes on strike and refuses to let anyone die. This causes widespread panic because life under the dictatorship is so senseless that no one wants to go on living.
Other outstanding productions at the Bockenheimer Depot have included Curlew River, Owen Wingrave and The Rape of Lucretia by Benjamin Britten, L'Orfeo by Claudio Monteverdi, Nacht by Georg Friedrich Haas and Piero - Ende der Nacht by the contemporary composer Jens Joneleit (second photo).
1. Alternative opera venue Bockenheimer Depot
2. The Bockenheimer Depot set up in September 2008 for the premiere of Piero - Ende der Nacht by the contemporary composer Jens Joneleit (who by the way was a guest in my opera appreciation courses in both English and German).
3. Taking their bows after Mozart's opera La finta giardiniera at the Bockenheimer Depot in June 2009.
4. Program booklet for the opera Teseo by Georg Friedrich Händel, performed at the Bockenheimer Depot in May 2013.
- Theater Travel
Schloss Johannisburg Castle in Aschaffenburg
My boyfriend took me to see this castle along the river Main (pronounced "mine"). There were some artifacts and paintings in it, sort of a museum. The architecture was great and the details such as the hinges on the doors and the concave ceiling in the chapel room was very interesting to see. It was built between 1605 and 1614.
Also, inside was a collection of model replicas of the Roman buildings such as the Coloseum and the Pantheon. They were used as examples in the study of architectural design. This was especially wonderful for us to see since we were in Rome the week before.
There is a fee to visit the interior of the castle but I don't recall how much. Not very crowded so it's fairly easy to visit. Mostly school children on a field trip.Related to:
- Historical Travel
- Castles and Palaces
Visit Rüdesheim am Rhein
This is a very quaint, famous, very old city on the outskirts of Frankfurt. I probably should have posted in the Off the Beaten Path category. Anyway, this is a lovely little town with great shops and restaurants. Worth checking out!
See my travelogue for more pics!
Wine tasting in Germany is seasonal. And, oddly enough, the wine tasting/restaurants are only open for a few months to give other establishments the opportunity to have their share of the customers during the time they are open. This particular wine tasting room was (I believe) just selling wine. Germany is better known for their white wines rather than red wines. This particular winery had decent wines and the prices seemed reasonable, too.
Located just south of Frankfurt, less than 30 minutes.Related to:
- Wine Tasting
(part 2)The Mainfest normally will be held at the beginning of August ,mostly start on Friday evening.There will be live music ,fireworks ,fairground rides,children play ,games.. like in the old days. The event start by a representative from the municipal authorities who will perform the opening ceremony at 6.00 pm , in front of the Fountain of justice which will be transformed into a wine fountain for the occasion. And those of the fairgrounds,snack shops and drinking stall spread from the square until the Main quay.
The Mainfest was originally a festival for fishermen and boatmen and was supposedly derived from the consecration of the Dreikönigskirche (Church of the Three Kings) on 23 July 1340. The purpose of this festival was to give thanks and pay homage to "Their river and its bounties.
The opening hours is from 12.00 to 1.00 am on Friday and Saturday ,and from 12.00 to midnight on Sunday and Monday.I was there on Saturday evening and there were really many people of all ages.I enjoyed the festival very much, the atmosphere were so lively and fun,..the weather was perfect ..and people seemed to be very happy.There were many food and drink stalls everywhere.
There'll be fireworks display on the last day which is the following Monday,I wasn't there ..it's a pity
There are no car parking facilities for the event, it' sbetter to go by public transport. Take subway (U-Bahn) U4 or U5 to "Römer" or the tram lines 11 or 12 to "Römer/Paulskirche .
I got off at Hauptwache and did the window shop along the way to kill time before joining the festival at the dusk .
This is the “ Mainfest” a very interesting summer festival in Frankfurt.The festival was held at the Römerberg square and along the Mainkai ( Main quay) of the "Main "river.This year 2014 the festival start from 1-4 August.I was there on Saturday 2 August evening.There was live music at the Römerberg square ,the music stage was between the Fountain of Justice and the Ostzeile ,the row of the half- trimbered housed on the east side of the square.This festival is originally a fisherman's festival and is one of the oldest festivals in Frankfurt, going back hundreds of years to the Middle Ages, when locals celebrated the river Main with roasted oxen on a spit, mystery plays, wine fountains and carriage parades.
The Fairy Tale Fountain
Thanks to VT member wabat (Albert from Canberra, Australia) for pointing out that up to now my Frankfurt am Main page has not included any mention of the Fairy Tale Fountain.
He noticed this because on his recent visit to Pyongyang, the capital of North Korea, he was given a tour of the Mansudae Art Studio, a huge operation which produces all the millions of statues and paintings of North Korea’s first two “leaders” Kim Il-sung (1912-1994, now officially known as the Eternal President of the Republic) and his son Kim Jong-il (1941-2011).
In addition to great masses of official artwork portraying the Kim dynasty of North Korea, the Mansudae Art Studio also produces statues for clients in other countries. As wabat explains, “there is now a worldwide shortage of socialist realist artists” following the collapse of communism in the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe, “so up and coming Africa dictators and others have turned to North Korea for their statues and such like. This work has become quite a lucrative source of foreign exchange for North Korea.”
He says that this overseas work includes statues and monuments in Botswana, Senegal, Namibia, Benin, Angola and the Democratic Republic of Congo.
And then comes the Frankfurt connection: “On a more modest scale the current incarnation of the Fairy Tale Fountain in Frankfurt am Main, Germany was (rather controversially, in Germany) produced by the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang.”
After writing his tip on the Mansudae Art Studio, wabat sent me the link and added:
“Would have linked to your page but can’t see a related tip/review there!”
I wrote back: “LOL. I ride past the Fairy Tale Fountain every time I go to the opera here in Frankfurt, because it is on the same square as the new opera house, right next to the bicycle stands by the stage entrance, but I was unaware that it was made in North Korea and never thought to do a tip about it.”
The next time I rode to the opera house the sun was shining, so I took some photos (including the first four photos on this tip), and subsequently did some research on the Fairy Tale Fountain.
It took me only a few clicks to find an article from BloombergBusinessweek which tells the whole story. The article explains that the Fairy Tale Fountain was “an art nouveau relic from 1910 that had been melted down for its metal during World War II.” Since no blueprints of the original fountain could be found, the city of Frankfurt “needed sculptors who could work from old photographs to re-create the naked beauty gazing down on an array of cherubic children and enormous water-spewing reptiles and fish.”
For this task, Frankfurt chose the Mansudae Art Studio in Pyongyang. The deputy director of Frankfurt’s Museum of Applied Art, Klaus Klemp, explained: “It was a purely technical decision. The top tier artists in Germany simply don’t make realist work anymore. North Koreans on the other hand haven’t experienced the long evolution of modern art; they are kind of stuck in the early 1900s, which is exactly when this fountain was made.”
In November 2005, two German officials flew to Pyongyang to check on the progress of the sculpture. According to the Bloomberg article, the “quality of the work was impeccable, but the Germans did have one complaint: Their art nouveau fountain had been rendered with a slightly hard, angular communist touch.” One of the Germans was quoted as saying that the woman on the statue had kind of a cement block hairdo. “We explained to the head sculptor that the socialist realist style wasn’t really in vogue in Frankfurt at the moment. He was very receptive and softened the look accordingly.”
Second photo: The lady at the top of the fountain. The metal construction off to the left is the stage tower of the Frankfurt Opera.
Third photo: In this corner of the fountain, a boy seems to be torturing a fish, which is squirting out streams of water. To me, this part of the fountain looks much older, perhaps even a surviving part of the original fountain from 1910.
Fourth photo: The fountain from behind, with a corner of the Frankfurt Opera and some skyscrapers in the background. (For details of the twenty-five tallest buildings in Frankfurt, please feel free to have a look at the Frankfurt Skyline Countdown on my Land Hessen page.)
Fifth photo: A few days before hearing from wabat, I took this photo of VT member Emily2410 with the Fairy Tale Fountain more or less accidentally in the background. Actually we should have taken a closer look at it, because the lady at the top of the fountain is supposed to be a water nymph, and by coincidence we were on our way to see an opera about a water nymph, namely Rusalka by Antonín Dvořák.
This was Emily’s first opera, by the way. After the performance we went around to the stage entrance so she could meet some of the singers.
- Arts and Culture
- Theater Travel
AIRPORT: A380 Spotting
The A380 planes use the new "Z" wing in terminal 1, the back front of the bay behind the A gates. Looking into that bay is rewarding, often there are two or even three Lufthansa A380's docked to the gates. I also saw a Thai Airways one.
I admit that spotting these big fat planes excites me. Frequent flyers may shrug their shoulders but I feel like a 10 year old again if I see them...
We landed in Frankfurt on the way back from Stockholm and they put on a show for us.There were two Lufthansa A380's at the gates and while we waited for disembarkation, they both went out and got ready for takeoff. The disinterested rest of our party prevented me from waiting to actually watch the start and catch photos, but at least I caught a glimpse of one of them taking off. I know it is just physics, but still amazing to see such an enormous mass of steel airborne.
Bridge: Eiserner Steg
Eisner Steg is a pedestrian bridge connecting the two banks of the main river. It should be renamed "Lovers Bridge" because of the hundreds of locks hanging on either side. Lovers engrave their initials and hang the lock to ensure everlasting loveRelated to:
Former Boerneplatz Synagogue/Old Jewish Cemetery
Frankfurt's main synagogue was built in 1882 on the spot of a hospital in the former Jewish Ghetto. On November 9th 1938, it was destroyed by Nazi mobs and pulled down afterwards. Boerneplatz (Boerne Square) itself was renamed “Dominikanerplatz” in 1935 already – Ludwig Boerne was a Jewish literary critic.
When post-WWII reconstruction began, the streets around Boerneplatz were not rebuilt in their original way. The big Kurt-Schumacher-Strasse was built and on the spot of the former synagogue, a flower market hall and a gas station were built. Only a marble tone placed by the Allied troops in 1946 commemorated the spot of the former synagogue. The former Boerneplatz became isolated from the main streets. In the late 1970s, the flower market was demolished and Boerneplatz got its original name back again. However, it took until the 1990s, to give the area a more dignified appearance. The remains of the former Jewish Ghetto were preserved as part of the Judengasse Museum (see separate tip), a metal frame showing the shape of the former synagogue was placed in the ground. The Old Jewish cemetery was encircled with a wall, including commemoration plaques for every Jewish Frankfurt citizen who was killed during the shoa/holocaust. A monument in form of a stone cube and trees is located behind the cemetery at Rechneigrabenstrasse. All these spots form the so-called “Gedenkstätte Neuer Boerneplatz” (Memorial Place New Boerne Square).
The Old Jewish cemetery is the second oldest of its kind in Germany and was in use since the late 12th century. In the mid-19th century, it was given up. The Nazis destroyed many of the graves in the 1930s and 1940s, especially to use the tombstones as building material. However, they did not succeed in a complete destruction and some tombs and tombstones (especially 17th and 18th century) were still intact when the war ended. The cemetery is permanently closed. A key can be borrowed from the Judengasse Museum (you'll need a passport or national ID card for that). Guided tours are provided by the museum on request as well.Related to:
- Historical Travel
Jonathan Borofsky has placed different versions of this metal sculpture in several cities over the world. The sculpture's arm moves and in some cities, it looks like the man is hammering against a building. Frankfurt's Hammering Man is free standing and does not hit anything at all with his hammer. It was placed in front of the exhibition halls (Messe) in 1991. With 23 metres, it is the tallest of the Hammering Man series worldwide.
The Hammering Man is often placed in business districts of wealthy cities. The sculpture stands for solidarity with the working class.Related to:
- Arts and Culture
Sees Near The Airport
"See" is the German word for "lake". There are a lot of these small sees, located next to the airport. Most of them are artificial lakes, that were made for mining. Some of them are only for mining, but a lot of them have a mine on one side, and a swimming beach on the other side. They are also nice places for a walk.
The most popular swimming beach is at Waldsee.
These lakes are good places to visit, if you have a few hour stopover in Frankfurt. If you want to leave the airport, but don't want to head all the way into the city center, you can take a cab to one of the lakes, relax for a few hours, than head back to the airport, and catch your connecting flight.
There might be a problem getting a ride back, and walking is not a good idea, but you can always have someone call a cab for you, or give you a ride back. You can also try to arrange a pick up time with your cab driver, or have him dispatch another pick up. It's a good idea to write this down on a piece of paper for him, so he will remember. It's also a good idea to jot down the number of the cab company, or ask for his cell phone number, so you can get in contact with him.
Whatever you do, remember to be back at the airport at least 2 hours before your connecting flight.
The lakes are close to the airport, so this shouldn't be a problem. I would limit my visit to Langener Waldsee though, it is the largest, and most popular lake, and it's close to the airport. This lake is also the site of the swimming portion of the Frankfurter Sparkasse IRONMAN.
If you have more time, you can visit more of the lakes. You can also visit these lakes, if you're looking for a little bit of nature in Frankfurt.Related to:
- Hiking and Walking
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