The Semperoper (German pronunciation: [ˈzɛmpɐˌʔoːpɐ] ) is the opera house of the Sächsische Staatsoper Dresden (Saxon State Opera) and the concert hall of the Staatskapelle Dresden (Saxon State Orchestra). It is also home to the Semperoper Ballett. The building is located on the Theaterplatz near the Elbe River in the historic centre of Dresden, Germany.

The Semperoper in 2013
LocationDresden, Germany
Coordinates51°03′16″N 13°44′07″E / 51.05444°N 13.73528°E / 51.05444; 13.73528
TypeOpera house, concert hall
Built1841 (original)
1878 (first reconstruction)
1985 (second reconstruction)
ArchitectGottfried Semper

The opera house was originally built by the architect Gottfried Semper in 1841. After a devastating fire in 1869, the opera house was rebuilt, partly again by Semper, and completed in 1878. The opera house has a long history of premieres, including major works by Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss.


Interior of the first opera house in 1841
The first opera house, around 1850

The first opera house at the location of today's Semperoper was built by the architect Gottfried Semper. It opened on 13 April 1841 with an opera by Carl Maria von Weber. The building style itself is debated among many, as it has features that appear in three styles: early Renaissance and Baroque, with Corinthian style pillars typical of Greek classical revival. Perhaps the most suitable label for this style would be eclecticism, where influences from many styles are used, a practice most common during this period.[1] Nevertheless, the opera building, Semper's first, was regarded as one of the most beautiful European opera houses.

The Semperoper in July 1945.
Semperoper with the Theatre Square, 2011

Following a devastating fire in 1869, the citizens of Dresden immediately set about rebuilding their opera house. They demanded that Gottfried Semper do the reconstruction, even though he was then in exile because of his involvement in the May 1849 uprising in Dresden. The architect had his son, Manfred Semper, build the second opera house using his plans. Completed in 1878, it was built in Neo-Renaissance style. During construction, performances were held at the Gewerbehaussaal, which opened in 1870.[1]

The building is considered a prime example of Baroque Revival architecture. It is situated on the Theatre Square in central Dresden on the bank of the Elbe River. On top of the portal there is a Panther quadriga with a statue of Dionysos. The interior was created by architects of the time, such as Johannes Schilling. Monuments on the portal depict artists, such as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Friedrich Schiller, William Shakespeare, Sophocles, Molière and Euripides. The building also features work by Ernst Rietschel and Ernst Julius Hähnel.[2] In the pre-war years, the Semperoper premiered many of the works of Richard Strauss.

Interior of the current opera house, 2013
Interior of the current opera house, 2023

In 1945, during the last months of World War II, the building was largely destroyed again, this time by the bombing of Dresden and subsequent firestorm, leaving only the exterior shell standing. Exactly 40 years later, on 13 February 1985, the opera's reconstruction was completed. It was rebuilt almost identically to its appearance before the war, but with the benefit of new stage machinery and an accompanying modern rear service building.[3] The Semperoper reopened with the opera that was performed just before the building's destruction in 1945, Carl Maria von Weber's Der Freischütz. When the Elbe flooded in 2002, the building suffered heavy water damage. With substantial help from around the world, it reopened in December of that year.

Present-day administration and operations


Today, the orchestra for most operas is the Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden. The Generalmusikdirektor (GMD) of the Semperoper is normally a different conductor from that of the Staatskapelle when it presents concerts. Exceptions have been Karl Böhm, Hans Vonk, and Fabio Luisi[4] who have held both positions. Whilst the Semperoper does not have a GMD as of 2015, the current chief conductor of the Staatskapelle Dresden is Christian Thielemann, as of the 2012/13 season.[5] The current Intendant (General Manager) of the company is Wolfgang Rothe.

Since the 2018–2019 season, the Intendant of the Semperoper is Peter Theiler. In May 2021, his initial contract as Intendant was extended through the 2023–2024 season, at which time Theiler is scheduled to conclude his tenure in the post.[6] In June 2021, the Semperoper announced the appointment of Nora Schmid as the incoming Intendantin of the company (the second woman to hold the post, after Ulrike Hessler), effective with the 2024–2025 season.[7]

Associated artists






Operas premiered

Panoramic view of the theatre's interior today (rendered image)

See also



  1. ^ a b Fritz Löffler: Das alte Dresden – Geschichte seiner Bauten. 16th ed. Leipzig: Seemann, 2006, ISBN 978-3-86502-000-0 (in German).
  2. ^ "Dresden Semperoper". Mostly Opera. 7 October 2008. Retrieved 9 August 2009.
  3. ^ "Dresden Sights and Views – Semper Opera House –". Retrieved 9 August 2009.
  4. ^ Daniel J. Wakin (4 February 2010). "Saxon State Opera's Music Director Quits". The New York Times. Retrieved 6 February 2010.
  5. ^ "Christian Thielemann Chefdirigent ab 2012" (Press release). Sächsische Staatskapelle Dresden. 9 October 2009. Retrieved 4 December 2010.
  6. ^ "Sächsische Staatskapelle: Vertrag mit Christian Thielemann wird nicht verlängert". MDR Kultur. 2021-05-11. Retrieved 2021-05-12.
  7. ^ "Semperoper Dresden: Nora Schmid wird Intendantin". MDR Kultur. 2021-06-09. Retrieved 2021-06-14.