It began with a handful of East Berlin teens who heard the Sex Pistols on a British military radio broadcast to troops in West Berlin, and it ended with the collapse of the East German dictatorship.
Punk rock was a life-changing discovery. The buzz-saw guitars, the messed-up clothing and hair, the rejection of society, and the DIY approach to building a new one: in their gray surroundings, where everyone’s future was preordained by some communist apparatchik, punk represented a revolutionary philosophy—quite literally, as it turned out.
As these young kids tried to form bands and became more visible, security forces—including the dreaded secret police, the Stasi—targeted them. They were spied on by friends and even members of their own families; they were expelled from schools and fired from jobs; they were beaten by police and imprisoned.
But instead of conforming, the punks fought back, playing an indispensable role in the underground movements that helped bring down the Berlin Wall.
This according to Burning down the Haus: Punk rock, revolution, and the fall of the Berlin Wall by Tim Mohr (Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books, 2018).
Today we celebrate the 30th anniversary of the fall of the Berlin Wall! Above, punks gathering on Alexanderplatz in East Berlin in 1981; below, the iconic punk anthem Überall wohin’s dich führt by Planlos, recorded live in 1983.
BONUS: The East German punk scene is reimagined in the 2001 film Wie Feuer und Flamme; the group in the clip is performing Überall wohin’s dich führt.
Increasingly, young opera singers from all over the world are moving to Germany, drawn by the prospect of steady work—even full-time employment.
In 2013 Germany saw 7230 opera performances, one-third of the world’s total. German opera houses employ 1270 soloists and 2870 chorus members on full-time contracts.
An American soprano who will be joining the Deutsche Oper in Berlin next year says “There aren’t as many opportunities as there used to be for up-and-coming singers in the U.S. If you’re a lesser-known name, American opera houses often don’t take a chance on you because they need to sell tickets. When I return to the U.S., people will say ‘She must be good, she’s sung at the Deutsche Oper.’”
This according to “If you want to sing opera, learn German” by Elisabeth Braw (Newsweek 17 July 2014; online only).
Below, a recent German opera production that provided numerous employment opportunities.
In 1760 the Swedish diplomat Count Ulrich zu Lynar reported on an ingenious system for Tafelmusik at the court of Ludwig VIII, Landgrave of Hesse-Darmstadt (above, 1691–1768):
“Next [to the palace] is a small garden and in it a Lusthaus where the Landgravial family dines during the summer, and in the middle of which, where the table is set up, there is a small round hole that leads to a basement, out of which music is meant to sound very beautifully. To that end, in each of the four corners there is also an opening from which the sound can come.”
This pavillion, built in the early eighteenth century and apparently used during Ludwig’s reign as a special entertainment for visitors, was demolished in the nineteenth century. A surviving architectural plan, however, indicates an underground passageway to it from the palace’s main building, presumably intended for the serenading musicians.
This according to “The court of Hesse-Darmstadt” by Ursula Kramer, an essay included in Music at German courts, 1715–1760: Changing artistic priorities (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2001, pp. 333–363).