By C H Kwak—
When I tell out-of-towners how often I go to the opera, they think I’m rolling in it. Truth is, opera tickets can be so cheap that even a translator can afford it night after night. When Berlin was divided, each side fostered its own set of performing arts venues. As a result, Berlin has not one, not two, but three state-sponsored operas today.
That means almost every night, you have three productions to choose from. They can run the gamut from the usual suspects (yes, Figaro, I’m looking at you) to more obscure choices (this season, we have two separate productions of a modern piece about Carmelite nuns during the French Revolution).
Though the competing directors seem to incessantly complain about budget cuts, all three operas, the Staatsoper, Deutsche Oper and Komische Oper, seem to be thriving, dutifully putting on new productions and old favorites from September through June. Luckily for us, that means there is a glut of seats to fill, so tickets are sold at heavily subsidized prices.
Here’s a guide to divas, deception and drama—all so unglamorously affordable.
If you’re under 30, you’re in luck. The excellent Classic Card lets the cardholder buy any seat in any of the opera houses for €10. That’s right—center orchestra seat, close enough to see the singers quiver. Just one good seat pays for the card, which is €15 and valid for one year. Since it’s also valid at ballets and symphonies, this tiny piece of plastic has saved me thousands over the years. Buy at the box office and start using it right away.
U-55/S-Bahn Brandenburger Tor or U-6 Französische Str.
Young, cool and cheeky, the Komische Oper on Unter den Linden puts on productions that are daring even by Berlin standards. You get individual subtitles, which also come in English, so you can at least try to keep up with the story lines. The cheapest top balcony seats can be had for €8 to €12 (premieres are always more expensive). Except for premieres, students under 30 and seniors over 65 get 25% off all tickets as well.
Staatsoper im Schiller Theater
U-2 Ernst Reuter Platz
While its sumptuous, cathedral-like home base is being renovated, this former East German crown jewel has fled to the West. In its temporary (and smaller) home at the Schiller Theater, tickets can be had for as low as €14, but students and seniors get 50% off all seats; or, they can risk it until an hour before curtain call and grab whatever is left over for €13. But the best deals are for kiddies: for designated children-friendly matinee performances, tickets are €3.
030.343 84 343
U-2 Deutsche Oper
The West Berlin opera is a mammoth black box of acoustic wonder. Nosebleed seats are €14, and as the theater is much bigger than the other two, you may actually struggle to see everything from up there. Students under 30 get 50% off all tickets one week before the performance, and pay no more than €13.50 one hour before performance.
One word of warning: There are two older box office attendants whose brusqueness is legendary. (I once saw a Spanish tourist reduced to tears.) Don’t take it personally. We’ve all been abused by them, but we keep going back for more.
Extra cheapo tip: Sometimes your opera ticket doubles as a public transportation ticket from and to the theater, so check the fine print on the ticket. If you have Berlin Welcome Card, you also get 25% off certain tickets at all of the three operas.
More unsolicited advice: I once saw a poor thing arrive in what seemed like a very uncomfortable prom dress. This is Berlin, so you really don’t need to dress up. You’ll see society folks in haute couture and students in jeans side by side. So just be yourself and enjoy the music.