Sold-out classical music in Berlin: Feelings of happiness in the crowd

There is nothing better than a sold-out performance. The artists get an extra kick when they see that people are flocking to their venue, but we, the audience, also get an uplifting feeling when we look into the completely full auditorium. Because it shows that there are many of us classical music fans! Not a dying minority, as we are led to believe.

On Tuesday I was at a sold-out evening at the Deutsche Oper and experienced a musically excellent performance of Giuseppe Verdi’s Requiem (it was Christian Spuck’s dance version for the Berlin State Ballet). I sat right at the back of the stalls – and from my seat 38 in the 22nd row I had a fantastic panoramic view of 1000 culture-loving people – and another 800, I knew, were sitting above me in the stands and boxes.

Wonderfully surging crowd

What a wonderful, surging crowd it was! The buzzing and humming of anticipation around me was so loud that not even the official announcement of “turn off your cell phone, please!” made it all the way back here. But when the lights were turned off, an active silence immediately spread, and the collective concentration was physically palpable.

I have often, very often, been able to experience this feeling of happiness in the last few months. Wherever I went, the halls were full. 270,000 visitors came to the Deutsche Oper alone this season. At the Komische Oper, the number was “only” 162,000, but that corresponds to an occupancy rate of almost 93 percent. This is because the Schillertheater’s alternative location has 45 percent fewer seats available per performance than its neighbor on Bismarckstrasse.

Apparently no one at the Berlin Institute for Cultural Participation Research has noticed this yet. In their latest study, the researchers claim that the frequency of visits has fallen by 40 percent in all population groups compared to 2019, meaning that cultural participation has “not recovered” after the pandemic. However, these data were collected in the summer of 2023; science works thoroughly, but slowly. All theory is gray, dear friend, and the opera house space is full.

By Editor