The Gewandhaus Orchestra is Leipzig Opera’s orchestra. This top orchestra with its rich history guarantees musical continuity at the highest artistic level at our opera house which shares a success story dating back over a hundred years with the Gewandhaus. It all began in 1693 with the opening of the Operhaus am Brühl (Opera House on the Brühl) with, among others, Georg Philipp Telemann as composer and conductor. There was a further development in 1766 when records show the opera and the musicians of the Großes Concert (Great Concert) at the time, playing as the Gewandhaus Orchestra since 1781, collaborated for the first time on a music theatre production.
Run by the city of Leipzig since 1840, the Gewandhaus Orchestra has three equally important venues: the Thomaskirche (St. Thomas’s Church), the Gewandhaus and, directly opposite, the opera house. Heinrich Marschner, Albert Lortzing, Gustav Mahler, Arthur Nikisch, among others, were able to particularly appreciate the Gewandhaus Orchestra playing in the orchestra pit of Leipzig Opera House at every performance. Works such as Heinrich Marschner’s The Vampire (29 March 1828), Lortzing’s The Tsar and the Carpenter (22 December 1837) and The Poacher (31 December 1842) as well as Schumann’s only opera Genoveva (25 June 1850) premièred at Leipzig Opera. It was also here that Richard Wagner’s Ring Cycle was performed for the first time outside the Bayreuther Festspielhaus (Bayreuth Festival Theatre) in 1878. Many other major new works and premières have followed up to the present day, including Kurt Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny,based on a libretto by Bertolt Brecht on 9 March 1930.
After 1945, the Gewandhaus conductors Franz Konwitschny, Václav Neumann und Kurt Masur had a significant impact on opera productions in Leipzig. Since the 2005 /06 season, Riccardo Chailly has been the Gewandhaus conductor. Up until May 2008, he also held the position of General Musical Director at Leipzig Opera.
Ulf Schirmer has been General Musical Director of Leipzig Opera since the 2009 /10 season. His appointment as General Director of Leipzig Opera added another dimension to the artistic collaboration of the two cultural institutes around Augustusplatz. Highlights of the recent past are the three early work of Richard Wagner’s in collaboration with the Bayreuther Festspielen (Bayreuth Festival), bf-Medien, the beginning of the scenic Ring as well as the new production of Richard Strauss’s The Woman Without a Shadow for the anniversary of the composer’s birthday in 2014. Ulf Schirmer has thus taken up the Romantic orchestra tradition of this unique musical ensemble.