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Arena Arts Credit: Alexander Janetzko © Berlinale Angelina Jolie, director ofIn The Land of Blood and Honey, with Brad Pitt at the premiere, Berlinale 2012 besides in this increasingly confident capital to draw in the cultur- with three mainstream opera houses, though perhaps only one of ally curious. them, the Staatsoper, rings round the world with A-grade reputa- Seasonal change in Berlin is sudden, and before you know it, two tion: its music director is Daniel Barenboim. major theatre events each year have Berliners scrambling for tick- The great museums, on what’s known as the Museum Island in ets. In early spring, at one of Europe’s most exciting theatres, the the River Spree, were similarly at the heart of the Prussian capi- Schaubühne – on the great shopping boulevard of the old west, the tal, locked in to the Soviet zone and more or less left to moulder Kurfürstendamm – puts on FIND (Festival for International New (the complex is still under renovation). West Berlin’s response was Drama), which gathers together young writers and directors from to erect in 1968 the remarkable, temple-like Mies van der Rohe all over the world. Then in early May follows, at the headquarters New National Gallery, provocatively close to the Wall, as was of Berlin’s leading publicly funded cultural organisation, the Fest- Hans Scharoun’s sparkling, early 1960s Philharmonie concert hall, spiele, the Theatertreffen (translating loosely as ‘theatre meeting’). home to the renowned Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan for This is a fortnight showcasing the best of German-speaking theatre 35 years. Right next to the Wall was the neo-Renaissance Martin- (including, therefore, from Austria and Switzerland) and of which, Gropius-Bau, today hosting a repertoire of exhibitions of old and like the Berlinale, Berlin and Berliners are historically proud: the new art combining the range of the Pompidou Centre with the am- Theatertreffen turns 50 this year. Both festivals present productions bition of Tate Modern – look out for a spectacular show of the with English subtitles. great American photojournalist Margaret Bourke-White, on until Berlin is a true cultural capital, and doesn’t need official Euro- 14 April. pean labelling (or any other kind) to underline this. Twenty-eight Put these municipal landmarks together with a thriving gallery years of physical division meant that many arts institutions were scene and thousands of young artists attracted by Berlin’s cheap duplicated; today, for the west’s Schaubühne, the east has the rent, and you have a city easily as buzzy as New York or London, funky, left-field Volksbühne (and the really famous historic hous- and half the price of either. Look carefully at any number of new es, the Deutsches Theater, the Maxim Gorki Theater and Brecht’s German films at the Berlinale and you’ll see the city playing more Berliner Ensemble, were also behind the Wall). The situation with than a bit part. Whether as film set, art centre or theatre laboratory, opera was and is more implausible. 21st-century Berlin knows how to celebrate creativity. The west’s fiercely modernist Deutsche Oper was opened in 1961, with the Wall already up, to make a big statement about west German self-assurance. Behind the Wall lay the old Staatsoper James Woodall is a writer and editor who lived in Berlin for 13 years and (State Opera) and the Komische Oper (for, traditionally, a slightly wrote on culture for the Financial TimesandThe Economist different audience). The result is that Berlin is now the only capital globalfirst quarter 2013 www.global-briefing.org l59


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