The Musiktheater im Revier (Music theatre in the Ruhr Area) is both the centrepiece and a reflection of the cultural city of Gelsenkirchen. Its programme ranges from opera and operetta to musical theatre and musicals, while also offering space for the large-scale ballets of the area and the concerts performed by the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen (New Philharmonic Orchestra Westphalia). The unique building celebrates diversity, quality and a willingness to experiment, all the while rejecting elitist attitudes and encouraging participation from all age groups.
When viewed from the outside, the Musiktheater im Revier, designed by architect Werner Ruhnau, is probably the most obvious proof of the fact that the economic miracle experienced in the Ruhr area after World War II left behind some timeless, fascinating buildings – and not merely dreary ones.
In the evening, the open staircase that leads up around the auditorium in a semicircle can be seen illuminated in the enormous glass-fronted foyer from a distance, as can the ceiling-high, ultramarine-blue sponge relief created by Yves Klein. When viewed in this manner, the audience, slowly gathering for the event, itself appears to be part of the staging, almost as if it is being held inside a giant peep-box. The transition between exterior and interior takes place in a gentle, flowing manner through the ticket hall, situated centrally in front of the building, and continuing through the open cloakroom area until you reach the main building itself. Once there, and once the curtain rises after everyone in the orchestra pit has finished tuning their instruments, it's hard not to be convinced that, to this day, this place still bears traces of the cultural awakening that it experienced in the 1950s.
However, probably the greatest success to have come out of the bold move to found the Musiktheater im Revier is something which, today, seems perfectly natural – it changed Gelsenkirchen. In a manner which spans generations, it seems like half the city has some kind of connection with the theatre: whether they have a subscription, sing in the extra choir, are an acting extra, dance in the annual MOVE production or visit rehearsals with their school class.
At the same time, it is not only important groundwork which is taking place here. Across all its divisions, general artistic director Michael Schulz's programme also always contains debut performances, more unusual pieces, as well as particularly ambitious pieces. For example, his Benjamin Britten cycle received critical attention from outwith the Ruhr area. The theatre also manages to effortlessly achieve a balance between orienting itself to the audience and fulfilling its own aspirations, something which it currently does with Leonard Bernstein's "Mass", choreographed by Richard Siegal (premiere 2018) and the steampunk opera "Klein Zaches, genannt Zinnober" (debut performance 2015), as well as with Giuseppe Verdi's classic, publicly celebrated "Nabucco".
In addition to its opera and musical theatre ensembles, the Musiktheater im Revier particularly stands out due to its ballet ensemble and enjoys a great deal of popularity.
Under General Music Director and native son of Gelsenkirchen Rasmus Baumann, the Neue Philharmonie Westfalen is not only an orchestra that constantly hits all the right notes for the theatre's stage works, it also regularly steps into the limelight itself with symphony concerts on the big stage of its home venue.
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