Just a theatre? Not in Essen! Here, five artistic divisions come together in one place: the Aalto-Musiktheater, the Aalto Ballett Essen, the Essener Philharmoniker, the Schauspiel Essen with its main venue in the Grillo-Theater, and the Philharmonie Essen. Assembled together under the umbrella of the Theater und Philharmonie Essen (TUP), these make up one of the largest theatre operations in Germany – and the only one with an attached concert hall. Each season, 350,000 guests attend the more than 1,000 events on offer.
The Aalto-Theater is Essen's very own opera house. It was opened to the south of the city centre, next to the public garden, in 1988. With its asymmetrical floor plan, slanted roof surfaces and light granite cladding, the building, designed by Finnish architect Alvar Aalto, is reminiscent of a Scandinavian landscape, making an organic addition to the adjacent park. With its crescent-shaped rows of seats which gradually increase in height, the Aalto's auditorium is not unlike an asymmetrical amphitheatre. Outside, there is a four-metre-high stele made out of dolomite rock by artist Ulrich Rückriem. The Aalto-Theater offers plenty of space for the very best that opera can offer. This includes diverse, top-quality musical theatre productions and ballets which are also suitable for families and children.
Located in view of the Aalto-Theater, the Philharmonie Essen, which can also be found by the public garden, opened in 2004. The existing hall was renovated in order to bring it up to date in terms of the latest concert performance technology. The Alfried Krupp Saal has excellent acoustics and, to this day, still looks at its prime, with its atmosphere largely being determined by warm colour tones and light wood. Red steel elements invoke the area's industrial culture, also making reference to the Krupp family, which originally founded the ThyssenKrupp steel empire in Essen.
Rows of red, upholstered seating provide space for 1,906 spectators in the Philharmonie Essen. An impressive organ, built by famous Swiss organ manufacturing company Kuhn and featuring 60 organ stops, is located at the head of the hall. The neighbouring RWE Pavillon is a glass cube created for smaller events and concerts. Its glass front opens out to the public garden.
The Philharmonie Essen has a long musical tradition: Richard Strauss opened the first hall in 1904, and Gustav Mahler stood at the lectern of the Essener Philharmoniker to conduct the debut performance of his 6th symphony in 1906. Today, the Philharmonie Essen is the main venue for the Essener Philharmoniker under General Music Director and Chief Conductor Tomáš Netopil. In addition to symphony and chamber music concerts, national and international stars from the worlds of classical music and jazz music also put on guest performances here.
The TUP's plays division is located in the Grillo-Theater in the centre of town, near the venerable Lichtburg cinema. The Grillo-Theater celebrated its 125th birthday in 2017. Since 1988, it has been the main venue for theatre in Essen. The present building was opened in 1950, the original building having been destroyed in the Second World War. After being renovated due to construction defects, the adaptable, spacious theatre, designed by architect Werner Ruhnau, is now open to the public. Three reliefs from sculptor Herbert Lungwitz can be seen over the main entrance to the Grillo-Theater.
The theatre's programme includes classic and modern pieces for both adults and children. What's more, the theatre also offers space for readings, discussions or poetry slams. Smaller productions take place in "Casa", another venue situated next door.
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