Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts

First Advisor

Dr. Hugh West


In October 2000, Berlin’s Minister of Culture Christoph Stölzl proposed a merger of the city’s opera houses. In the midst of German reunification, Berlin was struggling financially and the cost of three separate opera houses was too much for the city to bear. This proposal to combine the former East-German Staatsoper Berlin and Komishe Oper with the former West-German Deutsche Oper under the administration of “The Opera Stages of Berlin” was met with public backlash. Newspapers all over the world reported daily as the directors of both the Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper—Daniel Barenboim and Christian Thielemans— fought bitterly for their respective ensembles. This work aims to place the failed merger and its public uprising in a broader context of German musical competition. The Staatsoper and Deutsche Oper have been in competition for resources and prestige since their inception. More importantly, these rival ensembles and their separate identities have fought to define “Germanness” in a cultural context. Through the use of newspapers, archival documents and personal interviews, this thesis argues that despite popular opinion, the “German Opera Wars” is not a fight between leftover east and west mentalities and loyalties. Instead, the Opera Wars represent a culture of competition in music, as well as the enduring quest to discover “What is German?”