Classic Open Air at the Gendarmenmarkt: a feast for the ears

Classic Open Air" is the motto at Berlin's Gendarmenmarkt. On five evenings the perhaps most beautiful place in Germany is reserved for the music. What began in 1992 with star tenor Jose Carreras continues year after year. The best seats are not in the concert area, but in front of it.

P etrus must be a classical music fan. The whole day it rains – but in the evening before the concert it stops surprisingly. And not just by chance on one evening, but on all evenings. Only once it drips – promptly the orchestra answers with "Singing in the rain.

Classic Open Air at the Gendarmenmarkt

The backdrop is magnificent: the German Cathedral on the left, the French Cathedral on the right, and the concert hall with the stage in between. 6.000 spectators watch and listen spellbound as the German Film Orchestra Babelsberg shows all its skills on the first evening and plays "Highlights from Film and Musical". Under the direction of Robert Reimer, the orchestra enchants its audience. The names of the singers are also sonorous: Rene Kollo, Angelika Milster, Eva Lind and other well-known names. Here is another one: Senta Berger. But she does not sing, but moderates through the opening evening.

The seats at the Classic Open Air are not cheap (49 to 191 Euro) and so (like every year) many music lovers brought their own seat without further ado. In front of the barriers people sit on folding chairs, on picnic blankets and stools. There are construction fences blocking the view, but this is more about listening and less about watching.

In 2015 we sat in the audience, in 2016 in front of the Brasserie at Gendarmenmarkt. Honestly: It was even nicer in front of the restaurant. Good food and even better table music – a wonderful combination. And so we sit in front of the cafe-restaurant Shan Rahimkhan in 2017, have dinner and prick up our ears.


Second evening: "romantic night"

It is the second evening and Lucia Aliberti presents a "romantic night" with arias of bel canto from Puccini to Verdi. We hear, among others, Sandra Bogarts, accompanied by the North German Philharmonic Orchestra of Rostock under the conductor Roman Brogli-Sacher. A magical performance.

A notice points out, among other things, that "the carrying of weapons and weapon-like objects, suitcases, large bags and backpacks" is prohibited. The organizers, it seems, have also thought about the safety of the guests. It is all the more astonishing that the entrances to the Gendarmenmarkt are not protected with concrete barriers, but with simple barriers that a small child could knock over.

This barrier should be able to stop a truck if necessary? - Unbelievable

Security concept with question marks

On the third evening we happen to experience a – how shall we put it?? – "police action" with. On the houses opposite the stage are two, three people on the roofs. We saw them too, but mistook them for normal onlookers. Of course: from the balconies and terraces of the surrounding houses you have a great view of the concert.

But in this case the security forces get nervous. Officials with a serious expression on their faces and an ID around their necks talk to some policemen. The policemen want to check the situation and ring the bell at the bottom of the house. But nobody opens.

Police measure

Well, what now? The policemen discuss for a few minutes and finally inquire in the adjacent restaurant, the Brasserie. At this point the concert has long been in full swing. If there were actually terrorists on the roof, they could have struck long ago. The policemen go around the house and try it from another side. How the whole thing ends? Good. Because nothing happened. Nevertheless, the slow and not very determined actions of the police do not exactly encourage confidence that one is in good hands during such an event.

Sure, in this case criticism is called for. But you also have to see the other side. The police force has been cut to the bone by politicians in recent years, is staffed to the absolute limit and inadequately equipped. The police union (GdP), for example, said that since 2000, some 16.000 jobs have been eliminated without replacement. The GdP Federal Chairman Jorg Radek said: "The police are forced to withdraw from the area. That's why the police have already had to close precincts. This is what people in this country don't like. This is what we are told over and over again". Now the pressure on the policy must be concentrated.