SHARE
COPY LINK

CULTURE

The show must go on: How cultural life has moved online in Germany

The audience being housebound does not necessarily mean the end of live performances. We take a look at creative cultural events across Germany which have migrated online.

The show must go on: How cultural life has moved online in Germany
The empty amphitheatre of the Bavarian Staatsoper in 2017. Source: DPA
In the time of coronavirus lockdown, many of us will be adjusting to life indoors, sealed off from the world and binge watching our favourite Netflix series.
 
But alternative forms of entertainment are becoming increasingly available to a nation under house arrest, as, despite being one of the hardest hit sectors economically, creative institutions across Germany are finding innovative ways to bring art to audiences at home. 
 
 
Their aim is to keep people entertained and to continue using art to keep people feeling connected with others.
 
Here are some of the cultural events which are now available online. We anticipate that as the situation continues, the list is bound to become longer.
 
A night in at the opera

Never been to the opera? Well, now is your chance to check out some high culture from the comfort of your couch – for free. 

The Bavarian State Opera is offering both a live stream and a video on demand service of opera and ballet performances. The next live stream will be the opera “The 7 Deaths of Maria Callas” on Saturday, April 11th and the full schedule can be found here.

The Berlin State Opera is also keeping  “visitors” entertained from afar with its video-on-demand service, updated daily with a new performance and available to view around the clock. 

The Berlin State Opera  is also streaming the occasional show – last week’s stream of Bizet’s beloved “Carmen” drew 160,000 viewers from around the globe. 

Concerts

Star pianist Igor Levit. Photo: DPA

Many say there’s nothing quite like live music. So what happens when all the concerts are cancelled?  Musicians are also turning to live streams to keep the live music experience alive for housebound audiences.

The Berlin Philharmonic’s Digital Concert Hall is offering a free month of streaming for over 600 concerts that stretch back more than ten years. Included are the upcoming live streams – you can find the schedule here.

Since last Thursday, Russian-German star pianist Igor Levit has been giving daily concerts from his living room and streaming them via his Twitter and Instagram accounts.

Some pop stars are also switching to an internet audience – British singer James Blunt gave a live stream of his concert to an empty Elbphilarmonie in Hamburg last Wednesday for free. 

Museums

Museums across the country may have had to close their doors to visitors, but many are offering online tours to make sure people don’t miss out on these valuable cultural experiences.

Amongst others, the Deutsche Museum in Munich – a museum of “masterpieces of science and technology” is now open for a virtual visit and the famous antiquities museum of Berlin – the Pergamon – is also open for an online tour.

Other events

The Leipzig Book Fair was cancelled as a result of the Coronavirus spread, but some readings and conversations with the authors are now available online.

The Marionette Theatre in Munich has been around since 1858. Photo: DPA

The unique Munich Marionette Theatre is offering a free online stream of its next performance –  Mozart’s the Magic Flute, on Saturday at 8pm.

Do you know of any other online events or activities which you would like us to include? You can email us at [email protected]

 

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.

OPINION & ANALYISIS

What’s behind Germany’s obsession with roundtable politics talk shows?

Forget the Bundestag. If you want to understand German politics - and see how lively it can really be - turn on your (almost nightly) talk show.

What's behind Germany's obsession with roundtable politics talk shows?

It may well be one of the most German things imaginable – a roundtable discussion designed to give a fair amount of time to a wide range of viewpoints before (maybe) achieving some sort of consensus.

Failing that, viewers – theoretically anyway – walk away better informed and open to changing some of their opinions after a, again theoretically, respectful discussion.

Welcome to the German political talk show circuit – a collection of moderated roundtable discussions.

Whether its Anne Will on Sunday nights, “Hart aber fair” or “tough but fair” on Mondays, or Maybrit Illner on Thursdays and Markus Lanz on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays – you can tune into several political panels a week if you fancy.

If you have politically-minded German friends or co-workers, you might ask: “Did you watch Lanz last night?” Anecdotally, at least as many people who watch will have strong opinions about why they don’t.

Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk makes a video appearance (left video) on the Markus Lanz show on 10 March 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ZDF | Cornelia Lehmann

“Lanz is a disgrace!” and “I don’t watch Anne Will out of principle!” are both phrases I’ve heard myself more than a few times over the years.

But if you are a fan and you miss an episode, don’t worry – many news outlets will run summaries of what happened during said roundtable the next morning.

“Newspapers regularly publish these recaps almost as if they were relevant parliamentary meetings,” says Peter Littger, a columnist on language and culture in Germany. “It’s super relevant politically. It can increase your voting base and certainly your book sales if you appear there.”

READ ALSO: Tatort to Temptation Island: What do Germans like to watch on TV?

‘Consensus-oriented political culture’

If the nationally-focused ones aren’t enough for you, there’s a good chance you can find a show on a regional broadcaster focusing on issues in your federal state, again in – you guessed it – roundtable format.

As you might have gathered, the show’s name is often the same as its host, who functions first and foremost as a moderator there to facilitate and mediate a discussion between guests who are chosen specifically to balance a panel.

For a discussion on Ukraine, for example, you’ll regularly have people from every political party, from ministers and high-ranking parliamentarians who chair important Bundestag committees to pro-Russian voices from the German Left Party and far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD).

And no one is too high-ranking not to make at least the occasional appearance. Chancellor Olaf Scholz himself joined a Maybrit Illner roundtable on July 7th this year.

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz appears on the Maybrit Illner show on 7 July 2022. Photo: picture alliance/dpa/ZDF | Svea Pietschmann

Both European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba have also made appearances on Anne Will this year.

In characteristically German fashion, state broadcasters have extensive written regulations to ensure a panel also has a balance of people from relevant expert disciplines. For instance, a coronavirus panel may well feature a notable doctor alongside a civil liberties lawyer.

“Germany has a more consensus-oriented political culture than you might see in a country like the UK, for example, which is more confrontational and even adversarial,” says Sebastian Ludwicki-Ziegler a PhD researcher at the University of Stirling’s Department of Communications, Media, and Culture.

“You’ll still get some invited guests who are very contrarian and even aggressive – like Thilo Sarrazin (a former politician who wrote a controversial book in 2010 about Muslim immigration to Germany) for example. But even then, the moderator often tries to maintain a softer, more civil tone.”

Ludwicki-Ziegler says that while the roundtable format reflects German political culture, it also reflects its institutional setup. A show producer can simply get more obvious ranges of political opinion in a country with Germany’s proportional representation, which has seven parties in parliament.

Historic roundtables

Unlike the often subdued German Bundestag though, German talk shows can certainly get lively, or even historic.

Perhaps the most notable TV roundtable happened right after the 2005 federal election. With then incumbent Social Democrat Gerhard Schröder having finished only one percent behind Christian Democrat Angela Merkel when all the votes were counted, party leaders gathered in the traditional “Elefantenrunde,” or yes, the “Elephant’s round,” to discuss the results.

READ ALSO: Talking elephants and grumpy politicians: Four things that will happen after the German elections

With the final election result having been so close, observers still discuss whether Schröder lost his chancellorship at the ballot box or during the 2005 Elefantenrunde. In contrast to a calm Merkel, Schröder insisted he would stay on as Chancellor.

Brash and arrogant, some observers have asked whether he was drunk at the time. German media outlets ran anniversary pieces looking back at his disastrous roundtable performance 5, 10, and 15 years later. One such anniversary piece from 2020 called the roundtable “Schröder’s embarrassing end.”

The 2005 post-election roundtable, or “Elefantenrunde,” is considered by many German political observers to be the disastrous end to former Chancellor Gerhard Schröder;s political career. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | ZDF/Jürgen_Detmers

Mastering the roundtable appearance is a big plus for a German politician, or anyone else looking to move the needle of German public opinion.

Satisfying a particularly German impulse, you can certainly also walk away feeling like you’ve considered all sides. But are there drawbacks?

On 8 May 2022’s edition of Anne Will, social psychologist Harald Welzer appeared to lecture Ukrainian Ambassador Andriy Melnyk that 45 percent of Germans were against delivering heavy weapons to Ukraine because of German war history. Many observers criticised Welzer for patronising the Ambassador of a country at war about the need to have weapons for its own self-defense.

The exchange, and a fair few others, lead some experts to wonder whether the roundtable format so many German political talk shows seem to love gives too big a platform to pro-Russian voices or to controversial writers like the aforementioned Thilo Sarrazin.

“If we take Germany and Ukraine as one example, you can get some great guests who come on and really set things straight with facts, data, and plain talk,” says Benjamin Tallis, a Fellow in German Security Policy at the German Council on Foreign Relations.

“But you can get false balance. You’ll get people on with rather fringe opinions given a platform against people who have a lot more experience and evidence. That’s true in a lot of places now, sure, but this talk show format really lends itself to that because of the amount of guests you need on a nightly basis,” says Tallis.

“Unfortunately in Germany, many guests are invited on based on their opinions about an issue rather than the level of their expertise, in order to try and achieve balance,” says Minna Alander, a specialist in German foreign policy who recently joined the Finnish Institute of International Affairs after more than a decade working in Berlin.

“When you start equating opinion with knowledge, it makes it way more difficult to have a fact-based debate. On matters of life and death, like in Ukraine, that can have a polarising effect.”

SHOW COMMENTS