Tickets sell out in three minutes as Berlin Philharmonic reopens to public

A thousand tickets snatched up in three minutes -- a year after concert halls across Germany were closed to stop the spread of the coronavirus, a pilot project for spectators to return has been greeted by a rush for seats.

Tickets sell out in three minutes as Berlin Philharmonic reopens to public
A man shows his ticket for the Berlin Philharmonic on its opening night on Saturday. Photo: DPA

As the world-famous Berlin Philharmonic under its chief conductor Kirill Petrenko struck the final chords of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Second Symphony on Saturday evening, the audience rose to its feet to give it a long and rapturous standing ovation.

“Attending a real concert changes everything,” said one audience member, Peter, in his thirties. “I have been watching concerts on video but that’s nothing compared to this.”

For violinist Aleksandar Ivic, too, the return to stage before a crowd has been nothing less than emotional.

“For months, we have been playing without an audience, which is still better than nothing. But the spectators make the difference between 2D and 3D,” he told AFP.

It is “us plus the public that can bring us to a state that we cannot achieve by playing alone,” he said.


As in other countries around the world, Germany’s cultural scene has been devastated by repeated shutdowns aimed at stemming the spread of the virus.

Some opera houses and symphony orchestras improvised during the summer, taking advantage of the good weather to bring performances outdoors including to backyards of private residences, or to smaller audiences.

But after a limited restart in the autumn when set numbers of spectators were allowed indoors again, concert halls and theatres were shut once more from November.

Some shops were allowed to reopen in March following the latest shutdown in December, nurturing hopes that cultural facilities might be able to welcome live audiences again.

But infection numbers have since risen, and are now surging at an exponential rate.

READ ALSO: The show must go on: How German orchestras are continuing concerts amid the pandemic

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is meeting regional leaders of Germany’s 16 states later Monday to decide new measures to contain the virus, has warned that a shutdown will have to be tightened again.

With Germany’s inoculation campaign also progressing at a sluggish pace, the country is poised for further restrictions into April.

Despite the dismal prospects, the Berlin Philharmonic’s general manager Andrea Zietschmann said her institution had joined in Berlin authorities’ pilot project to find a way for the culture sector to operate despite the pandemic.

Just ahead of the concert, Zietschman went on stage to voice her and “the musicians’ emotions” at greeting a crowd again.

Tests, masks, distance

At the Philharmonic’s concert, strict rules were in place to reduce the risk of contagion.

Spectators were required to give their names when purchasing the tickets, which were not transferable.

They were then mandated to get a free test on the day of the concert in one of five centres cooperating with the Philharmonic or at the concert hall itself.

A mobile ticket which guests carried with them to the event. Photo: DPA

Medical staff in protective suits were at hand to administer the swabs.

Those testing positive would have their tickets reimbursed, although no one had to be turned away from Saturday’s concert.

During the show, it was masks on for all spectators.

Every next seat was left unoccupied.

To limit movements around the hall, no refreshments were sold, and no coat check service offered.

The site was also regularly disinfected and aerated with a specialised air-conditioning system.

Musicians sat a metre (three feet) apart, except for wind players, who were at 1.5 metres apart.

In all, about a dozen concert halls and theatres joined in the pilot project.

The Berliner Ensemble, a theatre company founded by Bertolt Brecht, put up its first show in months with an audience on Friday evening before several hundred people.

“What is important is that culture is put back on the rails. In Spain, in Poland, in Luxembourg, there is theatre, opera,” said Berliner Ensemble director Oliver Reese.

“We are in mid-March and we still have no idea what will happen in April or May. We cannot bear that,” he said.

Member comments

  1. Well, very happy that Classical Music for those well-oof doesn’t have to worry about things any longer. Rock, Jazz, Blues? Oh, that disgusting working man music, let’s not even bother to try & allow THAT kind of music to restart, then perhaps those horrible, smelly, working class people will just go away!

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


Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

The holiday of Diwali kicks off on Monday. Here's where you can celebrate all around Germany.

Where to celebrate Diwali 2022 in Germany

With over 100,000 Indians in Germany, and over 175,000 people of Indian descent, it’s little wonder that Diwali – the famous five day Hindi festival of lights starting this year on Monday October 24th – is being celebrated all around the Bundesrepublik

READ ALSO: Indians in Germany: Who are they and where do they live?

Even the House of Parliament in Frankfurt is honouring the holiday for the first time with a special reception on October 30th.

Diwali takes its name from the clay lamps or deepa (the event is sometimes called Deepawali) that many Indians light outside their home. With the days shortening in Germany, there’s all the more reason to celebrate light — especially over lively music, traditional dance and authentically spicy Indian cuisine.

We have rounded up some of the top events to celebrate around Germany, both the week of Diwali and afterwards, stretching into mid-November. If you have an additional event to suggest, email us at [email protected]

October 24th in Heidelberg

Happen to be in Heidelberg? Then it’s not too late to head to the Sweet Home Project, which will be cooking up a storm starting at 6:30pm. The menu includes an assortment of Indian sweets and savoury dishes. The collective only asks that participants bring along a candle (and a hearty appetite).

If you miss this event, and are still craving some (really) spicy traditional cuisine, the Firebowl Heidelberg is hosting a Diwali party on October 29th, replete with lots of food and drink and Bollywood beats the whole night. 

October 29th near Frankfurt

For those who fancy a Feier with a full-buffet, this celebration in Dreieich delivers through an all-you-can-eat dinner with traditional fare. Starting at 5pm and stretching into the early hours of the morning, the festive feast includes traditional Bollywood music by Derrick Linco. There’s also a dance party for kids, who receive free admission up to seven years old and €25 up to 14 years. Normal tickets go for €40 per person.

A previous Diwali celebration of traditional dance and music in Dresden. Photo: picture alliance / dpa | Sebastian Kahnert

November 4th near Düsseldorf

On November 4th at 6pm, the Deutsch-Indische Gesellschaft Düsseldorf will be hosting a family-friendly party in nearby Ratingen with classical Indian music and dance, a huge dinner and Bollywood music led by DJ SA-ONE. Tickets cost about €40 each, but children under six receive free entry. 

November 5th in Bonn 

The Indian Students Association of Bonn-Cologne will be hosting its biggest event of the year: for €10, event goers can try an array of Indian food, play classic games and tune into cultural performances. 

READ ALSO: Moving from India to Munich changed my life

November 12th in Essen 

Whether you like traditional bhajans or meditative ragas, this concert will capture many of the classic sounds of Indian music with artists such as Anubhab Tabla Ensemble, Debasish Bhattacharjee and Somnath Karmorak taking center stage. The performance starts at 5pm and costs €10. 

November 12th and 13th in Berlin

Indian food fans will get to enjoy 12 stands devoted to Indian cuisine and products, all coming from the local Indian community. The weekend-long festival will also include stand-up comedy from the Desi Vibes Comedy Group. Karaoke fans will also enjoy singing along with the Sounds of India group, followed by an after party on Saturday. All this only costs €2 at the door.