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Sixty years of the Berliner Festspiele

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Postcard from the Freie Volksbühne 1965

1951 The Berliner Festspiele and the Berlin Film Festival are funded by the Allies to showcase the cultural accomplishments on the Western side of the iron curtain.

1955 Maria Callas and Herbert von Karajan perform together in a Milanese Scala production of Lucia di Lammermoor.

Under the slogan ‘Achievements of East Germany’ and with an exhibition of contemporary East German art, the Festpiele proclaims its aim at fostering East-West relations.

1959 Duke Ellington plays at the Festspiele’s first Berlin Jazz Festival.

1962 The Festspiele sets up a radio transmission to allow East Berliners to follow the Festspiele in spite of the Wall, erected the previous year.

1967 The planned theme ‘Encounters with the East’ is cancelled. The two Germanys are in no meeting mood.

1973 Ulrich Eckhardt starts his 27-year tenure as the Festspiele’s sixth director.  In the context of Willy Brandt’s Ostpolitik, the Festspiele works on its rapprochement with the East. 

1979 While the Leningrad Philharmonic Orchestra is a guest of the Festspiele, Leonard Bernstein conducts the Berlin Philharmonic for the first and only time.

1981 The Martin-Gropius-Bau, the Festpiele’s art exhibition hall, is inaugurated.

1985 An exceptional 400,000 visitors flock to the Martin-Gropius-Bau for the exhibitions ‘Palace Museum Peking: Treasures from the Forbidden City’ and ‘Europe and the Chinese Emperors’.

1988 The Staatsschauspiel Dresden is the first GDR theatre company to officially perform in West Germany.

1989 The GDR officially participates in the Festspiele and even has a member on the jury.

1990 After nearly four decades advocating rapprochement with the GDR, the Festspiele finally celebrate the Reunification of Germany.

1994 The Festspiele organize a concert to bid them farewell to the Ally forces.

2001 The Freie Volksbühne is revamped and turned into the Haus der Berliner Festspiele, finally giving the Festspiele its very own theatre.

            Joachim Sartorius takes over as director.

2002 ‘spielzeitèuropa’, a dance and theatre section that alternates its focus between Eastern and Western Europe, is created.

2011 Celebration of a three-fold jubilee for the Festspiele: 10 years under the direction of Joachim Sartorius; 10 years since the establishment of the Haus der Berliner Festspiele; 60th anniversary of the Berliner Festspiele.