The Staatsoper Unter den Linden is one of the oldest and largest musical theaters in Germany. Founded in 1742 as the Royal Court Opera (German: Königliche Hofoper) under Frederick II. Located in Berlin, on the main street Unter den Linden.
King Frederick II of Prussia shortly after his accession to the throne commissioned the original building on the site. Construction work began in July 1741 with what was designed by Georg Wenzeslaus von Knobelsdorff to be the first part of a "Forum Fredericianum" on present-day Bebelplatz. Although not entirely completed, the Court Opera (Hofoper) was inaugurated with a performance of Carl Heinrich Graun's Cesare e Cleopatra on December 7, 1742. This event marked the beginning of the successful, 250-year co-operation between the Staatsoper and the Staatskapelle Berlin, the state orchestra, whose roots trace back to the 16th century.
In 1821, the Berlin Opera—hosted at the Schauspielhaus Berlin—gave the premiere of Weber's Der Freischütz. In 1842, Wilhelm Taubert instituted the tradition of regular symphonic concerts. In the same year, Giacomo Meyerbeer succeeded Gaspare Spontini as General Music Director. Felix Mendelssohn also conducted symphonic concerts for a year.
On August 18, 1843 the Linden Opera was destroyed by fire. The reconstruction of the building was supervised by architect Carl Ferdinand Langhans, and the Königliches Opernhaus (Royal Opera House) was inaugurated the following autumn by a performance of Meyerbeer's Ein Feldlager in Schlesien. In 1849, Otto Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor was premiered at the Royal Opera House, conducted by the composer.
1945: The Lindenoper was once again destroyed on February 3. The concerts were relocated to the Admiralspalast and the Schauspielhaus. On 18 February, Karajan conducted his last symphonic concert with the Staatskapelle in the Beethoven hall.
The second rebuilding took a long time. From 1945, the opera company played in the former Admiralspalast (today's Metropoltheater). From 1949, the company served as the state opera of East Germany. It moved back to its original home after the rebuilding in freely adapted baroque forms was finally completed in 1955. The newly rebuilt opera house was opened, again, with Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. The capacity is now about 1,300. After the Berlin Wall was built in 1961, the Opera was somewhat isolated, but still maintained a comprehensive repertoire that featured the classic and romantic period together with contemporary ballet and operas.
After reunification, the Linden Opera rejoined the operatic world. Important works that had already performed in the past were rediscovered and discussed anew within the framework of a "Berlin Dramaturgy". Baroque Opera in particular was at the center of attention, with Graun's Cleopatra e Cesare, Keiser's Croesus, Florian Leopold Gassmann's L'opera seria and Scarlatti's Griselda. These works were performed by Belgian conductor René Jacobs together with the Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin and the Freiburger Barockorchester on period instruments. In the 1990s, the opera was officially renamed Staatsoper Unter den Linden.
In 1992, the Argentine-Israeli conductor Daniel Barenboim was appointed Music Director. In 2000, the orchestra (according to its official website) elected Barenboim "conductor for life." During the 2002 Festtage, he led a Wagner cycle in ten parts, a production created in collaboration with director Harry Kupfer.
Since 2009, the Berlin State Opera has been undergoing considerable renovation work led by German architect HG Merz. The roof of the opera building was raised and the proscenium prolonged to improve the acoustics. Other renovation and extension works include the director's building, the below-ground connection building and the depot building. The latter will house the new rehearsal center.
The house was reopened in 2017 with premieres of Humperdinck's Hänsel und Gretel and Monteverdi's L'incoronazione di Poppea on one weekend.