20 Years of the Classic Open Air Festival on Berlin’s Gendarmenmarkt

Who could have imagined it back then? In 1991 the Gendarmenmarkt was quite a different place from what it is today. With one major building site next to the other, the square was such a jumble of construction work that it looked more like a photomontage of two completely different cities. Even so, nothing could put me off the idea of staging open air concerts on this stunningly beautiful square, and so in July 1992 the idea became reality as the great tenor José Carreras stood on stage and opened the very first Classic Open Air Festival with a spectacular concert.

In his wake came a glittering array of famous artists - not just from classical music, but from pop, rock and jazz too. Artists of the calibre of Montserrat Caballé, Roberto Alagna, José Cura, Marcelo Alvarez, Anna Maria Kaufmann, Thomas Quasthoff, Lucia Aliberti or the Buena Vista Social Club, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, Chris de Burgh, the Scorpions, Xavier Naidoo, die Söhne Mannheims, Roger Cicero, Udo Jürgens, Till Brönner, Paul Kühn, Anett Louisan, and Curtis Stigers are just a few of the stars who have filled the history of the Festival with unforgettable highlights.

They were supported by great orchestras, choirs and ballet ensembles from across the whole of Germany under the baton of such superb conductors as Kurt Masur, Maurice Jarre and Niksa Bareza. Our partnership with the Kammeroper Schloss Rheinsberg gave many young soloists their first chance to perform on stage before such a large audience. For many, their appearance on the Gendarmenmarkt marked the start of a glittering career which has since led them on to capture the hearts of audiences at all the world’s leading opera houses. Famous actors including Katja Riemann and Ben Becker have hosted evenings or sung on the Gendarmenmarkt stage, while composers like Wagner, Strauss, Handel, Bach and Verdi have lent the special resonance of their musical signatures to concert evenings in the square. But not only that: the special stagings with their fireworks, lights and lasers have also contributed in no small measure to the Festival’s enduring success.

Over the past 19 years some 600,000 visitors have attended a grand total of 105 concerts and the TV recordings of the concerts have been broadcast around the world. It was a major endorsement of our work to receive the 2005/2006 Live Entertainment Award (LEA) for the “Outstanding Festival of The Year” – an award given annually by the German music and concert promotion industry.

There are a great many people whom my business partner, Mario Hempel (Managing Director), and I would like to thank for the unstinting support they gave, and still continue to give us, in making our manic vision come true. Very special thanks go of course to our audiences, without whose unfailing loyalty the Festival would never have been a success story enduring over 20 years.

Our visitors can look forward to a truly marvellous concert experience with popular melodies and evergreen works by immortal masters, performed by a lavish cast of artists over six summer evenings on the Gendarmenmarkt square.


Gerhard Kämpfe
Festival Director


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