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Vienna Opera celebrates 50th anniversary of post-war rebirth



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VIENNA, Nov 5 (AFP) - Vienna on Saturday celebrated the 50th anniversary of the reconstruction of its famed Opera House, destroyed in World War II, with a gala concert starring Spanish tenor Placido Domingo.

The reopening on November 5, 1955 of the "Staatsoper", or State Opera House, destroyed by US bombing a decade before, was seen as a key cultural moment in the country's recovery following the conflict.

"Its reopening showed to the world that Austria, which had been extinct (after the 1938 union with Hitler's Germany) was again intact," said Opera House director Ioan Holender.

The building was "a central element of the Austrian identity," he added.

The evening's performance was to be based around extracts from six operas performed when the building reopened half a century before, from the likes of Beethoven, Mozart, Wagner, Richard Strauss and Verdi.

Along with Domingo, performers were to include Thomas Hampson, Bryn Terfel and others.

Following a post-war architectural debate about whether the Opera House should be redesigned completely or simply reconstructed, the latter option was chosen.

The building was thus constructed according to the 1869 designs of architects August Sicard von Sicardsburg and Eduard van der Nuell, ordered by Emperor Francis Joseph.

Considered one of the world's leading arts venues, the Opera House has been led by composers Gustav Mahler (1897-1907) and Richard Strauss (1919-1922), as well as conductor Herbert von Karajan (1956-1964).

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COPYRIGHT 2005 Agence France-Presse. All rights reserved.

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