By Thomas Braun
The participants in the Citizens’ Forum for the renovation of the State Opera have met regularly since October. Now it’s down to the nitty-gritty: By mid-December, a recommendation for action should be drawn up on how to proceed with the renovation.
Stuttgart – The forum for the renovation of the Stuttgart State Opera, which was made up of 57 randomly selected citizens, had three sessions, and the decision on a vote for politics is slowly drawing closer. Before its announcement on December 16, the committee meets twice – and discusses its recommendations largely behind closed doors. Time for an interim balance.
The corona pandemic has also influenced the citizens’ forum. In video conferences lasting several hours, the invited experts and critics of the major project presented facts, estimates and views to the participants. Central issues such as the cost of the renovation of the historic Littmann building, possible locations for an interim or the construction of a third venue and the installation of a cross stage in the historic, listed walls were dealt with. The citizens were able to ask specific questions, the discussion between supporters and critics of the project was moderated calmly by Antje Grobe from the agency Dialog Basis. Representatives of the Aufbruch Stuttgart association also spoke in detail at several meetings with their alternative suggestions and their criticism of the high costs of the renovation. The initiative led by ex-TV presenter Wieland Backes and the architect Arno Lederer had initially canceled their participation in the citizens’ forum after previous severe criticism of the format, but then decided at short notice to participate. Also heard was the position of the Königin-Katharina-Stift, which is located next to the opera, which, as is well known, does not want to give up the school location in favor of an interim theater propagated by the Newcomer. And of course those most affected – the directors of opera and ballet as well as employees of the Württemberg State Theaters – should describe their view of things and the current situation on site.
The sticking points
The main points of controversy in the debate remain the costs of the renovation and the planned interim venue for the car halls, which are estimated at more than one billion euros depending on the start and progress of construction. But the alternative models of the Aufbruch Association, which promotes the abandonment of the Kreuzbühne for monument protection reasons and a multi-purpose building close to the opera as an interim and estimates the expenditure for it to be half of the amount forecast by the city and country, were critically examined by the citizens. The planned installation of the Kreuzbühne and the associated partial displacement of the southern opera facade by around two meters in the direction of the state parliament was of particular importance. The state theaters consider the Kreuzbühne to be indispensable in order to be able to change stage sets more quickly and thus to be able to stage complex opera and ballet performances in quicker succession. For the Stuttgart departure it would be a sacrilege on the historic Littmann building, the overall structure of which is falling apart due to the relocation of the facade. Invited monument protection and Littmann experts, on the other hand, consider a moderate modification of the historical building fabric to be justifiable – also with reference to statements by the late architect Max Littmann himself
The random citizens
There are coincidences, there is no such thing, as it is popularly known: The fact that the forum participants randomly selected according to gender, age and occupation from the country, city and region was initially the ex-wife of Aufbruch-Chairman Wieland Backes Beginning of the Citizens’ Forum for Irritations – and raised suspicions of bias, especially since, as a member of the Aufbruch, she argued in line with the initiative. She finally resigned her mandate at her own request. Otherwise, the format met with great approval from the participants. “I’m thrilled – especially that not only people from Stuttgart were included in the process,” says Annette Greve from Endingen am Kaiserstuhl. After all, the renovation of the State Opera is not just a Stuttgart issue. As a citizen, she feels “taken absolutely seriously” by politicians and experts. This is how Sven Gerhards from Karlsruhe sees it: “Our requests for additional expertise, for example on the subject of the Kreuzbühne, were taken into account. I went into the forum completely uninformed and now I really have the feeling that I know my way around. ”His conclusion: The format is also“ recommended for imitation ”for similar large-scale projects. Marcus Ilg from Welzheim is also impressed by the “pleasant conversation culture” in the forum. Occasional technical problems during the video conferences did not spoil the positive overall impression. The native of Stuttgart is particularly pleased about the honesty and openness of the debate: “That was nothing.”
The state government
State Councilor Gisela Erler, who developed the forum and pushed it through against a lot of resistance, is naturally also satisfied with the way it has gone so far: “Here we see an example of what good public participation can achieve.” For the first time, all aspects of the topic have been extremely bundled . “There has never been anything like this on this topic before,” says Erler. The positions of Aufbruch Stuttgart had also been clarified widely and with numerous inquiries. “I’m surprised how well the online format works,” added Erler. Incidentally, the forum participants also see it that way.