One of Germany's best-known and most popular theaters, this magnificent opera house saw the premieres of Richard Wagner's Rienzi, Der Fliegende Holländer, and Tannhäuser and Richard Strauss's Salome, Elektra, and Der Rosenkavalier. The Dresden architect Gottfried Semper built the house in 1838–41 in Italian Renaissance style, then saw his work destroyed in a fire caused by a careless lamplighter. Semper had to flee Dresden after participating in a democratic uprising, but his son Manfred rebuilt the theater in the neo-Renaissance style you see today, though even Manfred Semper's version had to be rebuilt after the devastating bombing raid of February 1945. On the 40th anniversary of that raid—February 13, 1985—the Semperoper reopened with a performance of Der Freischütz, by Carl Maria von Weber, the last opera performed in the building before its destruction. There is a statue of Weber, another artist who did much to make Dresden a leading
center of German music and culture, outside the opera house in the shadow of the Zwinger. Even if you're no opera buff, the Semper's lavish interior can't fail to impress. Velvet, brocade, and well-crafted imitation marble create an atmosphere of intimate luxury (it seats 1,323). Guided tours (must be reserved in advance) of the building are offered throughout the day, depending on the opera's rehearsal schedule. Check the website for schedules. Tours begin at the entrance to your right as you face the Elbe River.