A theatre for 1£, the 32-spin-ballet-move explained and the 18 opera singers to watch!

1. We have been at the stage door many time and also Instagram is filed with #stagedoor photos, where fans get to meet the artists. West End Wilma has a great think piece on her blog “Are theatregoers ‘entitled’ to get autographs after a seeing a show?” What is your opinion?

2. Ever wondered what the dressing rooms of artists look like? The Dressing Room Project shows you exactly that! Go backstage with Michael Kushner Photography.

3. Did you know that up until a few weeks ago, there were no pointe shoes for black and Asian dancers in the UK? Ballet Black, a professional ballet company for international dancers of black and Asian background collaborated with Freed of London to change that. This is huge!

4. Have you noticed the gold foil on Instagram?
We are many! The #metoo movement not only shook the film industry, but also the arts. There is no denying that the tone is getting rough in the World and the political situation in many countries raises eyebrows. “Wir sind viele /We are many” sets a sign against hate, racism, sexism in Germany and we can all participate. Many museums, theaters, operas and artists have signed the petition.

5. Come backstage with us! Together with the Bayerisches Staatsballet Spectacle takes you backstage for an instawalk. Sign up on HERE.

6. Principal Dancer of the Royal Ballet in London, Steven McRae, will join the cast for an upcoming film adaption. Check out which musical will soon be on the big screen.

7. You could own a 123-year-old theatre in Burnley, Lancaster, about an hour away from Manchester, UK. The auction starts at 1£. Interested?


8. Listen to the only known recording of an castrato!

9. Physics and ballet: In the thrid act, there is a scene in Swan Lake, during which the black swan spins again and again and again. Thirty-two times to be exact! It’s called fouétte and how is that possible? This video explains it!

10. Opera News features the 18 opera singers you should keep a close eye on in 2018/2019 (and beyond!).

Ballet sweaters, because sweater weather is our favorite and some discount codes

After this long and sweltering summer, we sure are happy for autumn. Autumn means hot drinks, pumpkins, in pretty much everything, and of course, sweater weather. Not so much a fan of pumpkins. But we love sweater weather and we want to make sure you all bundle up. We put together a couple of sweaters with a dance and ballet theme, that will keep you warm. Best of all, we also have discount codes for you, when you order your sweater. Happy sweater weather!

Bun Head for 20€ Oh Pliés for 20€ Prima in Training for 20€

All sweaters by Kelham Print and they are available in different colours.
Use SPECTACLE10 for 10% off your order on any item!

Which one are you? Black Swan (39,95€) oder White Swan (39,95€)?
Baustelle Berlin has these great sweaters in more colours. We talked to the creator behind Baustelle Berlin some time ago. Read the interview HERE.

Will Plié for Pizza (79€) by Cloud & Victory Reindeer/Pointe Sweater (85€) by Ballet Maniacs
Use CVPIZZA for 10% off this sweater Use SPECTACLE1581 for 10% off your order.

Marius Petipa (82€) Heartbreak Ballet (82€) Another Pirourette (49€)

All sweatshirts and much more by Ballet Maniacs
Use SPECTACLE1581 for 10% off your order on any item!

Let's take a walk with Tina Pereira of the National ballet of Canada through Central Park

This sponsored post is part of a cooperation with Falke

Being a ballerina means you need to work hard. Not only for a few weeks, but years! Many years! You also need to be focused and forgo things in life. That in itself is commendable and we can all agree that dancers are a special kind of person. Some dancers are even clear-sighted enough to create a plan b early in their career. Tina Pereira of the National Ballet of Canada is such a person. Together with Falke, we tell you more about her and about her own label Ballerina Couture.

Tina Pereira was born in Port of Spain, Trinidad and trained at Canada’s National Ballet School. In 2001 she joined The National Ballet of Canada until 2004. She came to Europe and dance with Het Nationale Ballet in The Netherlands for a year, but returned to The National Ballet of Canada in 2006. She is the First Soloist there since 2009.

Tina started her own label Ballerina Couture when she was just 18 years old. The goal was to create her own dancewear in which she could feel beautiful. The chance came up when she had a brief time off during an injury. When life hands you lemons, you create your own dancewear. Not only has she created clothes for her line, but has also been comissioned to create custom designs. How is that for a plan b?

A dancers career is short in general so it’s always important to think about how you will thrive as a person and artists once you transition from being a professional dancer.
— Tina Pereira
 Photographer:  Albert Ayzenberg   Sweater: private  leg warmers  by Falke

Photographer: Albert Ayzenberg
Sweater: private
leg warmers by Falke

If you think being a First Soloist with a world renowed ballet company and run your own dance wear line is impressive, than you should know that Tina just got married.
And planed her wedding in three weeks!

Tinas photos were taken by Albert Ayzenberg in Central Park, New York.
Below you find Tina Pereira’s choices from the Falke sportswear line. Click on the photos to find each piece in the online shop.

Theatre bookshops we love. Let's browse through these aisles!

I don't know about you, but I can hardly pass by a great bookshop. Ordering online is fine, bit browsing through the aisle and picking up books that catch your eye with interesting covers is something else. If they have a place for a cup of coffee, while flipping through the pages, even better.
These kind of theatre bookshops are not only wonderful treasure troves of specialized books, but also a great place to connect with likeminded people. A space, where you can meet artists or discover smaller theatres because they often hang up flyers to advertise their performances.
It is more than a bookshop, but a social hub if you want. Everything an online retailer is not. When a bookstore closes, it is also a loss for the community.
So it is time to showcase some of the bookshops specializing in theatre books (which often have a good selection of books about opera and ballet as well).

Einar & Bert in Berlin, Germany

No, not Ernie and Bert. This shop was named after two icons of the theatre world: Einar Schleef and Bertolt Brecht. This gem of a bookshop is located in Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin and you can browse and buy books about stage & costume design, acting methods, as well as puppetry or biographies. They also carry a wonderful selection of opera and dance books. Specialized magazines and e-books are available, too.
This book store has some touches of a library, the black shelves go up the the ceiling and those books can only be reached with a ladder. On the walls you find posters from the various theatres of Berlin. Sign up for the newsletter and get news about readings or book signings of various artists in the store. Also make sure, you check out the window display: Einar & Bert invites artists such as graphic designer, illustrators, directors, or photographer to display their work in a window and combine that with relevant books.

 Einar & Bert. © Holger Herschel

Einar & Bert. © Holger Herschel

 Einar & Bert. © Holger Herschel

Einar & Bert. © Holger Herschel

Einar & Bert Theaterbuchhandlung
Winsstraße 72
10405 Berlin

Samuel French in London, New York, & Los Angeles

When a witty American entrepreneur, Samuel French, and a British playwright, Thomas Hailes Lacy, work together great things can happen – the bookshop Samuel French, for example. French already had a publishing business in the mid 1800's in New York and joined forces with Lacy soon after he met him in London. To this day, Samuel French has locations in New York and London. This shop has a very extensive catalogue of books, plays and other products and if you take theatre seriously, Samuel French should be on your list. Not only do they preserve the very rich history of theatres, but also recognize artists, activists and up and coming stars with their Samuel French Awards.
The bookshop in London moved into a space in the Royal Court Theatre, after increasing rents forced it out of is original location. The bokshop in Los Angeles is located at the famous Sunset Blvd and when you are there, you should check out the “green room” inside the shop. Here customers get together to read over scripts for example. It is a great space to collaborate.

 Samuel French in London

Samuel French in London

 Samuel French in London

Samuel French in London

 Samuel French in Hollywood

Samuel French in Hollywood

Samuel French Theatre and Film Bookshop
7623 Sunset Blvd.
Hollywood, CA 90046

Samuel French Bookshop at The Royal Court Theatre
Sloane Square Chelsea
London SW1W 8AS, UK

Samuel French
235 Park Ave S,
New York, NY 10003, USA

La Librairie Théâtrale in Paris, France

There is something so very wonderful about the buildings in Paris and this building is no different. Located in the 2nd arrondissement, not far away from the opera and other theatres, this shop has a wonderful collection ranging from classical theatre to vaudeville. We, especially, love the great selection of books for children. The salesmen are very competent and chances are you'll find some books here, you won't get anywhere else. It is also a great place to find out about shows and events, as theatres hang up their flyers here.

La Librairie Théâtrale Paris.gif

La Librairie Théâtrale
3, rue de Marivaux
75002 Paris, France

The National Theatre Bookshop in London, UK

As one of the theatre capitals in the world London has several bookshops dedicated to theatre. The bookshop in The National Theatre is sure worth a visit, while you are checking out the striking brutalist concrete architecture of the National Theatre. It overflows with books, playtexts and you can even find gifts for yourself or the theatre lover in your life, which accompanies the performances at The National Theatre very well. It is located on the ground floor and incorporates touchscreen technology.

NT Bookshop 1.jpg

National Theatre
London SE1 9PX, UK

Drama Book Shop in New York City, USA

This is a legendary shop. Located right in the heart of New York's theatre district, it has served so many actors for almost a century. You will find pretty much every script you are looking for. Sheet music is also available in this cozy place. Thanks to many events including readings and signings you have plenty of opportunity to network and to meet actors and likeminded theatre lovers. Unfortunately it was just reported in various newspapers that this iconic bookshop will relocate in early 2019, due to increasing rent. In 2016 a pipe burst here and ruined a large part of the books at the Drama Book Shop. People came together, thanks to Lin-Manuel Miranda and his public campaign and turned this distaster into a success after all. Making it even more important, that we all should support local shops of any kind if possible.

Drama book shop.jpg
Drama book shop.png

Drama Book Shop
250 W 40th St #1,
New York, NY 10018, USA

International Theatre & Film Bookshop in Amsterdam, The Netherlands

This bookshop has more than six thousand titles in four languages about theatre, dance, opera musical and cabaret In addition to the books, you can also browse through an extensive collection of DVDs of film adaptions, documentaries, and dance performances.
It is located in the Stadsschouwburg, which is the Municipal Theatre in Amsterdam.


International Theatre & Film Bookshop
Leidseplein 26
1017 PT Amsterdam

El Ateneo Grand Splendid in Buenos Aires, Argentina

To be fair, El Ateneo Grand Splendid is not a theatre bookshop, but a bookshop in a theatre. And it is one of the most beautiful bookshops you will ever set foot into. Each year more than one million customers visit this theatre/bookshop. And who can blame them: It reopened as a bookshop in 2000 and many details from the old theatre are still intact: The stage, the balconies and even the red curtains.

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

El Ateneo Grand Splendid
Av. Santa Fe 1860
C1123 CABA, Argentina

Ballet warm up with Sayaka Wakita of Theater Dortmund. And her three warm up songs that sure to be stuck in your head.

This sponsored post is in cooperation with Falke.

Even though dancing ballet is creative and unique and all about trail and error and start again, there are few things that are gospel. And one of them is: Before you begin to dance, either on stage or in rehearsal, you need to warm up!
Every dancer has his or her own method, therefore it is always interesting if this method is being shared by the pros and since the warm up is the first thing a dancer does it only feels appropriate to start our cooperation with German brand Falke on this topic. We reached out to Sayaka Wakita of the Theater Dortmund to show us her way of warming up.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Sports bra ,  briefs  and  socks  by Falke

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Sports bra, briefs and socks by Falke

Sayaka Wakita was born in Kasugai, Japan and has been a member of Theater Dortmund since 2017. She started at the Victoria Ballet Academy in Toronto, Canada and went on to the Royal Ballet School in Antwerpen, Belgium. Sayaka had engagements with the Yakutsk National Ballet, Armenian National Ballet, and with the Mersin State Opera as well as with Astana Ballet. She has also danced in various ballet competitions.

My warm up is usually not longer than 30 minutes to 1 hour but I do go to the gym during my free time to work on inner muscles and core strengthening.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Socks  and  jacket  by Falke. Body private

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Socks and jacket by Falke. Body private

Let’s take a look how Sayaka warms up. Here are her personal 10 steps.
1. I drink coffee in an oversplit as soon as I wake up and I have a small treat (usually a small chocolate) in the morning.

2. Ankle stabilization with the Pita or Stabilizer Foam, 30 reps of plie, 30 reps of releves on both ankles

3.  When I get to work, I like to start by getting into the studio and going directly to the mirror. I like to tie my hair right in front of the mirror and check that everything is in place before my class starts. Ballet is also a lot about the aesthetics. Also it gives me a sense of meditation and reminder that you work for yourself and not for anybody else.

4. Stretching my back on the roller.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Jacket ,  pants  and  socks  by Falke.

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Jacket, pants and socks by Falke.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Jacket ,  pants  and  socks  by Falke.

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Jacket, pants and socks by Falke.

5. 5-minute plank. There is not a day that I do not do this, even on days off or vacations. If I do not do this, my whole day gets wasted (literally). On the other hand, if I sleep in and I am late to work, but I still manage to do this exercise, my day will still turn out to be fine. It goes as follows:
1min plank for both arms
1 min plank for right side
1 min plank for both arms
1 min plank for left side
1 min plank for both arms
All continuously on a 5min timer lap

6. Feet exercise right and left. At least 20 sets with theraband

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Jacket ,  pants  and  socks  by Falke.

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Jacket, pants and socks by Falke.

7. Stretches for the back (lie on your back and put your legs all the way to the otherside of the floor) at least 2 min of this.

8. Releve exercise for the ankle in pointe shoes

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Running vest ,  body  by Falke. Tutu private

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Running vest, body by Falke. Tutu private

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Running vest ,  body  by Falke. Tutu private

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Running vest, body by Falke. Tutu private

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Running vest ,  body  by Falke. Tutu private

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Running vest, body by Falke. Tutu private

9. Side oversplit with a chair.

10. Class begins.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Body ,  leg warmers  by Falke. Tutu private.

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Body, leg warmers by Falke. Tutu private.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Body ,  leg warmers  by Falke. Tutu private.

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Body, leg warmers by Falke. Tutu private.

Music is also very important to Sayaka. You can often find her warming up while wearing her headphones and listening to music.
Her three must have songs include.

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Tube dress  by Falke

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Tube dress by Falke

 Photo:  Anastasia Benko .  Tube dress  by Falke

Photo: Anastasia Benko. Tube dress by Falke

Raise your hand, if you have the song Moves like Jagger stuck in your head now!
How do you warm up? What songs do you like to listen to when you get ready to dance? Let us know!

Here are all of Sayakas choices to wear to warm up. to dance or to look good when you are active. All clothes are by Falke. Click the photo to buy.

Eleven ballet documentaries, movies and tv shows to enjoy during the summer. Or any season, really.

Summertime is in full swing and you find many lists all over the internet for the best summer reads. But with mobile devices, netflix and shows-on-demand, it is only useful to replace the "must-read-list" with a "must-watch-list" to enjoy while lounging by the pool or at home.
We put together a list of ballet documentaries, movies and shows. Some new and some are old classics, in no particular order. Enjoy your summer!

1. A Ballerina's Tale, 2015

A Ballerina's Tale tells the story of the magnificent Misty Copeland's rise to the top. The documentary was released shortly before she was promoted to principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre. You can follow along how Misty Copeland overcomes self doubt and also injuries while at the same time she is making history as an African American ballerina. This documentary celebrates black women, because you will meet other black women who have been the firsts in their fields. A wonderful celebration of determination, hard work and success.

2. Dancer, 2016

Sergei Polunin is one of the most recognizable and versatile dancers around. Some call him the bad boy of ballet. Others call him a genius. The name may not ring a bell, but you will recall, how he danced beautifully in the music video to “Take me to Church” by Hozier and directed by David LaChapelle.
His mother saw his talent early on and send him to gymnastic classes. But young Sergei rather wanted to be a dancer. With lots of talent and even more hard work he became one of the best dancers. Unfortunately the pressure got to him and with 22 he wanted to quit is career. The documentary “Dancer” shows how Sergei Polunin questions his career, but also how he makes it back to the top.

3. Sofia, 2018

A gorgeous, poetic short film by Shervin Kermani. He made this film as a thesis project while still in film school. This film is about an elderly man who doesn't have long to live. He has a dream in his deathbed that takes him through his life and retells memories that mark his life.
The dancer in the film is Sonia Rodriguez, the principal dancer with The National Ballet of Canada. This short film is full of nostalgia and certainly worth your time.

4. Ballet Now, 2018

You really have to ask yourself how Tiler Peck, the principal of the New York City Ballet finds enough hours in the day. Last July she directed the Music Center's BalletNOW program in Los Angeles. She was in charge of curation, music and atging. She is the first woman to ever direct this program and Steven Cantor, the same Steven Cantor who directed Sergei Polunin, followed along with a camera. Ballet Now is streamed on Hulu and you really want to see this!
You will watch how a wonderful dancer and nice person (I'm assuming here, hoping to find out myself one day) take on leadership and authority to create a great music program. Women are usually the stars on stage, but men tend to be directors and choreographers, so it is wonderful to see, that a woman takes on this role. I have a feeling, there is much more directing in Tiler Peck's future. I'm here for it.

5. Leap! 2017

Grab your kids and enjoy this animated movie about a girl who wants to become a ballerina in 19th-century Paris. Yes, it is historical inaccurate. But it is about the entrainment. You'll meet two orphans, Félicie and her friend Victor, who wants to be an inventor. A former ballerina teaches Félicie the ropes of ballet and encourages her to follow her dreams. And there is a kick ass dance battle, too! Maddie Ziegler voices the devious Camille Le Haut.

6. The Red Shoes, 1948

Now, this is a classic! And if you are into the old dance movies of Fred Astaire and Ginger Rodgers, you will enjoy this one. British Ballerina Moira Shearer gives her film debut here and portraits Vicky, a young dancer who stars in a ballet called The Red Shoes, based on the fairy tale by Hans Christian Anderson. Vicky falls in love with a young composer, but her devotion to ballet and to the role that made her famous threatens to tear them apart. This movie is ranked as one of the best in British film history and even won Academy Awards for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction.

7. Ballet 422, 2014

I love me a good fly-on-the-wall documentary. And Ballet 422 by Justin Peck (no relation to Tiler Peck) is as good as they come. Justin Peck is not only a wonderful dancer in his own right, but also a choreographer. He has received many awards for his work, including a Tony Award for Carousel. This documentary follows him along (like on the subway and his home!) while he is working to stage a new dance for the New York City Ballet. The 422nd dance to be exact, hence the name.

8. Flesh & Bone, 2015

The thing with mini series is this: When they are bad, you are glad, that they are over quickly. But when you enjoy them, you want them to go on. This is what happened to Flesh & Bone, a miniseries on Starz, about the dysfunction and glamour of ballet. Paul Grayson is the artistic director of the American Ballet Company and he is determined to turn it into the leading artistic institutions. Unfortunately, he can't count on his prima ballerina, Kiira to help. So all his hopes are placed on Claire Robbins, a ballet dancer with a troubled past. I really want more!

9. Restless Creature: Wendy Whelan, 2017

“If I don’t dance, I’d rather die.” She means it! Dance is her life. She is one of the greatest ballerinas. She joined the New York City Ballet when she was 17 and spend her career of three decades here. This film portrait about Wendy Whelan sneaks up on you and hits you in the face. Hard. In 2013 Wendy Whelan at age 46 is struggling to recover from an injury. An injury, that could very well end her career. This movie is more than a comeback story. It shows how a dancer comes to terms with ageing, while she has to reinvent herself outside of ballet. The humility and honesty of Wendy Whelan in this movie made it so real and wonderful, it will leave you rooting for her and sometimes crying with her.

10. Dancer, 1987

I admit it, the trailer below is really cheesy! But the movie is entertaining. Besides Mikhail Baryshnikov and Julie Kent, former prima ballerina and now the artistic director of the Washington Ballet, play in it. This movie is about a ballet dancer who os trying to turn the ballet Giselle into a film version. There is lots and lots of dancing and also lots of love. This romance in the movies mirrors the plot of Giselle. When you know Giselle, you know what to expect.

11. On the Ropes, 2018

Technically, this has nothing to do with ballet. But if you are in the mood for an action packed movie, with sibling rivalry and lots of fighting scenes, this should be your pick. One character, Chloe, is played by Tina Pereira, a ballerina with the National Ballet.

Opera books for children in German, Spanish, French and English

One of the remarkable things about children, is how quickly they pick up on things. Learning new languages seems to come easily to them. Chances are, if they are exposed early to opera and classical music, they develop a love for it.
Books are a wonderful way to help children understand opera and they are some great books out there. Often they include a cd so your children can not only look at the illustrations, hear the story, but also listen to the music. They are also perfect for adults to brush up on their knowledge.
We have put together books in various languages for you and your children to enjoy and learn from. There are many more books, but we chose the ones that explain the famous operas that are performed.

Children's opera books in German

Left to right:
1. Der Karneval der Tiere (The carnival of the animals) is not an opera per se, but a fun musical suite of fourteen movements by French composer Camille Saint-Saëns. Each movement represents an animal. You can hear tortoises, hens & roasters, elephants and kangeroos.
This book comes with a cd. The Annette Betz Verlag has a lot of books that bring classical music and operas to children and their parents. This book is perfect for kids at all ages.
Karneval der Tiere, 25 Euros.

2. Der Nussknacker (The Nutcracker) is also from the Annette Betz Verlag and a classic. You will be surprised how often you hear the Nutcracker suite in commercials. The beautiful story of Marie and her Nutcracker is a favorite during the holidays and can be used to beautifully to prepare children for their first ballet. It is just magical when the snow falls on stage. This book is perfect for kids at all ages.
Der Nussknacker, 25 Euros.

3. Turandot is one of our favorites around here. The story set in China about the princess and the nameless stranger, whose name she must find out. A story about the victory of love. This book is beautifully illustrated in darker colours. There is no cd and the story is told like a fairy tale. The texts are also visually interesting, as some are written upside down. Text and illustrations were made by Carollina Fabinger for publisher LibroNauti. This book would be a great read for older children around 10 years.
Turandot, 22 Euros.

4. Another Turandot, but very different to the one already mentioned. Opernmouth is a publisher that wants to explain opera easily and they succeed. These books are not only for children but also for adults. Fun illustrations exlain the story in easy words and with a relationships graph. There are more books available such as Carmen or Die Zauberflöte.
Turandot, 12 Euros.


Opern für kleine Hörer (Opera für little listeners) deserves a special mention. These are not books, but a slipcase with 13 cds. Each with an opera such as Zauberflöte, La Boheme or Carmen. Not only do you hear the music, but the story is told. But it is worth noting, that some operas have been motified, so they won't scare children or make the story easier to understand.
Zeit Edition, Opern für kleine Hörer, 90 Euros.


Children's opera books in Spanish


Spanish book publisher Opera Prima Edition Hipòtesi has various opera books in its catalogue and all of them are worth checking out. Each book as a different feel to it. Porgy & Bess is illustrated in bold colours, while Carmen, for example comes in darker colours.  This is also the first time we see Progy & Bess as a book for children. Each book comes with a cd. An illustrated cd and a number in the text indicate which number you should play to accompany the story. The books are recommended for children, who are at least 7 years old. Other books are Aida, La Traviata or Lohengrin.
Opera Prima Books, 24 Euros.

Children's opera books in French


The Paris Opera has a wonderful shop, that also offers books for children. The ones above all come with a cd that accompany the story. Each book is illustrated by a different artist, that explains why each books feels unique. These books are great for children between 5-12 years old.
Opera books from the L'opera de Paris, 19 Euros.


Children's opera books in English

As mentioned before, The Nutcracker is not an opera. But this one is so special that we had to include it. This Nutcracker papercut pop up book by author and illustrator Shobhna Patel is one of the really beautiful books out there. Published in 2017 it is also one of the newest versions, you can purchase. The story is told through text, but also through gorgeous intricate laser cut illustrations. These cut outs are like perfect pieces or art and because of the delicate pieces it is recommended for children older than 7 years.
The Nutcracker, 15Pounds.


The music story books by Big and Small Publishing are special indeed. The story is retold in lavish illustraions suitable for primary grades. The lyrics are highlited and included in the story. But there is more than just the story. The books come with a supplement that contains information about the composer, their works and other interesting facts. Children will also learn about other aspects of music, such as how to read notes and what the difference between opera and musical is.
The Magic Flute, 17 Dollars.

City Guide - Dresden, Germany

Dresden, in our humble opinion, is very much underrated. Beautiful architecture, small enough to walk from a to b, but big enough so old meets new and on top of that the city is filled to the brim with culture - theatre, operas, ballet and museum. If you decide to go around the holiday season you can also eat your way through the city and warm up with mulled wine in different flavours. 
We did that for research, of course.
Should you travel in the summertime you will be able to sit by the river and enjoy the sunshine.
We put together a city guide for you hoping you will enjoy Dresden as much as we did.

Dresden City Guide.png

So far so good. Let's give you more details.

Where to stay

We stayed at the Maritim Hotel in Dresden. It used to be an old warehouse, right on the bank of the river Elbe. Make sure you ask for a room facing the river. Right next to the hotel you find the state parliament. It is a big hotel, with a swimming pool for you to take a dip and your breakfast is served in a goregous winter garden overlooking the river.
The hotel is a few walking minutes away from the old town with the Frauenkirche, Semperoper and Zwinger. A perfect place to start your exploring.
Maritim Hotel Dresden
Devrientstraße 10-12
01067 Dresden

Maritim Hotel Dresden.png


It is very likely that you will start your sightseeing at the Zwinger. You couldn't miss it, even if you tried. It served as an orangerie back in the day and now houses the Old Masters Picture Gallery and the Dresden Porcelain Collection. You will be able to walk through several gates, you can go up on it and walk on top of the Zwinger taking in all the views.

 Photo by  Anastasia Benko
 Photo by  Anastasia Benko
 Photo by  Anastasia Benko

Right next to the Zwinger is the Semperoper. This exterior of the opera house is used in a German beer comercial and there are people who believe that this building is actually a brewery and not one of the finest opera houses in the World. You can book a tour to see the inside of it. And it is very much worth it.

 Photo by  Anastasia Benko

Do you wanna see what it looks like backstage? Well, we got you covered. Take a look at Spectacle's post about our trip through the backstage area of the Semperoper when we went to see the Nutcracker.

This Lutheran church is smack dab in the middle of Dresden - Die Frauenkirche. This magnificant building was completely destryed during the Second World War and there are still people who will be able to tell you that the stones of the church were stored all over the city until it was rebuilt. The church was reconsecrated in 2005 and now it is open to the public. There is no entrance fee, be prepared that it will be packed! Even if you are not religious, it is certainly worth a look inside.

 Photo by  Anastasia Benko

Pfunds Molkerei
This little gem is a not in the city center but you can get there easily by taking the tram.
Pfunds Molkerei is the worlds most beautiful dairy shop! Covered in tiles, you can find everything your dairy loving heart can desire. Have yourself a glass of buttermilk and bring home some soap and cheese for your loved ones.
Dresdner Molkerei Gebrüder Pfund
Bautzner Str. 79
01099 Dresden

 Photo by  Anastasia Benko

Now, old arcitecture, history and culture is our jam. But visiting other neighborhoods with shops, street art and great places to grab food is just as wonderful. In Dresden that area is known as Neustadt. Thats also where Pfunds Molkerei and the oldest Jewish cemetary is located so you have many reasons to take the tram and ride about 15-20 minutes from city center to Neustadt.

Kunsthof Dresden.jpg
Neustadt Dresden Street Art.jpg

Where to eat

We were lucky anough to be in Dresden during the Christmas market and pretty much eat our way through the city. We did eat in a few restaurants, places we found along the way. We are used to high prices in city centres, but that i snot the case ith Dresden. You will get great food for a great price.


We are sending you off to Dresden with a photo of the famous Eierschecke, a cake made out of apples and curd, that you should try in Dresden!
Enjoy Dresden and enjoy the Eierschecke.


Maria by Callas, a beautiful documentary by Tom Volf

There are names that evoke a strong image in people. Names that are still fascinating to us. Maria Callas is one of those names. Even though she passed away more than 40 years ago, she is still considered one of the most renowned and influential opera singers.
Her life on and off stage, though, is nothing short of Greek tragedy in several scenes. Glamorous and sad at the same time.

 Maria Callas, New York 1958 © Fonds de Dotation Maria Callas

Maria Callas, New York 1958
© Fonds de Dotation Maria Callas

French photographer and film maker Tom Volf came late to the Maria Callas party. It all started a little over five years ago. Through research, after an opera visit, he stumbled upon Maria Callas and like many before and after him, he dived deeper into her life.
Volf spent a lot of time piecing together Callas' life with the help of friends and longtime companions, he befriended along the way. The result is a beautiful and insightful movie about the opera singer, who is often described in superlatives - “Maria by Callas”.

Maria by Callas differs from other documentaries, because here Maria Callas tells her own story. There are very few other people who talk about her. Her story is told through her own interviews and through the many letters she has written.

Tom Volf takes us on a journey that starts in New York in the 1920s where Maria Callas was born. Contrary to many beliefs, Maria Callas was neither Italian nor Spanish. She was born in 1923 to Greek parents. Her relationship with her mother has always been difficult and the family was caught in the crossfire of the Second World War. They stayed in Greece at that time and a young Callas went to the Athens Conservatoire, even though she was actually too young to be accepted. Here she meets Elvira de Hidalgo, her singing teacher in Greece and her lifelong trusted confidante. The movie takes us all over the world with snippets of various performances to the fateful meeting with Aristoteles Onassis on his yacht, where she decides to leave her husband Giovanni Battista Meneghini. She doesn't leave him, because she fell for Onassis. Maria Callas says herself, that she couldn't trust him anymore and that her success has gotten to Meneghini's head. The movies also touches upon the great betrayal of Onassis, when he married Jackie Kennedy, widow of US President, John F. Kennedy. Maria found out about the marriage from the newspapers and she must have been deeply hurt and angry. Again the press was right in her face about this. Pretty much until her death on September 16th, 1977 in Paris.

Last week, Spectacle was able to see a press screening of the movie and here are five things that stood out for us.

  1. In interviews she brushes off the fact she never had children. She said with her career it was impossible to have children. She also considered her career fate and you can't escape fate. Yet in her letters it becomes painfully clear how much she would have loved a family of her own and probably would have given up her career for it.

  2. She was hounded by the press. We have seen this with other famous people in the past, but it was still surprising to see. Wherever she went or when she stepped off a plane, there were cameras in her face and she was surrounded by journalist. One scene particularly stood out. She doesn't want to answer any more questions, especially not about Aristoteles Onassis and a journalist tells her: “Well, if you don't speak to us, we will write negative things about you and there has already been a lot of negative press about you”.

  3. This negative press hurt her deeply. She felt (and probably was) misunderstood. Maria Callas felt obliged to give her best. Always. And if she couldn't do that due to illness, she cancelled the performance. Callas thought it would be worse, if she would give a mediocre performance. She felt she owed that to the composer, to the director and to the audience. Unfortunately the press turned this into a diva like behaviour and the audience took it as an offence. Half truths, lies and bad press hurt her personally.

  4. It is interesting to see how her face changes over the years. During her first years she comes across as harsh, with thick eyebrows and dark eye make up. Once she takes a break from singing and spends the years with Aristoteles Onassis her face is so much softer. She actually looks happy, her voice was better than ever. In her later years, especially after her time with Onassis, you don't see that happiness anymore.

  5. Aristoteles Onassis was the love of her life. That shouldn't be surprising actually. Did he treat her well? Not always! Did he hurt her deeply by marrying Jackie Kennedy Onassis? Without a doubt! But she also talks with a lot of respect and love about him. She forgave him in the end and she died less than two years after Onassis died. Some say a broken heart might have contributed to her death.

 Mit Aristoteles Onassis © Fonds de Dotation Maria Callas

Mit Aristoteles Onassis
© Fonds de Dotation Maria Callas

With Maria by Callas Tom Volf gives a great glimpse into her life and the movie is also a document of the period she lived in.
Personally, I would have loved to hear more about her struggles later in life – how her voice changed, how she wanted to be successful again with a comeback tour and how she spend her last years in Paris. But regardless if these aspects had been touched upon, you will find yourself researching Maria Callas some more. This movie is a treat for Callas lovers. May her work and her talent live on.

 Les Grands Interprétes, Paris 1965 © Fonds de Dotation Maria Callas

Les Grands Interprétes, Paris 1965
© Fonds de Dotation Maria Callas

You can see the documentary Maria by Callas starting May 2018 in cinemas in Germany, however it is also released in many other countries too.

 © 2018 PROKINO Filmverleih GmbH

© 2018 PROKINO Filmverleih GmbH

Q&A with Steven McRae, Principal of the Royal Ballet

Steven McRae is a Principal of the Royal Ballet, married to Elizabeth McRae, also a dancer with the Royal Ballet and father of two young children.
Born in Australia, he started to dance, when he was seven years old. In 2003 he won the prestigious Prix de Lausanne, which earned him a scholarship and made it possible for him to enter the Royal Ballet school in London. He has been invited to be a guest artist with various companies such as the American Ballet Theatre, Tokyo Ballet and the Australian Ballet, to name a few. Not only is he a fantastic dancer, but also a superhero! Steven stars as a character in a Japanese manga as the Ballet Hero.

Besides all his accomplishements, his commitment to his work and family, Steven McRae is also very active on his Instagram (go follow @StevenMcRae_, if you haven't already). His instagram is a wonderful mix of personal photos and a look inside the rehearsal room.

A few weeks ago he asked his followers to send him questions he would answer in a q&a. The questions were great conversation starters and his answers gave interestings insights and lots of information. He tackled topics such as body image, his diet, balancing his career and his family and why he dances.
Below you find his q&a in full. He was kind enough to answer one of Spectacle's question, too. We have not edited any of the answers. You can still find the original on Steven's Instagram.

No. 1. Question from @spectacle_arts ‘Do you think ballet dancers are athletes or artists?
Steven McRae: I recently did a talk at the @royalballetschool and this topic came up. I enforced my belief that dancers are Artists however I believe that dancers need to treat their bodies as if they are athletes. The discipline, routine, dedication, physical as well as the mental pressures are all in line with elite athletes. However, no one can ever put a score next to a dancers’ performance. Art is incredibly subjective which is why I love striving for more both technically and dramatically as each performance is live and therefore alive.

No.2 Question from @rosalind.dancer ‘Have u ever struggled with body image and if so, how did u deal with it?’
YES - The pressures involved with an aesthetic art form can be intense. I was told numerous times that I was too short & that I needed to change my vibrant red hair in order to blend in..... Who wants to blend in was my response! No one is born with the perfect ballet body. I have learnt to make the most of what I have. Sometimes your ‘imperfections’ in someone’s point of view turn out to be a wonderful feature.
Everyday is a quest to be a better version of myself. That is easier said than done sometimes however the challenge is always the fun part.

No.3 Question from @sophie_drake.x ‘How do you control your nerves and deal with pressures before a performance?’
Nerves are a part of performing however they are something we are not taught that much about when training. I have learnt that nerves can be used in an incredibly positive way to help give a performance an extra edge however if not handled correctly nerves can undo so much of the hard work you have put into preparing for the Performance.
Self trust is crucial!
Before the curtain goes up, I always remind myself that no matter what, I will do my best and that I believe I have put the work in in order to be best prepared for that moment.
A lot of pressure that performers feel actually comes from themselves. It is important to take some of that pressure off yourself by accepting that perfection doesn’t exist.....
If a performer appears confidently in control then chances are that the audience will feel relaxed watching you.

No.4 Question from @jahewr ‘Did people tease you growing up because you were a boy who did tap and ballet? How did you deal with it?’
Bullies are unfortunately small minded people who make themselves feel better about themselves by trampling on those around them. Fortunately, the degree of bullying I encountered growing up was quite low. I believe this was due to a few factors. The support of my family never wavered giving me a strong platform to stand on. Also, my love of dance and the desire to pursue my passion outweighed any pathetic comments thrown my way.
A lack of understanding about something can result in people making assumptions. Part of my passion now is introducing people to the world of professional dance and showing them a little insight into what it takes to do what we do.
I don’t have a problem being a Dancer that happens to be Male so the person next to me shouldn’t either?￰

No.5 A reoccurring question from many young dancers: ‘How did you manage your school work with your dance training?’
I started dancing at the age of 7 and by the age of 9 I was already dancing 6 days a week. I remained at a regular academic school throughout my training so I had to learn how to juggle everything very quickly.
My parents were always supportive of my Dance studies however they insisted that I focused on my academics too. If my studies fell behind then my dancing would be cut back. I quickly learnt how to maximise time management.
I strongly believe that energy produces energy and that includes proactive & productive energy. The busier my schedule got the better I got at utilising whatever time I had.
I probably didn’t have your typical childhood as I very rarely went to parties or other events through my own choice. I wanted to dance and that overruled everything!
At school I tried to retain as much information as possible during the day so that I could complete any homework more efficiently because as soon as the school bell rang I was out of the door & into the dance studio! Of course there were the few evenings when I was awake till 3am finishing off an assignment but it was always my choice to dance so much which is why the drive and motivation to do it was always there......

No.6 Question from @meiaponta ‘How do you balance family life with your career?
Finding a healthy work life balance is a constant challenge for everyone. My wife and I do everything we can to be with our children as much as possible however the demands of our profession can make this a challenge at times.
Since having children, I believe my wife and I have become more efficient with our time at work. I feel that I now use my rehearsals more productively.
My passion for my career has actually increased since having children as there is even more of a focus to my work. The children have also helped keep the pressures of my work in perspective.
We are fortunate that our children are able to travel abroad with us when touring which is not only wonderful for my wife and I to have the children by our sides but it is also a wonderful opportunity for our children to develop and experience new worlds too.
I hope that my wife and I will be an example to our children and inspire them to pursue their own dreams in the future. Stepping on stage is one of the most incredible feelings but nothing compares to the time that I spend with my children!

No.7 Question from @dancers_in_training ‘Who was your biggest inspiration whilst you were a young dancer in training?’
My dance teachers ignited a love of dance that I had no idea was inside of me and inspired me to jump head first into the world of dance however my biggest inspiration in early childhood actually came from Motorsport. My father raced cars in Australia & we followed the @nhra Drag Racing series in the USA. 2 drivers in particular displayed incredible determination to succeed against all odds & they continue to have an impact on the way I approach life, John Force & Shirley Muldowney. As I started to learn more about the incredible world of dance, the likes of Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly, Nureyev & Baryshnikov all opened my eyes.
Interestingly, the day I watched a video in Australia of the final Pas de deux of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Manon performed by Sylvie Guillem & Jonathon Cope was the day I decided I had to become a Ballet Dancer! Ultimately now my children are my biggest inspiration. I think every parent wants to be the most positive influence possible on their children and that inspires me an infinite amount.
I love this quote and believe it to be true, ‘You can find Inspiration everywhere but inspiration has to find you working’

No.8 Question from @gioogram asking about advice making the transition from a student to a professional dancer!
Graduating from school and making the step into the big wide world can be quite a daunting time however it is important to remember that it is the beginning of a new exciting chapter.
The best advice I can give to students is to be like a sponge. Be open to continue learning every single day of your professional career. Watch and learn from the dancers that inspire you but also learn from the dancers that don’t necessary excite you.
Ballet class is vital for any professional ballet dancer and the day you join a company or embark on a freelance career is when you need to work even harder at preserving and developing your technique. Your body and mind will probably get a shock when you begin working professionally as your workload increases so that is the time to get into good habits of recovery, eating well and investing time in looking after your body.
One final tip, don’t be afraid to ask questions and seek advice or guidance from the more experienced dancers in the company. Everyone was the new company member once ?

No.9 Questions about diet from numerous people asking
‘Can you please share your diet schedule during your training days?’ & ‘What do you eat before and during a performance?’

I have always tried to think of refuelling my body just like a car. If you put rubbish in a car it won’t function and your body is the same. That said, I do not like the idea of following an extremely strict program so I try eat everything in moderation.
I normally snack a lot during the day when rehearsals are back to back and you don’t want a big meal sat in your stomach.
Boiled eggs, raw spinach & bananas are something I eat regularly but some days you just need a boost of carbs so if my break is long enough I try eat a pasta dish or some other carb dominant food. Before a performance I enjoy eating sushi as the combination of carbohydrates and protein in a light format allow me to feel refuelled without feeling full. I always have bananas on hand in between acts and I am not going to lie, I LOVE sweets so there is always a bag close by for that extra sugar boost if needed!
Rehydrating is just as important so a drink with electrolytes is something I utilise during the day and also as the recovery process begins at the end of the day.
It is important for each individual to find what works for them. Ultimately your body needs to be fuelled so ensure you are never running on empty.... Your body will be happier and your brain will say thank you too!

No.10 Question from @jabumo ‘Why do you dance?’
I HAVE TO.... It is now in my blood!
When I stepped into the studio at age 7 I was an incredibly shy little boy. I instantly felt free and the whole world opened up in front of my eyes.
The challenge of forever aspiring to achieve an unattainable perfection is something I enjoy as I am able to learn something new daily. Performing is like experiencing a sixth sense. It’s like no other sense and everything becomes heightened when the curtain goes up.... I have never been good at learning languages however when I dance in any corner of the world I feel like I am able to communicate with any audience.
The human body is a phenomenally frustrating yet extraordinary piece of art that amazingly I get to explore every single day through dance - I feel very fortunate!

Thank you, Steven, for allowing us to publish the questions and your answers here on Spectacle.
Find his Instagram right here: @stevenmcrae_

The Margravial Opera House - a baroque gem

It's Valentine's Day and love is in the air today, also here on Spectacle. While lots of couples gift each other flowers and candy, history has examples of other couples building architectural masterpieces for each other. I'm looking at you, Taj Mahal!
But there is another gem that has received lots of attention, love and underwent restoration in recent years.

 Photo: Feuerpfeil Verlag, Bayreuth

Photo: Feuerpfeil Verlag, Bayreuth

The Margravial Opera House in Bayreuth, Germany was built between 1744-1748 and it was inaugerated on the occasion of a marriage in royal circles. Now, that is a wedding present lots of opera lovers would be happy to receive.
It looks like a painting and there is so much to see. From the ceiling to the balconies and to the stage.

 Photo: Achim Bunz

Photo: Achim Bunz

 Photo: Achim Bunz

Photo: Achim Bunz

For the past six years the Margravial Opera House had to undergo structural conservation and restoration. Damage to the building’s valuable substance, as well as obsolete technology made careful conservation and work urgently necessary. This gorgeous baroque opera house has been part of the UNESCO World Heritage List since 2012. It will reopen for the public in April 2018 and with this gem, Bayreuth will be another reason to come by. The other one being the world-famous Wagner Festspiele on the green hill in Bayreuth.
The opera house is one of the only places in the world where you can experience opera the way they did in the 1700s. The first opera that will be performed here is called Artaserse by Johann Adolph Hasse, which is also the opera that was performed in 1748 during the inaugeration. Talking about coming full circle!

If you are not familiar with Artaserse, don't sweat. I must admit I haven't seen this opera on any plan for several years. Artaserse has the reputation of being a castrato fest! As a matter of fact, the most famous castrato of them all, Farinelli, sang in its world premiere.
Here is the plot in a nutshell - Artaserse, king of Persia, must bring his father's murderer – in reality Artabano – to justice. But the main suspect is Arbace, Artaserse's closest friend and lover of his sister, Mandane.
Tickets are on sale now. Get them, while you can on their website.

We predict you will see lots more of this beautiful opera house once it opens its doors again. Do take the chance to see it for yourself. It sure will be worth your time!
Here are the hard facts about this gem.

Opening Times:
April - September: Daily, 9am-6pm
October - March: Daily, 10am-4pm

Find it here:
Markgräfliches Opernhaus Bayreuth
Opernstraße 14
95444 Bayreuth

For more information and also for tickets go to the WEBSITE.


Black Swan or White Swan - Fashion label Baustelle Berlin

You don't have to be a ballet aficionado in order to understand what „White Swan“ and „Black Swan“ mean. Heck, you don't even have to see the movie!

That is the great thing about the sweaters that Jan Hogenboom designs for his fashion label Baustelle Berlin. Baustelle Berlin translates to construction site Berlin. If you have ever been to Berlin, you would know how fitting this is. Besides it also describes the process of building a label from nothing with just an idea. The sweaters caught our eye over on Pinterest and a quick click on the link landed us right in a pretty cool online shop.

Have a good & quiet (or not quiet) Sunday! @camjames.hunter by @pauliosovari

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Baustelle Berlin (@baustelle_berlin) am

Besides the swan sweaters, you can also proclaim your love for Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky. In cyrillic. Spell checked and approved by Russians. No worries!

Marketing is everything and who could better model these shirts than dancers? The first photos were shot by ballet photographer Ira Yakovleva in St. Petersburg, Russia.
What really surprised us, was the price of the sweaters, the sweaters are made out of cotton, are oversized and unisex and cost between 40-50€, depending on the style you choose. There are plenty of labels out there that charge you much, much more for cotton sweaters with a simple print on it.

One thing that comes to mind is – what about sustainability with a price like that? Sustainability is a topic close to the heart of the founder, Jan Hogenboom. As a matter of fact, he dedicates blog posts to this topic and gives you some food for thought. Jan wants to reduce the negative ecological impact of his supply chain, that is necessary to produce his fashion. The other principle is to ensure fair and safe working conditions for the people working on his products. You can tell from his blog posts, that Jan gave this some serious thoughts and instead of complaining about what he cannot change, he focuses on the points that he can. Jan is open to start a discussion about this and is fully transparent, too.
Jan Hogenboom is 27 years old, from The Netherlands and moved to Berlin two years ago to work for a major online retailer. He has now taken the plunge and is working full time on his label, that has been online since 2017. A few years ago he picked up his hobby of dancing and even though he doesn't dance professionally, he has dipped his toes deeper into the ballet world. That's where the idea to Baustelle Berlin and its products stems from.

Baustelle Berlin hits the fashion mark, because it appeals to dancers and street wear lovers alike. In the future the label wants to produce more sweaters, shirts, hoodies and also dance wear, such as leotards, may be in the future. Regardless if you are a dancer or look for a gift for the dancer in your life, Baustelle Berlin should be on your radar!

Are you a black swan or a white swan?
Follow along on Facebook and on their Instagram.

The Nutcracker at the Semperoper in Dresden and a look backstage

The holiday season and the Nutcracker go together like bread & butter. There are not many ballets out there that don't have this beloved classic by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky on their plan each year and if you follow dancers on social media, you will have been bombarded with photos. Personally, there is no holiday season without the Nutcracker.
There are a couple of houses where we love to watch a ballet. The Semperoper in Dresden was very high on our list and we got to tick that off this past December. A few days before Christmas we travelled to Dresden to drink mulled wine on the Christmas market (Cherry flavour. In case you want to know) and watch the Nutcracker live on stage. 
We love to go backstage and be right in the middle of the hustle and bustle, checking out the costumes and the make up area, admire the props and watching the dancers warm up. The press department of the Semperoper was so very kind to allow us to come backstage and take lots of photos and even interview the two dancers Chiara Scarrone (she was Marie) and Václav Lamparter (he was the Nutcracker/prince). These interviews will be a new post.

Come follow us backstage, why don't you?

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko
 Photo by   Anastasia Benko
 Photo by   Anastasia Benko
 Photo by   Anastasia Benko
 Photo by   Anastasia Benko
 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

If I said it once, I said it a thousand times: Theatre, operas and ballet are the keeper of crafts. The costumes are handmade, so are the head pieces and props. Some of them have been used for many years.
The backstage area at the Semperoper consists of long, windowless hallways with lots of doors leading to the make up room, changing areas of the dancers or offices for the administration. You will have to know your way around. The hallways are filled with costume racks right outside the rooms of the dancers. Everything works and has to work like clockwork. Dancers are required to be in the make up chair at a certain time to get their face on. Getting dozens of dancers ready is no easy task. Discipline starts here.

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

The rehearsal room is always my favorite. Mirrors from wall to wall, barres and a piano. For me (as a ballet lover but never a dancer), this screams ballet. The rehearsal room has a gallery for visitors that is located above the dancers. No photos allowed!
The Nutcracker in the Semperoper is a very traditional production and so is the set.

The look into the auditorium from the stage is pretty impressive. The interior is certainly one of the most beautiful ones we got to visit.

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

The dancers warmed up, so it was time for us to head into the Semperoper itself. A German beer brand uses the outside of the Semperoper in their commercials and therefore people often think this building is not an opera, but a fancy brewery. It is smack dab in the middle of Dresden. There is the Zwinger to the left and the river Elbe on the left. In front is the theatre square that is filled with people dancing when Dresden hosts the opera ball each year.
Ain't she a beauty?

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

It is safe to say, this house has seen its fair share of catastrophies! The Semperoper was openend in 1841 and in 1869 a devastating fire burnt it down. But it was rebuild by architect Gottfried Semper, who gave the opera its name. In the last weeks of World War II in 1945, the Semperoper was largely destroyed by bombs, leaving only the shell standing. 40 years later in 1985 the reconstruction was completed. But then came the flood of 2002. The Elbe set large parts of Dresden under water and the Semperoper suffered heavy water damage.
Look at it now, though! Feast your eyes on the interior of this iconic venue.

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

There is not only a red curtain seperating the stage from the auditorium, but also a fabric covered "wall" that opens up before the curtain raises. This curtain alone weighs 400 kilogramms.
Above the stage is a clock that works in five minute intervals. That clock comes in very handy, so you really have no excuse to get your phone out to check the time. Not that there is an excuse anyway.

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

It is certainly worth looking up at the ceiling when you get a glass of bubbly (and you really should look up and get bubbly!). The Semperoper is a wonderful venue and if you can get tickets you really should. It offers a great variety in opera, ballet and concerts. Some are traditonal, some are new and unique. If you can't visit in the evening, take the tour through the house and find out more about the history of this house. It will certainly be worth your while.

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

Thank you very much Semperoper for allowing us to come backstage. It was such a treat, we will talk about here and beyond for years to come. And we will be back!

 Photo by   Anastasia Benko

Gift ideas for opera lovers

It could be very easy, if you want to buy a present for an opera lover. You could get some tickets or perhaps (even easier) get a cd. But then again, you could do better. And we just might have some ideas for you.
We put together a gift guide for the opera lover in your life and perhaps you find that special gift or get an idea what to buy. One option, where to look for that special gift, are (online) shops of operas such as The Met or Opera in Paris. They are treasure troves of gifts and stocking stuffers for opera lovers.

Gift guide opera lover .jpg

No. 1: If there is one occasion you can dress up for, it is the opera. The opera loving woman can do that in this gorgeous floor length halter neck gown by Maria Lucia Hohan via Moda Operandi in a colour that suits just about any skin tone and hair colour (1,277 Euros).

No. 2: Sputnik are these gold embellished earings called and they are inspired by the chandeliers at the Met Opera in New York which look just like it (48$).

No. 3: We don't let the gentlemen go without! Just like the chandeliers for the ladies these cufflinks are inspired by the chandeliers at the Met Opera in New York (54$). 

No. 4: Talk about a pot of gold! This honey was harvested from the hives on top of the roof of the Palais Garnier (15 Euros).

No. 5: Some things just never go out of style or at least shouldn't. Just like this vintage opera set for ladies that includes binoculars, a fan and a small mirror. It is from Argentina and was manucfacured around 1880! Things like this have its price (700 Euros).

No. 6: From personal experience I can tell you that I have wished many times I thought to bring some binoculars along to the opera. Nokias white binoculars fit into every purse and are featherlight (200$).

Gift ideas that theatre lovers will enjoy

When you do a quick Google search on gifts for theatre lovers, you'll see quickly that masks are a thing. However, in case you don't want it to be but still are looking for a great gift for this person, we just might have you covered.
Hopefully the ideas in our gift guide are fitting for the theatre lover in your life. Shop on!


No. 1: Bringing theatre love and interior together with a pair of american theatre wall sconces. The don't come cheap, but they certainly make a statement (3,200 Euros).

No. 2: Technically, not a real theatre gift, but from personal experience I can tell you, that sitting in my seat many a times I got cold or felt an annoying draft. A nice pashmina shawl would be wonderful to have.

No. 3: Usually I'm wary of theatre merchandising. I will never use that many keys to justify keeping all those keychains I got. But this book, Hamilton Revolution, is different. Hamilton as been such a hit on Broadway and Los Angeles and now will be a big hit in London too, that it is worth looking at this book. The creator of Hamilton Lin-Manuel Miranda explains the process in detail, the lyrics and the photography. It is a wonderful testament to an award winning musical (25$).

No. 4: A few weeks ago, we told you about Scenery Bags (read HERE). These little pouches are made out of retired theatre backdrops and a percentage of the earnings goes to charity. So you have a great unique gift and do good at the same time. Win-Win all around. (30$).

No. 5: When I was a kid, my father did lots of shadow characters with his hands and it is still one of my favorite memories. Including this shadow theatre for fable animals sure will create some wonderful memories and stories for the little ones (17 Euros).

No. 6: Talk about glamour when wearing these earrings  L'oiseau de Feu (price upon request).

No. 7: Sometimes you just need a doorway and this pretty puppet theatre for hours of fun and an outlet for creative energy (45$).

No. 8: Printed on heavyweight matte fine art paper this blue print of a theatre seat make a great gift for any wall, Available in different sizes and colours (5$).

Gift ideas for the ballet dancer and lover in your life

True: the holidays are not about presents. They are about good food, lights, songs, slowing down and coming together with friends and family. And yet, we are out there (or online) on the hunt for THAT perfect gift for our loved ones. What if the person, you want to buy a gift for, is a ballet dancer or a ballet lover?

Fret not! Spectacle has got you covered. We put together not one, but two gift guides, for the ballet dancer or the ballet lover and hope our ideas make shopping easier. Find our ideas for a man or a woman or a child below. Almost all gifts fit into stockings, too!

Gift guide for ballet, ballet dancer holiday presents

No. 1: A wonderful shade of nude for your nails, not to flashy so you can wear it day and night that is Essie's Ballet Slipper nail polish for you ($9).

No. 2: Bloch's 2018 planer helps you tutu remember your dates and even your preferred pointe shoes ($30)

No. 3: This amazing grace ballet rose spray fragrance by philosophy will have you smell like roses all day and will go perfectly with the body wash, shampoo and body lotion ($18) of the same collection.

No. 4: Seen on the feet of various fashion bloggers from New York to Paris, Miu Miu's ballet slipper have you dacing down the street (590€)

No. 5: A little ballet art for the walls, available and limited in different sizes. Ballet by Julia Rothman (starting $24).

No. 6: The classic belted leotard comes in a gorgeous magenta colour. Mary Helen Bowers with Ballet Beautiful knows exactly what a dancers needs (75$).

No. 7: These diamond kite shape drop earings by British jeweler Boodle are inspired by and in collaboration with The Royal Ballet in London. The whole collection is called "Pas de Deux" (price upon request)

No. 8: The oversized duffle backpack by Asos holds all your things and doesn't scream workout. So you can go from practise to dinner without a problem ($33). 

It is not easy finding gifts for male dancers or male ballet lovers. We hope these ideas below will make the dancer in your life happy.

gift guide male dancer, male ballet

No. 9: Francisco Estevez created "The Dancer". It is part of a gorgeous collection that features male and female dancers. Available in different sizes (starting at $27).

No. 10: Wear your love for dance on your back. This black hoodie comes in different colours and is available at Boys Dance Too ($35).

No. 11: Pack all your dance stuff in this backback and you are good to go by Boys dance too ($24).

No. 12: Finally jewellery for a male dancer or ballet lover that doesn't scream kitsch. Silver brooch by Cynthia Woong ($264).

No. 13: Finding a children's book that portrays male ballet dancers are hard to find. Start a collection with the beloved characters of a Mr. Men book. Mr. Men Ballet Show by Roger Hargreaves ($4). 

No. 14: You'll never have to worry what to wear to the ballet with this navy velvet smoking blazer by Zara ($150).

Look at the Scenery!

my name is Yvonne and I have a problem. I buy little bags and pouches like there is no tomorrow. When I travel, my carry on luggage often consists of small bags. I use them for my chargers, make up, a little note pad, women's stuff, you get the drift. You can imagine my excitement when I found the bags of Scenery on Instagram a few weeks ago. 
Scenery takes retired theatre backdrops and makes bags out of them. Naturally, every series of bags is limited and each one has a label inside telling you the show and what number bag you have out of how many the drop made.

 credit:  Scenery

credit: Scenery

 credit:  Scenery

credit: Scenery

Are you already reaching for your credit card? You will when you hear, that you will also do good with your purchase!
A portion of the proceeds of the bags is donated to TDF's Stage Doors program. The Theatre Development Fund is commited to identify and provide support, including financial assistance, to theatrical works of artistic merit and to encourage and enable diverse audiences to attend live theatre and dance in all their venues.
Scenery was launched in July 2017 and the first series of bags are already sold out. We caught up with the founder of Scenery, Jennifer Khan, how the idea for scenery came about. Jennifer has been a stage manager for 17 years and is based in New York.

Spectacle: How did you come up with the idea for Scenery?
Jennifer Khan: For the last 5 years I have run a Giveback and Ethical style blog, so this type of thing has always been a part of what I'm passionate about. I knew if I ever started my own company it would have to have a social initiative.  I never thought my blogging side, and my theatre side would come together, but this project has been a marriage of two things a care deeply about. It's truly been a gift. 
I chose theatre backdrops because so many of them get thrown away and they are beautiful, handprinted, works of art. I hate seeing anything get thrown away, but something like that just shouldn't end up in the trash. They are also part of theatre history. 

I hate seeing anything get thrown away, but something like that just shouldn’t end up in the trash. They are also part of theatre history.
— Jennifer Khan

Spectacle: The backdrops are donated to you. Is it difficult to get them? Do you have a lot of convincing?
Jennifer Khan: Well, I thought we had more than we'd need in a year, but we went through all of it in 3 months! It's been amazing to see the reaction people are having to what we are doing. We've also been very fortunate to have some great press pieces and features (like this one, thank you guys) that have let people know about us, and drops have come to us from all over America. I feel like I fall in love with a new one every week. We have some amazing treasures.  Some I love because of the colors, some I love because of the show it came from. Each one is special to me.

Spectacle: You support the tdf - the Theatre Development Fund - with a portion of the proceeds. How did you get involved with them?
Jennifer Khan: I chose my mission, before I chose the non-profit. I knew I wanted to help make theatre more accessible for a younger audience. So with that in mind I took to the internet and just searched for a program that did just that. Finding the Stage Doors program at TDF was a dream come true! Not only do they take kids to see a Broadway or Off-Broadway show, they give them in class workshops, AND they offer extremely discounted tickets to alumni, so that they can continue to afford to see theatre after the program has ended. It's everything I was looking for and more. 

Spectacle: What is the process from picking up the backdrop to sending out the bags? You mentioned the backdrops are also cleaned. 
Jennifer Khan: Yes, the basic process is: a theatre, designer, producing house, storage company, you name it, emails us and says they have drops for us. Depending on how many drops they are sending they can either drop them at their nearest UPS and we ship them, or box them up and we schedule a truck pick up. We cover all shipping costs. Then once they arrive at our manufacturers in Florida they lay them all out, photograph them, measure them to see how many bags they can make, and then we start production. Each drop is hand cleaned twice. Once before they are sewn and once after. They are cut, we choose if it needs a lining or not, what color zipper to use. We are basically designing a new bag every week. Currently we only have our pouches, but we are planning some new styles for next year!

 credit:  Scenery

credit: Scenery

Take a good idea and an even better cause, add sustainability and creativity and you have wonderful products. That applies to the bags from Scenery. If you want to get your hands on the next batch of bags, head over to the website of Scenery. There is a preorder system right now. Preordering saves your place in line and when it is time for your order number you receive an email with your choice of 2 drops or an option to defer. Each bag is 30$ and please remember that a portion of the proceeds goes to a very good cause.
Follow Scenery on Instagram and on Facebook to see when the new bags are online.

The National Youth Ballet, the highs and lows of growing up and a Spotify list

Imagine you are a ballet dancer. Imagine you have danced all your life, been to ballet school as a child, perhaps went to a high school where dance was offered as a subject, you have finished your training and may have been part of a company before. Now, imagine you are part of a company that consists of just eight dancers. Here you are a soloist and a group member at the same time. You will create your own repertoire and have the opportunity to come up with your own choreography. This company is part of the Hamburg ballet, with John Neumeier, one of the most successful choreographers around, as the director. You'll tour different countries and bring dance to your audiences rather than hope the seats will be filled at the ballet. You'll perform in theatres, just as much as empty swimming pools, retirement homes or inside a prison.

What a unique opportunity, no? Sounds exciting and too good to be true?

Well, for Natsuka Abe, Sara Ezzell, Charlotte Larzelere, Freja Maria Lützhoft, Marcelo Ferreira, Artem Prokopchuk, Emiliano Torres and Ricardo Urbina Reyes that is the daily grind. These eight dancers make up the Bundesjugendballett, the National Youth Ballet of Germany. Let's take it apart:

Bundes / National
The term “national” doesn't mean the dancers are German. Quite to the contrary – there is not one German dancer in the company this time around. But some of the dancers have completed their professional training with German institutions, such as the Hamburg Ballet. The dancers in this squad hail from the USA, Mexico, Japan, Argentina, Brazil, Denmark and Ukraine and are part of the company for two years. The current team started working together in September 2017, when five new dancers joined them.

Jugend /Youth
Each year the National Youth Ballet holds an audition to fill the places that have become vacant and each year a couple of hundred of dancers are eager to move to Hamburg, Germany to be part of this exceptional group of young dancers. The dancers are between 18-23 years old and have already finished their professional training. If “youth” evokes the idea of amateur dancers, you couldn't be more wrong.  You can read the biographies of the current dancers on their website, every single one boosts an impressive cv.

Ballett /Ballet
The basis of their dancing is ballet, however, these dancers give it a very creative twist. Even though they exist under the umbrella of the Hamburg Ballet, they are very much independent. Because the National Youth Ballet is small, each dancer is a soloist and a group member at the same time. The dancers are getting an in-depth look into all the areas that are necessary to get a ballet together. The ballet also performs in rather usual places to bring dance to a new audience. The company has performed in a theatre, a prison, but also visited retirement homes.

Usually the National Youth Ballet rehearses within the Ballettzentrum Hamburg, but sometimes it is good to branch out. So they were on the hunt for a space where they could work for a few days. Here they wanted to create, change, rehearse, improve and finalize their programme. They found this space in an old warehouse complex in Hamburg. Surrounded by other studios, architects, artists and designers.

 Credit: Bundesjugendballett  ©    Silvano Ballone

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

Here they rehearsed for their premiere of “Im Aufschwung IX” which was put on stage this past week in Hamburg at the Ernst Deutsch Theater. For the ninth time, the theatre offered the ballet its house to showcase the new show. Using every inch of the stage and with very little props, the dancers let their performance do the talking.

 Credit: Bundesjugendballett  ©    Silvano Ballone

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

 Credit: Bundesjugendballett  ©    Silvano Ballone

Credit: Bundesjugendballett © Silvano Ballone

They took the stage together with nine musicians and the playlist consisted of classics such as Igor Strawinsky, but also Leonhard Cohen and Tracy Chapman. The music and the performance take you on a beautiful journey of what it means to grow up. Putting to music that the process of growing up is not always fun, but can be confusing, tricky and painful. But in the end friendship, love and happiness prevail.
Listen to that journey yourself. We put the song list together in a Spotify list for you to enjoy.

Learn more about the National Youth Ballet on their website, especially if you are interested in auditioning yourself. Follow on Facebook and Instagram.

Rubber ears and a recipe for blood - Backstage at Staatsoper Hamburg

Backstage is where the magic happens and it is a lot of fun to look behind the scenes, checking out the props and admire the craftmanship in the make up department. Instawalks are my kind of jam and I'm always happy when I see an opera inviting Instagramers to come by. A few months ago we were backstage at the first Instwalk at the Wagner Festspiele in Bayreuth and a few weeks ago Staatsoper Hamburg opened its doors.

Not always are journalists or bloggers invited to go. Often people who "just" enjoy the arts are invited. Do like the venues in your area on Facebook so you won't miss an announcement and you have the opportunity to be part of an Instawalk as well.

All photos below have received the app treatment.


The Hamburg State Opera is one of the oldest in Germany and was founded in 1678, it is one of the leading operas around. It has been awarded "Opera House of the year" twice in the past and everybody who is somebody has been standing on this stage. The house itself went through lots of changes and had to be rebuilt after massive damages during the second World War. Finding out interesting details about the routine backstage is what I enjoy most.
A detail like this one: Per contract it is forbidden for artists to use the elevator right before a show. Nobody wants the main voices to be stuck in the elevator!


Our walk started in the basement in between shelves of props. There is always lots to see in clear plastic containers, leaning on walls or hidden in corners.


And when you look into the small kitchen you might even leave with a recipe.
In this case "Blood" - edible and washable.
For one litre of water you'll need:
- 1 tbsp beetrood powder
- 1 tsp. guar gum
- 1 tbsp. instant coffee
This is a service announcement.


I like how the things are grouped together and also how creative prop masters need to get in order to create wonderful sets.
From the basement we went up to the hair and make up department. As it is often the case -  theatres and operas are keepers of crafts. Wigs are handmade, sometimes with the help of unusual props but often strands of hair are used to create the wigs. One hair at a time.


Let's take a closer look at the head in the front of the photo. That's what I meant when I mentioned sometimes the props are "unusual".


Yes, sometimes rubber ears will have to do.


Does this device look familiar to you? You might remember that we looked behind the scenes of the Wagner Festspiele in Bayreuth this past summer (catch it HERE). The make up department of Bayreuth and Hamburg both use these heaters to heat curling irons and work on the wigs. If it ain't broke - don't fix it, right? 


Here is a confession: I would have loved to be a theatre actor. I played a rock in elementary school and if you believe my mother, I was the best rock that ever graced a stage. Perhaps that is the reason I love to get on stage and enjoy the view into the audience?


Thank you Hamburg Staatsoper for having us! Look for #staatsoperhh on Instagram to find more backstage shots from my home town.


City Guide - Verona, Italy

Oh, Verona. Such a lovely small city and perfect for a weekend getaway. Three of Shakespeare's plays are set in Verona: Romeo and Juliet, The Two Gentlemen of Verona, and The Taming of the Shrew. Verona has also been awarded World Heritage Site status by the UNESCO.
Filled with culture and the arts, but also with great food, a charming city center and (surprisingly) great prices!

Here are some tipps and links for you, if you plan to visit Verona. Which you totally should.


Good to know

- Verona is so small and there are signs everywhere, you won't get lost. Especially when you take the mighty Arena di Verona as the location you are familiar with. You will always find your way back.

- When you arrive at the airport, you take the shuttle bus to the main train station of Verona. A single ticket costs 6 Euros and can also be used with the regular bus. Once you arrive at the train station, there are various busses that take you to the city center. Get off the bus as soon as you see the Arena. You are now in the middle of Verona.

- Download the Verona Smart App in advance. It does contain a map, but more importantly, you will be able to log into the public wifi for free.

- Prices in Verona are great! Especially when you are used to the prices in other Italian cities like Venice. The restaurants around the Arena are really good. You can get a big pizza with prosciutto (my favorite!) for 7-10 Euros. Sometimes even less. An Aperol Spritz (my go to drink!) is between 5-6 Euros. I had the "most expensive" Aperol at Piazza Erbe for 6,50 Euros. Very resonable. Keep in mind: I once ordered a latte at St Marco Square and paid 8 Euros.
You will get a great meal for a great price.

- I was surprised to see that only 2-3 vendors have a stand on the Piazza Brá, right around the Arena and they sell cushions. Yes, there are vendors that sell cheap toys and other stuff, but they don't have a stand on the Piazza.

- Yes, if you do want to listen to the opera, you will have to get a ticket. On our second day, we thought we could sit on the Piazza and listen to the opera while we have a drink, but you will hardly hear a sound. The accustic inside is amazing. Outside, you won't hear a beep. I guess the neighbors are happy about that!


Where to stay

There are many hostels, hotels and Bed & Breakfast in and around Verona. We suggest to make your reservations well in advance, because many hotels get booked quickly during the opera festival. You will find a place to stay for every budget.

We want to recommend our Bed & Breakfast. We stayed at Bed & Breakfast Oberdan18 and we cannot praise it enough (not paid content, we are fans!). My friend Mela, pr maven and travel blogger extraordinaire, found it for us.  B&B Oberdan18 is located in a small gallery in a residential house in the Via Oberdan. As a matter of fact, it is a very big appartment with two rooms and a suite.
Everything is new here! Like totally new, premium quality and designed with a great eye for detail. The owner, Giovanni, opened this little gem in early 2017. All rooms, named after churches, are equipped with their own bathrooms with bidet, air condition, tv, safe, minibar and a small balcony to step out on.
Giovanni and his team will go out of their way to make you feel comfortable - Starting with breakfast or sharing tipps with you. This B&B is located less than five minutes from the Arena. It hardly gets better than this!  English is spoken.
Next time I'm in Verona, I will stay there again.


Bed and Breakfast Oberdan18
Via Oberdan, 18
37121 Verona (Italy)


What to do (culture and the arts)

- Arena di Verona.
Of course! That's probably the number one reason people come to Verona - to see this glorious amphitheatre. You can walk through it during the day (tickets cost 10 Euros) and/or attend the opera in the evening. The opera festival runs from June until September and about 600.000 tourists come to Verona for the opera during this time alone. It is worth it. During the festival the set pieces are kept on the Piazza and make it all the more impressive.
Read our article about attending Aida at the Arena right

Arena di Verona
From June until September each year
Piazza Bra, 1
37121 Verona

Find it on Google Maps


- AMO - Arena Muse Opera
This museum is a must for opera lovers. Located inside a palazzo, you start at the very top and work your way through the exhibitions, until you have reached the basement. This is an interactive museum, with videos, sounds and a digital table on which you can see old programms and newspapers. It works like a huge ipad and it makes the exhibitions really interesting. If you only go there to escape the heat, you won't regret it!
Palazzo Forti
Via Massalongo 7
Verona, Italy

On Google Maps

Tickets: 6 Euros, 3 Euros if you have a ticket to the opera or you are a Verona Card holder.


 - Juliet's Balcony
Spoiler alert: There are no secured facts, that Shakespeare has ever been to Verona, much less seen this balcony. That doesn't hurt the legend surrounding it, though. And I wonder how many schools have taken a trip to Juliet's balcony?
But what does hurt is the, well, some people would call it vandalism, that surrounds this place.
It is located just of Via Cappello, which is one of the shopping streets. Just follow the crowd of people. You walk through a short tunnel to get to a very small court yard. The tunnel is covered (and I mean covered) in writtings and when people ran out of room they got creative. Or gross, your call. People have also written their names on post its, gum, bandages and in some cases even panty liners. Yuck! There are more writings on gum in the small courtyard and the love locks that are attached to fences.
Casa di Giulietta
Via Cappello, 23
37121 Verona

On Google Maps

Tickets: The entry to the courtyard to see the balcony from below is free.
If you want to stand on the balcony and see Juliet's house, tickets are 6 Euros.


- Teatro Romano and Museo Archeologico
Crossing Ponte Pietra from the city center to the other side of the Adige River, you'll find the Teatro Romano. Situated between trees and on a hillside, it is a beautiful open space. During the Veronese Theatre summer you will be able to watch plays in an impressive setting vwith a gorgeous view.
Teatro Romano and Museo Archeologico
Rigaste Redentore, 2
37121 Verona

Find it on Google Maps
Tickets: 4,50 Euros. It is free for Verona Card holders.


- Teatro Nuovo
If you still don't have enough of Shakespeare, you should go and see Romeo & Giulietta. Verona is the stage and the backdrop for this play. You'll walk along through the city and follow along. And a drink will be served to you after the play in the courtyard. Giving a new meaning to "hands on" play.
Teatro Nuovo
Piazza Francesco Viviani, 10
37121 Verona

Find it on Google Maps
Tickets: Adults pay 20 Euros, under 26 years of age gets a ticket for 10 Euros.


Things we learnt along the way

- Wear good shoes. This is an ancient city and not every street is paved smoothly. Especially around the Arena and in Juliet's courtyard, high heels are difficult.

- Sunscreen, sunscreen, sunscreen. 'nuff said! And while we are at it: drink water! You can buy bottles of water for just a few cents. No tourist prices at all.

- Download the Verona Smart app to log into the internet easily.

- When you want to go up to Castel San Pietro you can either walk up the stairs or take the cable car up the hill. Walking up in the summer heat can be a pain. Oh, do I know it! But there is a cable car if you take the street left of the stairs and walk a few meters. It takes you up there and you can enjoy the view over Verona. With much less sweat! The ride up there just costs you a few cents. WORTH. IT.

- Do walk through the streets next to the busy shopping streets and look around into the courtyards. There are small restaurants and beautiful details around every corner. Literally.


Verona is filled with museums and performing arts. But you can also do some serious retail therapy or sit in the Piazza Brá or Piazza Erbe and watch people go by!