Staatsoper Scandal: Good Enough for Grammar Practice

Staatsoper Berlin - under construction
Staatsoper Berlin – under construction

A scandal is always a good occasion to practice conjunctions that express cause (weil) and contradiction (obwohl).

The renovation of the Staatsoper in Berlin is probably the most expensive playground for grammar exercises. With 400 million euro it costs twice as much as it was planed, and according to the announcements of the city government the historic building should have reopened with a glamorous opera night three years ago.

In the German language, we create relative clauses, meaning we add an extra statement to a sentence, by …
1. setting a comma,
2. followed by a connector (here a conjunction: weil or obwohl), and by
3. putting the conjugated verb at the end of the sentence.

verbessern = improve, die Bühne = the stage

Man renoviert die Staatsoper.
Man will die Akustik verbessern und eine neue Bühne bauen.

Man renoviert die Staatsoper, weil man die Akustik verbessern und eine neue Bühne bauen will.

Man renoviert die Staatsoper.

Die Stadt Berlin kann die Renovierung nicht bezahlen.

Man renoviert die Staatsoper, obwohl die Stadt Berlin die Renovierung nicht bezahlen kann.

Create sentences by combining the two statements with the correct connector weil or obwohl.

die Planer = people who plan (here: the renovation project)
Die Renovierung kostet über 400 Millionen Euro.
Man hat das Projekt vor 14 Jahren für 200 Millionen Euro geplant.

Die Renovierung kostet über 400 Millionen Euro, _________ man das Projekt vor 14 Jahren für 200 Millionen Euro geplant hat.

Die Renovierung kostet über 400 Millionen Euro.
Die Planer sind langsam und inkompetent.

Die Renovierung kostet über 400 Millionen Euro, ___________________________________ sind.

Of course, there are more reasons than incompetent developers and project overseers. During the work on a tunnel that will connect the theater with a magazine for the props, workers found ruins of the medieval city wall. These ruins must be removed and groundwater must be kept in check which takes extra time. More than that, like in many other prestigious building projects in Germany (like the Philharmonic in Hamburg or the airport in Berlin), politicians – of all people – preside over planing and execution of the work, people who have by default little or no connection to physical or intellectual labor or to creating things that last.

Seven years into the planing and renovation process the mayor (under pressure of Chancellor and opera fan Merkel, as the rumor goes) objected (ablehnen, sep.vb.) to the design (Entwurf) of the interior (Innenraum).

Der Bürgermeister lehnt den Entwurf des Architekten für den Innenraum ab.
Man renoviert schon seit sieben Jahren.

Der Bürgermeister lehnt ____________, ______________________.

Der Bürgermeister lehnt den Entwurf des Architekten für den Innenraum ab.
Er (der Entwurf) ist zu modern und nicht historisch genug.

Der Bürgermeister lehnt ____________, ______________________.

Now, the city parliament called a commission of inquiry to investogate the scandal. Last week each of the five members of the commission received 500 ring binders filled with many thousand pages of documents. The copying of the documents was expensive. The city government refused to digitize them and send them as computer files to the members of the commission because they contained “secret documents.”

der Ordner = ring binder
untersuchen = investigate, examine

Die Stadtregierung kopiert 500 Ordner für die Parlamentskommission.
Die Parlamentskommission untersucht den Skandal.

Die Stadtregierung ___________________, __________________.

Die Stadtregierung kopiert 500 Ordner für 10.000 Euro.
Man kann sie digitalisieren.

Die Stadtregierung __________________, ____________________.

Ineptitude might stall the work on the theater but not the arts. Since the opera company under the leadership of Daniel Barenboim had to vacate the building, it has been performing at the Schiller Theater on Bismarckstraße in Berlin with great success.

Look at a previous article about the Staatsoper scandal: Click.

Published by


Bernd Hendricks. Born in Duisburg, Germany. Based in Berlin. Writer, German Language Educator. I was six years old when I went to the opera for the first time. My Grandma took me to Hänsel und Gretel at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Duisburg. The first time I met an opera singer personally was during my time as foreign correspondent in New York when at a Christmas party a baritone pelted me with questions about the language of Zauberflöte. He was preparing for his role as Papageno. After my return to Berlin in September 2010, I have been giving German lessons to singers on their audition tours. My workshops in Berlin, Vienna, and London are based on my widely read book Ach, ich fühl’s—German for Opera Singers in Three Acts: Studying, Speaking, Singing. My latest book, Die Frist ist um—Navigate the Language of 10 German Operas, takes you on a journey through the language of the most popular and often performed operas in the German-speaking countries. I am also the author of several non-fiction books and two novels.

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