Culture

Potsdamer Schlössernacht: Prussian Grandeur Comes Back!

Potsdam Revives the Glory of the Hohenzollern Era for One Night Only

September 07th, 2016
Daniel Erhardt, Berlin Global
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Last Saturday 20th August, the magnificent Potsdam palaces and their gardens were the romantic setting for the 18th Potsdam Palaces Night. Every midsummer, the spirit of the glorious era of the Prussian kings’ garden parties from the 18th and 19th centuries comes alive to delight visitors arriving from all corners of Germany and the world.

During this special evening, the royal residences and gardens were gleaming in light, highlighting the grandiosity and splendor of their rococo, baroque and neo-classical architecture. The star was the Sansoucci Palace, the summer residence of King Frederick the Great. Atop the vine staircase, the intimate rococo residence glowed like the paramount crown jewel over the avenues and fountains.

The interior was illuminated in a cozy light to allow the rooms to be observed through veiled windows. The courtyard saw the baroque dances of the Frederician Court revived through minuets and variations on behalf of the ensemble Historischer Tanz Berlin and the Musiciens de la Belle Danse. The authentic cultural atmosphere was completed by actors playing 18th century court nobles strolling through the gardens and mingling with the visitors, to their utter enjoyment.

This mingling was combined with guided tours around the gardens, during which the palaces’ official guides gave an insight into the fantasies, allegories and inspirations that led the Prussian kings to endeavour great projects like the Italian Gardens or the Orangerie Palace statues. Often, this inspiration formed part of the cultural diplomacy of the time.

For instance, the Mediterranean Renaissance Garden beside the Neue Kammern palace was inspired by King Frederick the Great’s fascination for the Italian landscape during his voyages. This is reflected in the rather exotic plant species, such as palm trees and oleanders, that can be found there. Additionally, both the Orangerie palace and the allegory statues that embellish the garden reflect the royal taste for Ancient Classical art.

However, the greatest example of exotic influence is definitely the “Chinesisches Haus” (Chinese House) pavilion, an ode to the Far East empire. The round, pagoda-like garden pavilion, which is surrounded by gilded statues of Chinese genre scenes, was specially lit up for the occasion. The multicultural character of the event was expressed through the colourful performances, as well as through the scenery itself.

Amongst the performers was a selection of classical guitar players who performed beneath the Orangerie Palace. The “?SHMALTZ!” group performed near the Botanical Gate, combining sounds ranging from Balkan beats to Cumbia to Fellini’s films music or the “Mil Santos” Colombian band.

The program also featured theatre groups and performers who recreated Frederician Court life with its games and music. An atmospherically infusing feature was the classical music playing on the vine terraces under Sansoucci Palace, as well as performers in Venetian carnival-like costumes which created a magical and mysterious world.

Despite the rain that tamed some of them, the absolute highlight of the night was the firework display over the grandiose Neues Palais, which was a fitting end to a unique cultural happening.

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