For German culture, tiny Weimar looms large

Germany editor Jim Glab visited Weimar, Germany, to check out the town's preparations for Cultural Capital 1999. His report follows:

WEIMAR, Germany -- With a population of 62,000, this central German city may be the smallest municipality ever designated Europe's Cultural Capital, but the lineup of events and performers for the festivities is worthy of the title.

The program, with events strung out from January to December, features performances by some of the world's top orchestras and opera and dance companies, as well as an eclectic assortment of art exhibits, plays, conferences, competitions and workshops.

Weimar,GermanyMuch of the cultural activity will focus on the works of some of the city's favorite musical sons, like Johann Sebastian Bach, Franz Liszt and Richard Strauss, each of whom spent part of his career in Weimar. The city also was home for decades to Germany's literary godfather, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (whose 250th birthday will be celebrated here in 1999), the poet Friedrich Schiller and the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche.

Weimar's long cultural tradition -- which started in the Middle Ages, when local dukes invited artists and writers to live here under their sponsorship -- continued into the current century with architect Walter Gropius, who in 1919 transformed the city's Bauhaus University into a center of modern design, creating a distinctive style still universally recognized by the name "Bauhaus."

The Bauhaus movement, which brought a minimalist twist to handicrafts as well as industrial design, was a leading artistic movement around the world in the 1920s and '30s. Artists on the staff of the Bauhaus University included Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky and Oskar Schlemmer. The city's newest museum, opened in 1995, is the Bauhaus Museum, offering a collection of 500 objects that typify the style popularized by Gropius and his followers.

However, it won't be the city's newest museum for long: In January 1999, city officials plan to cut the ribbon on the New Museum Weimar, housing a collection of contemporary art, not only to mark the start of the Cultural Capital year but also to commemorate Weimar's 1,100th anniversary as a city. The museum, to be housed in a 19th century neo-Renaissance building, will cover a broad range of international art created since the 1960s.

The city's anniversary makes Weimar's selection as Europe's Cultural Capital all the more significant and the program of events and performers is intended to keep that designation up to the standards of the larger cities that have worn that crown in recent years.

Map of Thuringen region Weimar's Cultural Capital calendar for 1999 includes a series of classical concerts with visiting orchestras and groups, beginning on Jan. 15 with a 200th anniversary performance of Joseph Haydn's oratorio "The Creation," presented by London's Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields. (A detailed listing of events appears in a related story on this page.)

In addition to being a writer, Goethe was a painter and draftsman, and the Weimar Classics Foundation plans to put 250 of his drawings on display at an unusual location -- the former concentration camp at Buchenwald, just outside the city.

French conceptual artist Daniel Buren is being given the Rollplatz, Weimar's oldest town square, to use as the canvas for his newest creation, and visitors will have to walk through the entire town to see an exhibit called "A Stroll in Time Through Weimar," which will include 25 stops along the way with video installations, recordings, posters and "architectural elements" to take the viewer back through the years. In perhaps the oddest exhibit of the 1999 festivities, organizers have commissioned the construction of an exact, full-size replica of Goethe's 18th century Garden House, to be built next to the extant Garden House.

An organization called Ticketservice Weimar 1999 is working with the city's tourist office to market packages combining hotel accommodations with event tickets, offering net rates to travel agents. For more information, contact Ticketservice Weimar 1999. Phone: (011) 49-036 4324-0024; fax, (011) 49-0 6 4324-0025; e-mail, [email protected].

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