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Ernst Dronke on Popular Theater, Bourgeois Theater, and Court Theater in Berlin (1846)

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Under the late king, it was, of course, the ballet which could pride itself on its growth. It was one of the small and harmless pleasures of the dear departed, which he rarely wanted to miss, even in places where it hardly seemed worthy of a visit. On private stages, in the Palais and in Potsdam the dancers were queens for a day, or better for the night, and even the great opera auditions were often graced with a visit by the crowned connoisseur. It must have been quite something to see the old gentleman there with his loyal companion, General von Witzleben, seated as usual atop the prompter's box, studying the posture of the weightless little cupids. If they earned his special satisfaction, they would probably receive a special honor. In the Royal Palais there was an old man of integrity, the chamberlain Timm, who supplied excellent wines and tasty morsels to the king's table. This Herr Timm invited some of the little ladies one evening. When it became clear what this distinction entailed, it became an object of envy. If they were in a good mood while visiting Papa Timm, the doors suddenly opened and, by coincidence, the king made an entrance. The friendly old gentleman did not want to disturb at all, and he usually stayed in the jovial company until midnight. Many clemency pleas were granted here, much financial support given to young lovers eager to marry, many able candidates were approved if the applicants were lucky enough to have one of the winged little favorites as their protector. These tranquil times are gone and the epoch of the new regime is also marked in the chronicles of the theater. The leotard was replaced by Sophocles' toga. It is said that one day the then-crown prince comforted his spouse with the following words: "Stay calm, my child, my father lets them jump about, we're going to let them go!" Certainly, the poorest had a sense of their fate, but they didn’t love their patron any less for it. Following the funeral procession was a long parade of carriages in which the abandoned winged goddesses sat crying, their little legs dangling.

Under the previous king, the ballet prospered, but the Berlin stage was considered the best in Germany for opera and recitations. Berlin was the dream of every ambitious artist, we need not mention here the names of Ludwig Devrient, Iffland, Lemm, Krüger, and Seydelmann. Now the ballet company is reduced to a very modest size. But does that mean that more resources are devoted to theater and opera? We shall see.

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