Whether it's high-class art or light entertainment: the Saarland cultural scene has something to offer everyone, no matter what their tastes are. Theatre, museums, numerous musical events, archaeological excavations and historic building complexes in towns and villages characterise the state just as much as its rich industrial heritage and cross-border projects. It's amazing that so much culture can be squeezed into such a small state, including the renowned collections at the Saarland Museum as well as the most important festival celebrating the work of young German film-makers, the Max Ophüls Prize Film Festival, our industrial heritage, and highly regarded exhibitions at the "Völklinger Hütte" UNESCO World Heritage site.
Festivals, concerts and more besides
Live music is a feature of Saarland, especially at open-air concerts and in atmospheric locations. Examples include the Antattack Festival at the Dillinger Lokschuppen venue, the rock festival at the Hüttenpark former industrial site in Neunkirchen, and the RockCamp Festival at the open-air swimming pool in Saarwellingen. Even the Saarbrücken university campus likes it loud – at the AStA Open Air Festival. But for the season's really big event you have to go up into Püttlingen forest: Rocco del Schlacko. The event started out in 1999 as a mini festival that attracted 600 people and five local bands, but now attracts 20,000 fans who make the earth tremble at the Sauwasen site where it's held. The flamboyantly named open-air festival, which is held in a typical Saarland natural setting, has developed into a regular feature of the German summer festival season.
Since 2012 the ironworks has rocked: when the hammering at Völklingen's heritage site is produced by a deep bass beat instead of its former workers, that's when the Electro Magnetic festival gets underway. Regional, national and international top DJs go to the Völklinger Hütte site every year with their stereo jacks. The vibrating sounds of electronic music are an ideal accompaniment to the industrial flair of the World Heritage Site. In its very first year the event won the prize as the "Best New Festival" at the European Festival Awards.
Saarland isn't just a venue for loud music. Jazz fans are also well catered for in Saarland. Saarbrücken, St. Ingbert and St. Wendel are venues where national and international jazz greats perform swing, bebop, cool jazz and other varieties of jazz.
Contemporary French theatre meets German acting expertise. Great stagecraft is on show at the German-French "Perspectives" festival which began in Saarbrücken in 1978. Alongside drama and musical theatre, it includes opera and dance, circus acts and acrobatics, performance art and pantomime as well as improvisation and stage readings. What's astounding is the mixing of linguistically demanding events with primarily visual and musical festival events which give the audience an idea of what's going on, even if they don't understand French or only have a basic grasp of the language.
And when the state capital Saarbrücken hosts the awarding of the Max Ophüls Blue Heart prize at the start of the festival season, up-and-coming German film talents get their chance to walk down the red carpet. The Max Ophüls Prize Film Festival has been an established and respected feature of Germany's festival scene for over 30 years.
Music and theatre
The HfM University of Music is the only musical educational institution with internationally recognised university status in either the SaarLorLux region itself or areas far beyond it. This academic institution, which is steeped in tradition, was founded in 1947 and modelled on the "Conservatoire de Paris".From ancient to contemporary music, Saarland's HfM University of Music offers a wide range of training for the most important artistic and teaching jobs in the field of music. The appointment of top-name artistic figures and its quality education have given the university an outstanding reputation both in the region itself and far beyond.
The Saarbrücken-Kaiserslautern Deutsche Radio Philharmonie orchestra is impressive and tuneful – the crème de la crème of classical music. Germany's youngest radio symphony orchestra is rich in tradition. The orchestra was founded in September 2007 through the merger of the radio symphony orchestra of Saarbrücken with the radio orchestra of Kaiserslautern. The musicians enthral music lovers both in the Greater Saar region and in the Far East.
For years now the Saarländisches Staatstheater (Saarland State Theatre) has been broadening its appeal by consistently and successfully winning new audiences for drama, opera and ballet. In addition to its main performance venues, the Großes Haus and Alte Feuerwache, the company has also made Sparte4 a successful venue for unconventional and experimental forms of theatre. The theatre also has an active collaboration programme with theatres in Nancy, Metz, Forbach, Luxembourg and Berlin. The "SST", together with the Le Carreau Forbach venue , hosts the Festival Primeurs – the festival of modern francophone drama as well as the Saar dance festival.
Opera and concerts in the 'tented village' at Merzig, atmospheric chamber music at the old abbey in Mettlach, open-air classical music concerts by the reservoir in Losheim, unconventional productions performed by young ensembles and unusual venues with accompanying historical/cultural and gastronomic experiences – it's all included in the range of events laid on by Musik & Theater Saar.
Museums and art
Saarland's museum landscape has several crowd-pulling pieces on display – including Franz Marc's "Little Blue Horse" (1912). In 1956 this painting became part of the permanent collection of Saarland museum. Since 1980 the Saarländischer Kulturbesitz foundation has ensured that the most important of the state's 100 or so museums operate at an international level. Some of them, such as the 'Historisches Museum' next to Saarbrücken castle, provide insights into historical buildings like the castle's fortified 'casemates'. In addition, other historical and local museums throughout the state shed light on its history.
The Völklinger Hütte, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1994, is an outstanding monument to Saarland's industrial heritage and a globally important testament to the history of technology. The UrbanArt Biennale at the World Heritage Site displays the urban art of every continent in an exhibition space covering an area of 100,000 m². It's the largest urban art show in the world. Since 2011 the Völklinger Hütte World Heritage Site has hosted this major exhibition of 21st century art which developed from graffiti. The central exhibition hall is the 10,000 m² Möllerhalle. In addition, international artists create fixed installations which are specially designed for 'their own particular place' in the Völklinger Hütte.
The Saarland University of Art and Design: Since it was founded in 1989, HBKsaar in Saarbrücken has developed into one the most important creative centres in the Greater Region which comprises Saarland/Rhineland-Palatinate/Alsace-Lorraine/Luxembourg and Wallonia. The professorships held by internationally renowned artists and designers guarantee top-quality education. HBKsaar therefore seamlessly continues the tradition of Saarland's art schools since 1924, with its association with such well-known names as Boris Kleint, Frans Masereel, Peter Raacke, Robert Sessler and Otto Steinert.
Open-air art: in Saarland art is displayed not just in its numerous museums and exhibitions, but also outdoors in harmony with nature. Throughout the ages creators of art have continually been inspired by nature. Many of these works can be admired at exhibitions and in museums. But art has been taken a step further by placing it in open-air displays. In addition, the lively Saarland arts scene provides exciting displays of works in conventional museums and art galleries as well as at unusual places like the Völklinger Hütte.