A History of Success

Founding the festival



 Gerhard Kämpfe has the idea to create a music festival on Gendarmenmarkt.



The first Classic Open Air Festival opens with a concert by José Carreras, and two further concerts follow. The event is conceived and organised by the festival’s founder, Gerhard Kämpfe, with the support of his colleagues from ‘Erste Stunde’: Dr. Jürgen Hagen (who remains an artistic advisor to the festival) and Eike von Oppeln-Bronikowski.



Mario Hempel joins as Managing Director of the festival, to help deal with the increasing logistical work involved (the festival had expanded by this stage to include up to seven concerts annually). Ever since, the festival has been successfully organised annually through the co-operation of Gerhard Kämpfe as Festival Director (focusing on artistic and production management) and Mario Hempel as Managing Director (focusing on marketing, logistics and finance).

The essential concept of the festival is to bring classical music concerts to the widest possible audiences by setting them on the unique stage of Berlin’s historic Gendarmenmarkt square. The artistic variety of the festival comprises everything from the so-called Star-Concerts, to Concept-Concerts (performances of Verdi, Wagner, Strauss and others) and what have become known as Crossover-Concerts - which create a unique mix of pop, rock, or jazz with the sounds of a classical ensemble orchestra.

Notable former performers
José Carreras, Montserrat Caballé, Roberto Alagna, José Cura, Marcelo Alvarez, Anna Maria Kaufmann, Thomas Quasthoff, Lucia Aliberti, Buena Vista Social Club, Chaka Khan, Al Jarreau, Chris de Burgh, die Scorpions, Xavier Naidoo & die Söhne Mannheims, Roger Cicero, Udo Jürgens, Till Brönner, Paul Kuhn, Anett Louisan, Curtis Stigers and many more. 

Visitor numbers
Since 1992, the festival has thrilled over 723,000 guests with 129 individual concerts. The festival appeals to a remarkably wide audience demographic. One survey indicated that some 70% of the festival’s attendees rarely go to mainstream opera or classical concerts. The festival serves then to attract especially this demographic to classical music and musical theatre. The programme always features high-quality performances, whilst maintaining a connection to popular music genres.
Pictures of the festival have been published in 60 different countries throughout the world. Every year, countless column inches are dedicated to the festival in both print and online media.

Highlights of the concert staging
Particularly sought-after are tickets for concerts which feature light, laser and firework displays to complement the beauty of this unique architectural backdrop.

In 2006 the Classic Open Air Festival was honoured with the “LEA - Live Entertainment Award 2005” for the artistic breadth of its programme.

Future plans
The successful festival concept will be continued in future years. The organisers have secured a long-term contract with the city authorities, meaning the concert’s future is guaranteed for future years.

To fittingly celebrate our 20th anniversary year, we prepared a print publication documenting the Classic Open Air Festival and its history. It is available online via our website.


MEDIA ON-LINE Management GmbH &Co.Classic Open Air KG, Festival Direction 

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