Town in Germany, formed by the union of Barmen, Elberfeld and the smaller towns of Ronsdorf, Vohwinkel and Cronenberg along the Wupper River in 1929. The cultivation of music there was at first seriously hindered by Calvinist influences and became established only in the second half of the 19th century.
The Wuppertal Konzertgesellschaft, founded in Barmen and Elberfeld in 1861, is one of the few private organizations of this type in Germany. Under the auspices of the town it arranges symphony, choral and chamber concerts and solo recitals. It has mounted many first performances and presented guest appearances by Liszt, Clara Schumann, Bülow, Joachim, Casals, Elly Ney, Schnabel and Emil Sauer. In 1933 the Wuppertal Konzertgesellschaft became the Städtischer Konzertverein and was immediately subject to Nazi cultural policies. Before 1945 the Berlin PO under Furtwängler appeared in Wuppertal 12 times. The two oratorio choirs of the Konzertgesellschaft, the Städtischer Singverein Barmen (founded 1817) and the Elberfelder Gesangverein (founded 1811), amalgamated in 1968 as the Chor der Konzertgesellschaft. Johannes Schornstein, the first conductor (1811–53) of the Elberfelder Gesangverein, organized the first Niederrheinisches Musikfest (1818). Subsequent conductors were Hermann Schornstein (1854–78) and the guest conductors Ferdinand Hiller and Rafał Maszkowski. Between 1879 and 1890 Julius Buths was conductor of the Gesangverein and the Städtisches Orchester. The most important conductor of the Barmer Singverein was Anton Krause (1859–96); under him Barmen was the third German town to perform Bach's St Matthew Passion (in 1864) and the seventh to perform his Mass in B minor (in 1865).
The Städtisches Orchester originated in the Langenbachsche Kapelle, which from 1849 collaborated with the Barmen and Elberfeld choirs in their oratorio performances. 18 members of the Langenbachsche Kapelle formed the Elberfelder Kapelle in 1862, which became known as the Städtisches Orchester in 1886. In 1874 another 20 players from the Langenbachsche Kapelle formed the Barmer Orchesterverein, which became the Städtisches Orchester in 1889. In 1919 the town orchestras joined to form the Vereinigtes Städtisches Orchester. After a period under the conductors Hans Haym (1890–1920) and Hermann von Schmeidel (1921–6) in Elberfeld, and Erich Kleiber (1921–2), Otto Klemperer and Hans Weisbach (1924–6) in Barmen, the two orchestras were finally united in 1926 (three years before the official union) under one municipal director of music, Franz von Hoesslin. His successor (1932–7) was Hellmut Schnackenberg; Paul van Kempen and Leopold Ludwig were guest conductors. Fritz Lehmann was conductor of the symphony and choral concerts and opera performances from 1938 to 1947. Weisbach (who held the appointment until 1955) and Hans Georg Ratjen were succeeded by Martin Stephani (1959–63), who made the Wuppertal Orchestra widely known through a number of broadcasts. Hanns-Martin Schneidt was appointed director of music in Wuppertal in 1963. Peter Gülke succeeded him in 1986, and he in turn was succeeded by George Hanson in 1998.
A theatre company was formed at Elberfeld in 1806. The town had its first theatre in the same year, but the building was soon commandeered for other uses. The Reiterbahnbühne opened in 1835, and in 1842 the newly founded Theaterverein built a theatre which became the centre of the town's theatrical life until its closure in 1882. The new opera house, the Theater am Brausenwerth, opened in 1888. Franz Lehár was first violin and for a while Konzertmeister there. The Elberfeld Opera attracted much attention through its Wagner performances with Bayreuth singers. In 1874 the Barmer Stadttheater opened with Der Freischütz and Don Carlos. It burnt down several times and was eventually replaced by a new building in 1905. In 1913–14 Klemperer conducted 23 performances of Parsifal in Barmen and 25 in Elberfeld, giving the two towns together the highest number of Parsifal performances in Germany and abroad by that time. In 1919 the theatres of the two towns amalgamated, becoming known as the Städtische Bühnen Wuppertal in 1929. During World War II there were notable performances of the Ring in March 1942 and 1943 under Hans Knappertsbusch (who had been opera conductor at Elberfeld from 1913 to 1918). The opera house at Barmen was damaged by bombing in 1943, and the town hall at Elberfeld (opened in 1900 as a concert hall) served as an opera house. After the war Wuppertal was the first town in West Germany to reopen its opera house (14 October 1945). In the 1950s the Wuppertal Opera's important large-scale performances were so highly regarded that press reports referred to a ‘Wuppertal style’. In October 1956 the Barmen opera house reopened with Hindemith's Mathis der Mahler and Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail.
Important events at the Wuppertal theatre since the war – premières and first West German performances – have included productions of Heinrich Sutermeister's Raskolnikoff (1950), Paul Dessau's Puntila (1967), Gunther Schuller's Die Heimsuchung (1962), Milhaud's Médée (1972), Volker David Kirchner's Die fünf Minuten des Isaak Babel (1980 première) and the first staged performance of Shostakovich's The Gamblers, completed by Krzysztof Meyer (1983).
Many music festivals have been held in Wuppertal since 1950, including the Niederrheinisches Musikfest in 1950 and 1955, the Bergisches Chorfest (1957), the thirteenth Deutsches Mozartfest of the Deutsche Mozart-Gesellschaft, and ‘Zupfmusik 90’, an international festival for plucked-string instrument players (1990). Wuppertal also took part in the North Rhine-Westphalian cycle of Hindemith's works in 1992 and 1993. The KlangZeit lodge, an organization in which composers, visual artists, architects, scientists and philosophers all worked together to explore the possibilities of giving an acoustic structure to human life and its environment, was founded in Wuppertal in 1991. The Bergisches Landeskonservatorium, founded at Haan in 1945, was combined in 1972 with the Wuppertal Institute, the vocational section of the Cologne Hochschule für Musik.