With traditional venues shut, Berlin artists take to streets

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Otto Kuhnle from a group of independent artists known as Entenfuss Kultur, Duck's Foot Culture, performes at a so-called 'Show Windows' at the district Prenzlauer Berg in Berlin, Germany, Sunday, Dec. 6, 2020. With theaters and concert halls shuttered to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some Berlin artists are taking their performances to the streets of the German capital in an effort to keep their edge during the pandemic and feed a population starved for cultural interaction. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber)

BERLIN – With theaters and concert halls shuttered to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, some Berlin artists are taking their performances to the streets of the German capital in an effort to keep their edge during the pandemic and entertain a population craving cultural interaction.

As Guenther Stolarz belts out the operas of Wagner and Mozart on a corner in the Prenzlauer Berg neighborhood, walking around dramatically as if on stage in his tuxedo tails, passersby gather, leaning up against their bicycles and holding their children on their shoulders to listen to the baritone sing.

Accompanied by his partner Isabel Schumann on an electric piano or accordion, Stolarz also sings Spanish, Italian and Russian classical songs to the crowds that gather every Sunday.

“It's very lively to sing openly, and I can really feel how one can infect people with music,” says Stolarz, a Bavarian native who now lives in Berlin and has been performing in venues around Germany since 2006.

An elderly woman who looked on as Stolarz and Schumann performed outside the district's Gethsemane Church this past weekend said she was grateful to be able to hear live music again.

“It's so very beautiful,” she said. “We miss art and culture so much, it's so great that he comes here and sings with such passion for us.”

For Stolarz and Schumann, the performances help keep them fit and energized and donations help with the bills as they wait for more traditional venues to reopen.

They say a silver lining to the street performances has been the ability to get closer to their audiences.