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Harry Kupfer

Harry Kupfer
Born (1935-08-12) 12 August 1935 (age 83)
Education Theaterhochschule Leipzig

Harry Kupfer (born 12 August 1935) is a German opera director and academic. A long-time director at the Komische Oper Berlin, he has worked at major opera houses and at festivals internationally. He has staged premieres of operas, and has worked for the Bayreuth Festival and the Salzburg Festival.


Born in Berlin, Kupfer studied theatre at the Theaterhochschule Leipzig[1] from 1953 to 1957.[2] He was assisting director at the Landestheater Halle, where he directed his first opera, Dvořák's Rusalka, in 1958.[2] From 1958 to 1962, he worked at the Theater Stralsund, then at the Theater in Karl-Marx-Stadt, from 1966 as opera director at the Nationaltheater Weimar, also lecturing at the Hochschule für Musik Franz Liszt, Weimar from 1967 to 1972. In 1971, he staged as a guest at the Staatsoper Berlin Die Frau ohne Schatten by Richard Strauss.[2] Kupfer was opera director at the Staatsoper Dresden from 1972[1] to 1982. In 1973, he staged abroad for the first time: Elektra by Richard Strauss at the Graz Opera. He was from 1977 professor at the Hochschule für Musik Carl Maria von Weber Dresden.[2] In 1978, he was invited to direct Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer at the Bayreuth Festival, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies.[3] He staged the story in a psychological interpretation as the heroine Senta's imaginations and obsessions.[3]

Kupfer was chief director at the Komische Oper Berlin from 1981,[2] a protégé of Walter Felsenstein.[4][5] Simultaneously, he was professor at the Hochschule für Musik "Hanns Eisler" in Berlin. At the opera, he staged Mozart operas in the order of their composition, including Die Entführung aus dem Serail in 1982 and Così fan tutte in 1984. He also staged there Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg in 1981, Puccini's La Bohème in 1982, Reimann's Lear, Verdi's Rigoletto and Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov and 1983, among many others.[2] He directed there the premiere of Judith (de) by Siegfried Matthus.[1] In 2002, he staged at the Bayreuth Festival Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.[6][7]

Kupfer premiered several operas, including Udo Zimmermann's Levins Mühle (de) at the Staatstheater Dresden in 1973, conducted by Siegfried Kurz. He staged the GDR premiere of Schönberg's Moses und Aron there, also conducted by Kurz in 1975. In 1979, he directed there the world premiere of Zimmermann's Der Schuhu und die fliegende Prinzessin (de), conducted by Max Pommer, also the premiere of Georg Katzer's Antigone oder die Stadt at the Komische Oper Berlin in 1991, conducted by Jörg-Peter Weigle, Mozart by librettist Michael Kunze and composer Sylvester Levay at the Theater an der Wien in 1999, conducted by Caspar Richter (de), and in 2000 Reimann's Bernarda Albas Haus, at the Bavarian State Opera, conducted by Zubin Mehta. Kupfer co-wrote the libretto with composer Krzysztof Penderecki of Penderecki's opera Die schwarze Maske. He directed the 1986 world premiere production in Salzburg and the US premiere production at the Santa Fe Opera in 1988.[8]

Kupfer and his late wife, the music teacher and soprano Marianne Fischer-Kupfer, had a daughter, Kristiane, who is an actress.


Kupfer has worked in the tradition of realistic directing, as developed by Walter Felsenstein and practised especially at the Komische Oper Berlin. The works are interpreted with a focus on implications drawn from them; actions on stage, conflicts and the development of drama are related to the score and to the logic of relationships between the characters. Kupfer has always worked individually with the singers, including the choir members, requesting talent for acting and rendering credibility to the actions. Kupfer supports Giorgio Strehler's belief in a "human theatre" ("menschliches Theater"). The characters are, in the tradition of Bertolt Brecht's method of dialectic theatre, always placed in historic political context, which determines their actions at least partly.[9]



Among his productions available on DVD:


Kupfer is a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, the Freie Akademie der Künste in Hamburg, and the Sächsische Akademie der Künste in Dresden.[1]


  • Dieter Kranz (de): Harry Kupfer inszeniert an der Komischen Oper Berlin. Richard Wagner Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg 1981; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Die Entführung aus dem Serail, 1982; Giacomo Puccini La Bohème, 1982; Aribert Reimann Lear, 1983; Giuseppe Verdi Rigoletto, 1983; Modest Mussorgski Boris Godunov 1983; Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart Così fan tutte 1984 (Theaterarbeit in der DDR 11, Documentation), Berlin 1987.[2]
  • Dieter Kranz: Der Regisseur Harry Kupfer „Ich muß Oper machen“ Kritiken, Beschreibungen, Gespräche. Berlin 1988.
  • Dieter Kranz: Berliner Theater. 100 Aufführungen aus drei Jahrzehnten, Berlin 1990
  • Dieter Kranz: Der Gegenwart auf der Spur. Der Opernregisseur Harry Kupfer. Henschel, Berlin 2005, ISBN 3-89487-522-4


  1. ^ a b c d "Kupfer, Harry". (in German). Retrieved 11 August 2018. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f g "Harry Kupfer". Staatsoper Berlin (in German). Retrieved 17 August 2018. 
  3. ^ a b Herbort, Heinz Josef (1978). "Oper: "Der fliegende Holländer" in Bayreuth: Senta, ein Psycho-Drama". Die Zeit (in German). Retrieved 18 September 2018. 
  4. ^ Luehrs-Kaiser, Kai (12 August 2015). "Harry Kupfer wird 80 – Im Sitzen kann man keine Opern inszenieren". Die Welt (in German). Berlin. Retrieved 17 August 2018. 
  5. ^ Davis, Peter G. (18 May 2008). "Aria! Action! Making Opera a Director's Art". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  6. ^ Rockwell, John (5 August 1988). "The Final 2 Parts Of Bayreuth's 'Ring'". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  7. ^ Breiholz, Jochen (August 2002). "The Age of the Director (VI): The Rise and Fall of Harry Kupfer". Retrieved 18 August 2018. 
  8. ^ Henehan, Donal (2 August 1988). "Murder, Suicide and the Black Plague". The New York Times. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  9. ^ Kranz, Dieter (2005). Der Gegenwart auf der Spur. Der Opernregisseur Harry Kupfer. Berlin: Henschel. p. 9–10. ISBN 3-89487-522-4. 
  10. ^ Mahlke, Sybill (4 August 2014). ""Der Rosenkavalier" bei den Salzburger Festspielen – Endlich nicht mehr stubenrein". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). Berlin. Retrieved 18 August 2018. 
  11. ^ Hanssen, Frederik (4 October 2016). "Harry Kupfer und sein "Fidelio" – Treu und Glauben". Der Tagesspiegel (in German). Berlin. Retrieved 18 August 2018. 
  12. ^ Schreiber, Wolfgang (27 November 2016). "Liebe statt Sex". Süddeutsche Zeitung (in German). Munich. Retrieved 18 August 2018. 
  13. ^ Wagner Opera Net review Archived 21 July 2009 at the Wayback Machine.
  14. ^ Andrew Clements (21 December 2007). "Wagner: Der Ring des Nibelungen". The Guardian. Retrieved 18 March 2009. 
  15. ^ Wagner Opera Net review

External links