Born in Berlin, the German Director studied at the Theaterschule Hans Otto in Leipzig. He was “Oberspielleiter” in Stralsund (1958-1962) and Chemnitz (1962-1966) and worked in Weimar and in Dresden. From 1981 on he was director of the Komische Oper Berlin and Professor at the Musikhochschule Hanns Eisler Berlin. For his last production as chief director at the Komische Oper Berlin, The Turn of the Screw, he was awarded the Bavarian Theatre Prize in 2002. He is a member of the Akademie der Künste Berlin, of the Freie Akademie der Künste Hamburg, as well as of the Sächsischen Akademie der Künste Dresden. In 2004 he was honoured with the Silbernes Blatt der Dramatiker Union.
He has directed more than 200 opera productions all over the world, i.a. in Bayreuth (Wagner’s Der fliegende Holländer in 1987 and Der Ring des Nibelungen in 1988), at the Salzburger Festspiele in 1986 (the premiere of Penderecki’s Die schwarze Maske) and a whole Wagner cycle at the Staatsoper Unter den Linden with Daniel Barenboim. Other works by Harry Kupfer include: Verdi’s Giovanna d’Arco, Macbeth and the world premiere of Reimann’s Bernarda Albas Haus at the Bayerische Staatsoper, Weill’s Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny, Penderecki’s The Devils of Loudon and Bernstein’s Westside Story at the Semperoper Dresden.
In recent years Harry Kupfer staged i.a. Lehar’s The Merry Widow at the Hamburg State Opera, Pfitzner’s Palestrina and Berlioz’ La damnation de Faust as well as Prokofjews The Gambler at the Frankfurt Opera. At the Zurich Opera he directed Wagner’s Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg and returned to the Theater an der Wien with Strauss’ Ariadne auf Naxos, where he had staged the famous world premiere of the musical production Elisabeth in 1992, as well as Mozart! in 1999. In 2014 he directed Les Contes d’Hoffmann in Tel Aviv, as well as a highly regarded production of Der Rosenkavalier at the Salzburger Festspiele and Parsifal in Tokio. The last seasons led him to the Bayerische Staatsoper (Lady Macbeth of Mtsensk), to the Oper Frankfurt (Ein Leben für den Zaren), to the Finnish National Opera (Parsifal), to the Staatsoper Berlin (Fidelio, Macbeth, Tristan und Isolde) and to the Komische Oper Berlin (Poro, Re dell’Indie).
Harry Kupfer was part of a generation of stage directors that strongly affected the development of opera towards music theatre and opened it to a contemporary perception. His exceptional strength lies in the psychological development of pieces and gives the audience the opportunity to look deeper into very well known works of opera.
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