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Flimm in Berlin, 2013

Emily Wabitsch/DPA Picture Alliance/Alamy



AN INNOVATIVE, imaginative director of theater and opera, Flimm studied at the University of Cologne before beginning his professional career as an assistant at the Munich Kammerspiele in 1968. After terms of service on staff at prestigious theaters in Mannheim and Cologne, he was appointed general manager of the Thalia Theater in Hamburg, a position he held for fifteen years. Flimm’s productions at the Thalia included works by Chekhov, Ibsen, Schnitzler and Shakespeare.

Flimm directed his first opera production, the Oper Frankfurt premiere of Luigi Nono’s Al Gran Sole Carico d’Amore, in 1978. Flimm’s subsequent opera stagings included Così Fan Tutte in Amsterdam (1990), which began his important artistic partnership with conductor Nikolaus Harnoncourt; Wozzeck at La Scala (1997); Wagner’s Ring at Bayreuth (2000), conducted by Giuseppe Sinopoli; Haydn’s L’Anima del Filosofo at Vienna’s Theater an der Wien (1995) and Covent Garden (2001); Otello (2001) and Sciarrino’s Macbeth (2014) at Berlin State Opera; the world premiere of Cerha’s Riese vom Steinfeld at Vienna State Opera (2002); La Clemenza di Tito at Vienna State Opera (2012); and Fidelio (2000) and Salome (2004) at the Metropolitan Opera. Flimm’s Met productions both featured memorable central performances by Karita Mattila. The Fidelio was telecast as part of The Metropolitan Opera Presents series. The Salome was featured in The Met: Live in HD in 2008.

Flimm succeeded Gerard Mortier as general manager of the Ruhr Triennale (2005–08) and was artistic director of the Salzburg Festival (2006–10), where he was seen as an agent for modernization and change. In 2010, Flimm was appointed Intendant at Berlin State Opera, where he supervised the house’s lengthy restoration and its reopening in 2017.

Flimm’s boldly conceived, unconventional productions caused some critics to label him as a strict exponent of concept-driven Regietheater, but he was more than that. In a 2017 interview with Luiz Gazzola in Opera Lively, Flimm said, “As a director I’m not a formalizer. I’ve done this job for forty or fifty years, and I could never do that. I’m always looking for the human quality in music, and the behavior of the people—how they hate each other, and how they love each other, and all this stuff. It’s not really a concept; that is my way to do theater or opera.”



CERHA WAS a quadruple-threat force for the dissemination of modern music during the late twentieth century, working as composer, conductor, musicologist and educator. Cerha achieved international celebrity in his fifties with the premiere of his completion of Alban Berg’s Lulu. Berg did not finish the third act of Lulu before his death, in 1935; the first and second acts received their premieres in 1937, in Zurich, but Berg’s widow, Helene Nahowski Berg, opposed any efforts to complete the orchestration of Act III during her lifetime. Cerha, whose admiration for Lulu began when he was in his twenties, started work on his completion of Act III in 1962, at the request of Universal Edition, but it was not possible to plan a fully staged realization of Act III until after Helene Berg’s death, in 1976. The full-length Lulu, with Cerha’s orchestration of Act III, had its stage premiere at the Paris Opéra in 1979, directed by Patrice Chéreau and conducted by Pierre Boulez, with Teresa Stratas as Lulu. Cerha’s completion of Lulu, which is now regarded as the standard version of the work, was first seen at the Metropolitan Opera in 1980, in John Dexter’s staging, with Stratas’s Lulu paced by James Levine.

Cerha’s works for the theater in the years after Lulu included Netzwerk, a music-theater piece for the 1981 Vienna Festival, and Baal, an opera based on Bertolt Brecht’s play of the same name, which occupied Cerha for seven years before its premiere, at the 1981 Salzburg Festival. Christoph von Dohnányi conducted the first performances of Baal, produced in a staging by Otto Schenk, with Theo Adam in the title role. Cerha’s next opera, Der Rattenfänger, a treatment of the Pied Piper legend, had its premiere in Graz in 1987, with the composer conducting. Cerha’s last opera, Der Riese vom Steinfeld (The Giant of Steinfeld), had its premiere at Vienna State Opera in 2002, in a staging by Jürgen Flimm, with Thomas Hampson in the title role and Diana Damrau and Michelle Breedt as his costars.