7 – Artistic Staff
Martin Schläpfer was a leading soloist with Heinz Spoerli’s Basel Ballet and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, Canada. In 1994 he was appointed Director of the Berne Ballet and from 1999 to 2009 he was head of ballettmainz, which he elevated to one of Germany’s leading companies. Since the 2009/10 season he has been Director and Chief Choreographer of Ballett am Rhein. As a choreographer, he created works for such companies as the Bavarian State Ballet and Dutch National Ballet. In 2014 Ballett Zürich presented his Forellenquintett. He made his opera directing debut in 2012, with Rameau’s “Castor et Pollux” for the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf. Several of his ballets have been filmed for television. He was awarded the Arts Prize of the region of Rhineland-Palatinate (2002), the Dance Prize of the Spoerli Foundation (2003), the Prix Benois de la Danse (2006) and the German theatre prize “Der Faust” in 2009 and 2012. In 2010 he was named “Choreographer of the Year” by “tanz” magazine. He won the Swiss Dance Award (2013) and the Taglioni – European Ballet Award (2014) as best director. His ballet “DEEP FIELD” has been nominated for the 2015 Prix Benois and in November he received the prestigious Music Prize of the City of Duisburg.
Read Martin Schläpfer’s comments on Gustav Mahler here
Axel Kober has been Musical Director of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein since 2009/10, where he has placed a strong emphasis on a broad repertoire. He has conducted works by Rameau, Mozart, Rossini, Verdi, Wagner, Bizet, Charpentier, Puccini, Lehár and Strauss as well as 20th and 21st century operas by Britten, Poulenc, Widmann and Oehring. He has also forged close artistic links with Martin Schläpfer’s Ballett am Rhein. For Rameau‘s “Castor et Pollux”, Axel Kober worked together with Neue Düsseldorfer Hofmusik for the first time. His conducting engagements for the current season include the premieres of “Turandot” (Puccini), “The Merry Wives of Windsor” (Nicolai) and “The Golden Cockerel” (Rimsky-Korsakov). Axel Kober graduated from the University of Music in Würzburg. He subsequently joined Staatstheater Schwerin in 1994 before working in senior positions at Theater Dortmund from 1998 to 2003 and at Nationaltheater Mannheim from 2003 to 2007. In 2007 Axel Kober was appointed Music Director at Leipzig Opera, taking a leading role in the musical life of the city alongside Riccardo Chailly. His debut in 2007 at the Gewandhausorchester’s Grand Concert has been followed by renewed invitations every year. Axel Kober has also been a visiting conductor at the Royal Opera Copenhagen, the Vienna Volksoper, Deutsche Oper Berlin, Hamburg State Opera, NDR Symphony Orchestra, Theater Basel and the Opéra du Rhin in Strasbourg. Highlights of his career so far include performances at the Bayreuth Festival, where he conducted Wagner’s “Tannhäuser” in 2013 and 2014 and the “Flying Dutchman” in 2015. This was followed in October by his debut at the Semperoper Dresden with “Elektra” (Strauss). Alongside his many commitments at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Axel Kober’s plans for 2016 include a concert with the Bruckner Orchestra Linz, the “Flying Dutchman” at Zürich Opera and his debut at the Vienna State Opera.
Florian Etti studied languages and art at the Free University and the Arts College, Berlin, and stage design with Rolf Glittenberg in Cologne. From 1986 to 1988 he was the assistant stage designer at the Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus. His design credits include productions at the opera houses of Düsseldorf, Cologne, Essen and Zürich; the Schaubühne Berlin, the Burgtheater and Volkstheater Vienna, and the principal theatres of Dresden, Düsseldorf, Cologne, Bonn, Frankfurt, Karlsruhe, Zürich, Mannheim, Bochum, Basle, Hanover, Mainz, Bremen, Dortmund, Kassel, Dresden and Malmö. He has worked with the directors Werner Schroeter, Günter Krämer, Karin Beier, Sönke Wortmann and Anna Badora among others and enjoys a close collaboration with the director Burkhard C. Kosminski. His work with the choreographer Heinz Spoerli includes many world premieres for the Deutsche Oper am Rhein and Ballett Zürich. In the 2010/11 season he designed the sets for the world premiere of Martin Schläpfer’s “A German Requiem” and has subsequently worked with him on the world premieres of “Nacht umstellt”, “7” and “Symphonie g-Moll” for the Ballett am Rhein.
Volker Weinhart began his theatre career in Frankfurt, at the Centennial Hall in Höchst and the Neues Theater; and in touring productions with major shows starring, among others, Tina Turner and Michael Jackson. He
worked at the Wiesbaden Staatstheater, where his credits included the lighting design for “Grease”, and completed his training in lighting and pyrotechnics at the technical college of Darmstadt. In 1995 he joined Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg as a lighting operator, becoming Assistant Technical Director in 2001 and Head of Lighting in the 2004/05 season. As a lighting designer he has worked with the directors Tobias Richter, Christof Loy, Christof Nel, Michael Simon, Giancarlo del Monaco, Dietrich W. Hilsdorf and Immo Karaman; with the choreographers Martin Schläpfer and Nils Christe; and with the set designers Gottfried Pilz, Andreas Reinhardt, Herbert Murauer, Johannes Leiacker, rosalie and Dieter Richter.
The Ballett am Rhein was re-established by its director Martin Schläpfer in 2009 and is now regarded as one of Europe’s leading dance companies. It was voted Best Company of the Year by “tanz” magazine in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The ensemble consists exclusively of soloists, 45 dancers in all, and can be seen regularly on the Deutsche Oper am Rhein’s stages in Düsseldorf and Duisburg. Guest performances have taken the company among others to the Théâtre de la Ville Paris, Het Muziektheater Amsterdam, the Gran Teatre del Liceu Barcelona, the Royal Opera House Muscat, the Stanislavsky Theatre Moscow, the Israeli Opera Tel Aviv, the principal theatres in Munich, Cologne, Bonn and Hanover and to the international festivals in Ludwigsburg, Maastricht and Wiesbaden. Schläpfer has developed a repertory for the Ballett am Rhein which presents important masterpieces of the 20th and 21st centuries by such choreographers as Balanchine, Jooss, Tudor, Ashton, Robbins, Cunningham, van Manen, Tharp, Ek, Kylián, Christe, Miller, Lightfoot & León and Goecke, alongside his own works and world premieres by the younger generation.
With the Düsseldorfer Symphoniker, resident at both the Tonhalle and the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, Düsseldorf is home to Germany’s second oldest city orchestra. Its tradition reaches back as far as the baroque period when the patron of the arts Elector Johann Wilhelm was also responsible for the construction of a fine court oratory. With the rise of bourgeois culture in the 19th century the orchestra was once again able to attract leading artists to the Rhine. Its first musical directors included both Felix Mendelssohn and Robert Schumann. The Symphoniker also had a distinct international flavour during the 20th century: artists such as Edwin Fischer, Elly Ney, Vladimir Horowitz, Richard Strauss and Jascha Horenstein all worked here. After 1945 principal conductors included Heinrich Hollreiser, Jean Martinon, Rafael Frühbeck de Burgos, Willem van Otterloo, Bernhard Klee, John Fiore and, last but not least, Andrey Boreyko. From the 2015/16 season, the Hungarian Adam Fischer has been both Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor to the Tonhalle. The young Frenchman Alexandre Bloch has been appointed Principal Guest Conductor. The orchestra’s profile is enhanced by distinguished guest conductors and soloists including Sir Neville Marriner, Sir Roger Norrington, Christoph Eschenbach, Tzimon Barto and Frank Peter Zimmermann. The orchestra’s concert tours through Europe, Russia, China and Japan play a significant role in promoting Düsseldorf’s reputation as a city of culture around the world.