|Died||30 December 2019 (aged 84)|
Harry Alfred Robert Kupfer (12 August 1935 – 30 December 2019) was a German opera director and academic. A long-time director at the Komische Oper Berlin, he worked at major opera houses and at festivals internationally. Trained by Walter Felsenstein, he worked in the tradition of realistic directing. At the Bayreuth Festival, he staged Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer in 1978 and Der Ring des Nibelungen in 1988. At the Salzburg Festival, he directed the premiere of Penderecki's Die schwarze Maske in 1986 and Der Rosenkavalier by Richard Strauss in 2014.
Born in Berlin, Kupfer studied theatre at the Theaterhochschule Leipzig from 1953 to 1957. He was the assistant director at the Landestheater Halle, where he directed his first opera, Dvořák's Rusalka, in 1958. 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.
Kupfer was opera director at the Staatsoper Dresden from 1972 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. In 1978, he was invited to direct Wagner's Der fliegende Holländer at the Bayreuth Festival, conducted by Dennis Russell Davies. He staged the story in a psychological interpretation as the heroine Senta's imaginations and obsessions.
Kupfer was chief director at the Komische Oper Berlin from 1981, a protégé of Walter Felsenstein. 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 in 1983, among many others. He directed there the premiere of Judith by Siegfried Matthus. In 1988, he staged at the Bayreuth Festival Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen. The Los Angeles Times called the production "high-tech kitsch ... a bizarre stylistic jumble"; The Guardian remarked on a Götterdämmerung "full of paltry gimmickry"; and The Times commented that "the production gets progressively lazier [and] peters out in the clichés of the day before yesteryear, which Kupfer doubtless thinks the last word in modernity".
Kupfer premiered several operas, including Udo Zimmermann's Levins Mühleat 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, 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, the musical Mozart by librettist Michael Kunze and composer Sylvester Levay at the Theater an der Wien in 1999, conducted by Caspar Richter , 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.
Kupfer and his wife, the music teacher and soprano Marianne Fischer-Kupfer, had a daughter, Kristiane , who is an actress.
He died on 30 December 2019 in Berlin.
Kupfer 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 always worked individually with the singers, including the choir members, requesting talent for acting and rendering credibility to the actions. Kupfer supported 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.
The Akademie der Künste lists several of his productions, including:
Among his productions available on DVD are:
Kupfer was a member of the Akademie der Künste in Berlin, the Freie Akademie der Künste in Hamburg, and the Sächsische Akademie der Künste in Dresden. His awards included:
Edward Greenfield finds little to applaud as Harry Kupfer's controversial new Ring cycle finishes at Bayreuth