Performing Arts Archive

Spoken and musical drama, set design, dance, theatre criticism and cabaret: the holdings on the performing arts cover a broad range and, with more than 300 holdings relating to individual people and 21 thematic collections, they have been the leading written archives for the theatre in Germany since the end of the nineteenth century.

One clear line running through the collections is that of exile during the National Socialist. Leopold Lindtberg, Wolfgang Heinz and Leonard Steckel  were closely connected with the legendary Zurich Playhouse. Bitter experiences in the Soviet Union were the fate of Alexander Granach, Gustav von Wangenheim,  Maxim Vallentin and Erwin Piscator who, like Granach or Fritz Kortner, went to the USA. After their return, it was only with great difficulty that such émigrés were able to recover the central positions which they had occupied in the theatre of the 1920s. The Fritz Wisten Archive and the collection of the Jewish Cultural Association document the fate of Jewish artists, some of whom remained working creatively in Germany until 1941.

Extensive holdings relating to individuals are grouped around the Deutsche Theater Berlin, including those of the directors and intendants Otto Brahm and Heinz Hilpert, the actresses Elisabeth Bergner and Tilla Durieux, and actor Ernst Deutsch, all exiled after 1933. After the war Wolfgang Langhoff and Wolfgang Heinz worked there as intendants and directors, as did Heinrich Kilger as chief set designer, Friedo Solter or Alexander Lang as directors, and Horst Hiemer and Kurt Böwe as actors. Adolf Dresen also began his career at this theatre. Close associates of the Berlin Ensemble, founded by Bertolt Brecht, were Benno Besson, the later artistic director Manfred Wekwerth, his colleague Joachim Tenschert, the stage designer Karl von Appen,  Ernst Busch and Ekkehard Schall. Einar Schleef, author, stage designer, director, actor, painter and photographer, set many of the priorities at the BE.

Actors and actresses, including Elsa Wagner and Agnes Straub, frequently moved between the Prussian State Theatre, represented by the Leopold Jessner and Jürgen Fehling collection, and the other Berlin stages. The Berlin Schiller Theatre of the 1930s and 40s is closely associated with the name of the actor and artistic director Heinrich George. The post-war period is represented by the estates of the artistic directors and stage directors Boleslaw Barlog and Hans Lietzau, the director and stage designer Willi Schmidt, or the actor and director Ernst Schröder. The Schiller Theatre was also home to the actresses Berta Drews, Johanna Hofer, Joana Maria Gorvin and Maria Wimmer, as well as the actor Bernhard Minetti–all of whom, however, also enjoyed great successes elsewhere. It was also here that George Taboris began his European career as an author and director. Directors Hans Bauer, Harry Buckwitz, Rudolf Noelte and Heinrich Koch also worked in many places. The artistic director Kurt Hübner established a modern director’s theatre in Ulm and Bremen and was Piscator’s successor at the Freie Volksbühne in Berlin. A major influence on Hübner’s theatre was the stage designer and later director Wilfried Mincks.

The opera and musical theatre are represented by Alfred Reucker, artistic director in Zürich and Dresden, by Walter Felsenstein, artistic director of the Komische Oper in Berlin from 1947, and by Ruth Berghaus and Peter Konwitschny. Working as artistic directors at the Deutsche Oper in Berlin were Carl Ebert, co-founder in exile of the Glyndebourne Festival Opera in 1934, Heinz Tietjen, also “head” of the Wagner Festival in Bayreuth during the 1930s and 1940s, and since the 1980s Götz Friedrich. Achim Freyer, Axel Manthey, Jean-Pierre Ponnelle and Herbert Wernicke began their careers as stage designers and established high standards, particularly as directors of opera. The stage designers Rudolf Heinrich, Reinhart Zimmermann and Hans Dieter Schaal worked together on major stage productions by Felsenstein, Friedrich, Berghaus, and others.

The theatrical documentation stems from the work of Brecht and Felsenstein. It records the processes and results involved in the staging of live productions, covering the work of leading directors in the dramatic and musical theatre over extended periods. Some 1,450 items of stage-production documents are currently available, including those for Benno Besson, Heiner Müller, Christoph Schroth, Andrea Breth, Frank Castorf, Thomas Langhoff, Christoph Marthaler and Peter Zadek, and in the musical theatre for Ruth Berghaus, Achim Freyer, Peter Konwitschny, Harry Kupfer and Christine Mielitz.

Julius Bab, who worked so closely with the popular theatre movement and the Jewish Cultural Association; Alfred Kerr, author and journalist on the Berliner Tageblatt with a unique style; his colleague and counterpart on the Berlin Börsen-Courier, Herbert Ihering; Friedrich Luft, from 1946 the “voice of criticism” at the RIAS; and the theatrical writer and critic of the Berliner Zeitung Ernst Schuhmacher–these and other holdings represent the field of theatrical criticism and theatre studies.

In the field of dance the artistic estates of Mary Wigman, Gret Palucca and Valeska Gert preserve the tradition of free dance. The modern West German dance theatre is represented by the holdings of Gerhard Bohner, Johann Kresnik and Reinhild Hoffmann. Tom Schilling worked at the Komische Oper; the dancer and choreographer Arila Siegert moved over to directing. Classical dance was the metier of the choreographer Tatjana Gsovsky, the dancer Gert Reinholm, and the prima ballerina of the Bolshoi Theatre, Maya Plissetskaya.

The Berlin cabaret of the 1920s came to an abrupt end in 1933; its legendary protagonists include the composers Friedrich Hollaender, Mischa Spoliansky and Rudolf Nelson, the authors Herbert Nelson, Robert Gilbert and Marcellus Schiffer, and the performing artists Margo Lion, Blandine Ebinger, Annemarie Hase and Kate Kühl. The post-war political cabaret of the FRG developed greatly under the influence of Wolfgang Neuss, the author Eckart Hachfeld and Matthias Beltz.

(Stand 23.09.2011)

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