Obituary: Harry Kupfer Dies At 84

By Francisco Salazar
(Credit: Michael Lewin Artists)

German director Harry Kupfer has died at the age of 84.

Born in Berlin, Kupfer studied at the Theaterhochschule Leipzig and became the assistant director at the Landestheater Halle, where he went on to direct his first opera, Dvořák’s “Rusalka.”After his debut the he worked at the Theater Stralsund, the Theater in Karl-Marx-Stadt, and the Nationaltheater Weimar. In 1971, he staged “Die Frau ohne Schatten” at the Berlin State Opera.

In 1972, he was named opera director at the Staatsoper Dresden and took on the position until 1982. While in Dresden, he staged operas abroad at Oper Graz and Bayreuth Festival. In 1981, he was named chief director at the Komische Oper Berlin and became professor at the Hochschule für Musik “Hanns Eisler” in Berlin.

Among the opera he staged throughout his life were Wagner’s Ring Cycle, Verdi’s “Macbeth,” Wagner’s “Die fliegende Hollander,” Wagner’s “Tristan und Isolde,” Berg’s “Lulu,” Tchaikovsky’s “Eugene Onegin,” and Strauss’ “Elektra,” among others.

Kupfer was also known for bringing new operas to life for the first time Among the works to world premiere under his direction were Udo Zimmermann’s “Levins Mühle” at the Staatstheater Dresden in 1973; the GDR premiere of Schönberg’s “Moses und Aron;” Zimmermann’s “Der Schuhu und die fliegende Prinzessin;” Georg Katzer’s “Antigone oder die Stadt” at the Komische Oper Berlin, in 1991, conducted by Jörg-Peter Weigle; Reimann’s Bernarda “Albas Haus” at the Bavarian State Opera; and Penderecki’s “Die schwarze Maske, for which he wrote the libretto.

Here is his final production of “Macbeth” starring Anna Netrebko and Plácido Domingo

And here is his production of “Götterdämmerung.”