— At the Festival

Published on June 11 2019

WHO IS ANDREA BRETH?

Andrea Breth © Bernd Uhlig
© Bernd Uhlig
Andrea Breth is a key artistic figure in the world of German-language theatrical production. Over her forty-year career, she has forced a significant place for herself in this male-dominated field thanks to her radical, psychological approach to the texts, her talent for directing actors and her knack for the visual composition of space, which have elevated a number of her productions to the level of veritable tableaux vivants. We take a look back at the unique career of this true trailblazer.

PROMISING BEGINNINGS (1952-1983) —
Born in Bavaria in 1952, Andrea Breth grew up in Darmstadt and studied German literature, before devoting herself entirely to theater. Beginning in 1975, she directed for the stage at Bremen, Wiesbaden and Hamburg, where she took on works by majors artists from the end from the 19th century (Schnitzler, Strindberg) and the first half of the 20th century (Brecht). Thanks to her successful productions, she gained renowned as a promising newcomer, and was invited to direct at the Freie Volksbühne in Berlin, with Emilia Galotti, a German bourgeois drama from the end of the 18th century. Less than thirty years old at the time, she had already been thrust into the limelight for her first foray into the classical repertoire. But the show was a flop and nearly destroyed her burgeoning career. Mired down by this overambitious project, she had difficulty standing up to the pressure and the excessive exposure, which were compounded by the fact that she was the lone woman in this all-male milieu. She decided to stop stage direction all together, and left for Zurich to teach students in theater.

RECOGNITION FOR THIS RISING STAR IN THE WORLD OF DIRECTING (1983-1992) —
But the call of the theater was too strong; and Andrea Breth made a sensational return in 1983 in Fribourg, where she directed The House of Bernarda Alba, the last drama written by the Andalusian poet Federico García Lorca. With this play, she became the first woman invited to the coveted Theatertreffen in Berlin (an event that brings together the season’s ten most remarkable German-language productions, as selected by a jury) and was named “Director of the Year” by the magazine Theater Heute. In 1987, Andrea Breth, now a rising star among the generation of young theater directors born after the war, won the very first Fritz Kortner Prize. Stages in Berlin and Vienna were hers for the taking.

A WOMAN IN CHARGE OF THE SCHAUBÜHNE IN BERLIN (1992-1997) —
In 1992, Andrea Breth became the artistic director of the Schaubühne, following in the footsteps of such directors as Peter Stein and Luc Bondy. She also became the first first female director of a major theater in Berlin. She staged works by many of the Russian authors she so cherished, such as Anton Chekhov, whose plays Uncle Vanya and The Seagull she directed.

THE BURGTHEATER IN VIENNA AND HER BEGINNINGS IN OPERA (SINCE 1997) —
Andrea Breth left Germany to become an in artist in residence, from 1999 to 2006, at the prestigious Burgtheater in Vienna, the Austrian equivalent of the French Comédie-Française. Several of her shows were performed at the Theatertreffen, including her new stage production of Emilia Galotti, in 2004, over twenty years after it failed in Berlin. The year 2000 marked her move into opera, with Gluck’s Orfeo ed Eurydice in Leipzig, followed by Smetana’s The Bartered Bride; Carmen; and Eugène Oneguine, which triumphed at the Festival of Salzburg in 2007. As with her work in theater, her opera productions were radical and extremely visceral. Her approach to and certain scenes from her productions of Wozzeck (Berlin, 2011) and La Traviata (Brussels, 2012) were shocking and divisive; but she won back audiences’ and the critics’ approval in 2014 with the unanimous success of her Jakob Lenz, by Wolfgang Rihm, a composer whose opera Das Gehege she would also direct three years later.

Portrait written by Louis Geisler, playwright
Taken from educational material on Jakob Lenz

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