Bohumil Herlischka

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Bohumil Herlischka
Born(1919-04-25)25 April 1919
Čáslav, Czechoslovakia
DiedFebruary 2006 (aged 8687)
  • Opera director

Bohumil Herlischka (25 April 1919 – February 2006) was a Czech opera director. After years at the National Theatre, he worked from 1957 predominantly in German opera houses, introducing a style later known as Regietheater (director's theatre). He directed several productions at the Oper Frankfurt and developed a close connection to the Deutsche Oper am Rhein where he staged operas by Leoš Janáček, presenting a cycle of six operas in the 197778 season. He staged Schoenberg's Moses und Aaron at the Hamburg State Opera, including a tour to Israel. He focused on rarely played works such as Meyerbeer's Le prophète at the Deutsche Oper Berlin and on contemporary opera such as Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District and the world premiere of Alexander Goehr's Behold the Sun – Die Wiedertäufer.

National Theatre (Prague) Czech theatre institution in Prague

The National Theatre in Prague is known as the alma mater of Czech opera, and as the national monument of Czech history and art.

Regietheater is the modern practice of allowing a director freedom in devising the way a given opera or play is staged so that the creator's original, specific intentions or stage directions can be changed, together with major elements of geographical location, chronological situation, casting and plot. Typically such changes may be made to point a particular political point or modern parallels which may be remote from traditional interpretations.

Oper Frankfurt Opera companies in Frankfurt, Germany

The Oper Frankfurt is one of the leading opera companies in Europe, and voted best "Opera house of the year" several times since 1996. Opera in Frankfurt am Main has a long tradition, with many world premieres such as Franz Schreker's Der ferne Klang in 1912, Fennimore und Gerda by Frederick Delius in 1919, and Carl Orff's Carmina Burana in 1937. Frankfurt's international recognition began in the Gielen Era, 1977 to 1987, when Michael Gielen and stage directors such as Ruth Berghaus collaborated.



Inside the Czech National Theatre, where Herlischka began his career Narodni Divadlo, National Theater, Prague - 8799.jpg
Inside the Czech National Theatre, where Herlischka began his career

Born in Čáslav on 25 April 1919, Herlischka worked as a stage director at the National Theatre in Prague from 1951 to 1957. [1] He then emigrated to the West, where he worked at German opera houses such as the Deutsche Oper Berlin, [2] the Oper Frankfurt, the Cologne Opera, the Bavarian State Opera in Munich, and the Deutsche Oper am Rhein in Düsseldorf and Duisburg. [1]

Čáslav Town in Czech Republic

Čáslav is a town in eastern part of Central Bohemian Region of the Czech Republic.

Deutsche Oper Berlin opera house

The Deutsche Oper Berlin is an opera company located in the Charlottenburg district of Berlin, Germany. The resident building is the country's second largest opera house and also home to the Berlin State Ballet.

Cologne Opera

The Cologne Opera refers both to the main opera house in Cologne, Germany and to its resident opera company.

He staged the original version of Shostakovich's Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District in 1959 in a style which later was called Regietheater (director's theatre). [3] The same year, he directed Nicolai's Die lustigen Weiber von Windsor at the Oper Frankfurt, conducted by Felix Prohaska. A year later, he staged Mussorgsky's Boris Godunov there, conducted by Georg Solti. [4]

<i>Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District</i> (opera) opera by Shostakovich

Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District is an opera in four acts and nine scenes by Dmitri Shostakovich, his Opus 29. The libretto, jointly written by Alexander Preys and the composer, is based on the novel of the same name by Nikolai Leskov.

Felix Prohaska was an Austrian conductor.

<i>Boris Godunov</i> (opera) opera by Modest Mussorgsky

Boris Godunov is an opera by Modest Mussorgsky (1839–1881). The work was composed between 1868 and 1873 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. It is Mussorgsky's only completed opera and is considered his masterpiece. Its subjects are the Russian ruler Boris Godunov, who reigned as Tsar during the Time of Troubles, and his nemesis, the False Dmitriy. The Russian-language libretto was written by the composer, and is based on the drama Boris Godunov by Aleksandr Pushkin, and, in the Revised Version of 1872, on Nikolay Karamzin's History of the Russian State.

In Düsseldorf, he staged Weber's Der Freischütz in 1961, but met with strong opposition as he did not stage the traditional "happy ending". In 1964, he directed Bizet's Carmen in Frankfurt, and a year later Tchaikovsky's Pique Dame . [4] Also in 1964 he directed a production of Franz Schreker's Der ferne Klang at the Staatstheater Kassel, the first staging of a Schreker opera after his music had been banned by the Nazis in 1933. [5] [6] In 1971, he directed Gounod's Faust [7] (in Germany traditionally called Margarethe) at the Oper Frankfurt, conducted by Christoph von Dohnányi. [8]

<i>Der Freischütz</i> German opera

Der Freischütz, Op. 77, J. 277, is a German opera with spoken dialogue in three acts by Carl Maria von Weber with a libretto by Friedrich Kind. It premiered on 18 June 1821 at the Schauspielhaus Berlin. It is considered the first important German Romantic opera, especially in its national identity and stark emotionality.

<i>Carmen</i> opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet

Carmen is an opera in four acts by French composer Georges Bizet. The libretto was written by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on a novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée. The opera was first performed by the Opéra-Comique in Paris on 3 March 1875, where its breaking of conventions shocked and scandalized its first audiences.

<i>The Queen of Spades</i> (opera) opera by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky

The Queen of Spades, Op. 68 is an opera in three acts by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky to a Russian libretto by the composer's brother Modest Tchaikovsky, based on a short story of the same name by Alexander Pushkin, but with a dramatically altered plot. The premiere took place in 1890 in St. Petersburg, Russia.

Herlischka worked for television in 1962, directing the play fragment Woyzeck by Georg Büchner. The press reacted mostly negatively to a different order of scenes, compiled from different versions, with some omissions. The review in the weekly Die Zeit noted that words were repeated in an artificial way and that the social aspects of the plot were neglected. [9] In 1964, he directed Meyerbeer's Le prophète at the Deutsche Oper Berlin, conducted by Heinrich Hollreiser, with James McCracken in the title role. A reviewer regarded it as a persiflage by a cynical director. [10] In the 197374 season, Herlischka staged Schoenberg's Moses und Aaron at the Hamburg State Opera. [11] The opera had been regarded as impossible to perform, and the world premiere was given in Hamburg in 1954 in a concert performance, conducted by Hans Rosbaud. Herlischka's production, with Franz Mazura as Moses and Richard Cassilly as Aaron and conducted by Horst Stein, was also shown in Israel. [11]

<i>Woyzeck</i> play written by Georg Büchner

Woyzeck is a stage play written by Georg Büchner. He left the work incomplete at his death, but it has been posthumously "finished" by a variety of authors, editors and translators. Woyzeck has become one of the most performed and influential plays in the German theatre repertory.

<i>Die Zeit</i> German weekly newspaper

Die Zeit is a German national weekly newspaper published in Hamburg in Germany. The newspaper is generally considered to be among the German newspapers of record and is known for its long and extensive articles.

<i>Le prophète</i> opera by Giacomo Meyerbeer

Le prophète is a grand opera in five acts by Giacomo Meyerbeer. The French-language libretto was by Eugène Scribe and Émile Deschamps, after passages from the Essay on the Manners and Spirit of Nations by Voltaire. The plot is based on the life of John of Leiden, Anabaptist leader and self-proclaimed "King of Münster" in the 16th century.

Similar to Walter Felsenstein at the Komische Oper Berlin, he was a pioneer of expressive-poetic theatre and his performances were revived again and again over several years. He introduced the operas by Leoš Janáček to Western Europe. [2] In Düsseldorf, he staged a cycle of six of his operas from 1969 to 1977, when they were all performed as a cycle. [12] The first was Jenůfa in 1969, in a stage design by Hermann Soherr. [1] Astrid Varnay, the singer of the Kostelnička, wrote in her memoirs that Herlischka knew exactly how to present the emotions of peasants from Moravia. While she resented his authoritarian attitude, she admired his sense for the visual. [13] It was followed by Das schlaue Füchslein (The Cunning Little Vixen) in 1972, Káťa Kabanová in 1973, Die Sache Makropulos (The Makropulos Affair) in a double bill with Die Ausflüge des Herrn Brouček (The Excursions of Mr. Brouček to the Moon and to the 15th Century) in 1974, and finally Aus einem Totenhaus (From the House of the Dead) in 1977. [1] In the 197778 season, all six operas were presented as a cycle at the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, conducted by Peter Schneider in a stage design by Ruodi Barth. [1] It was the only such cycle outside Czechoslovakia. [1] In 1986, he staged the opera Schicksal (Destiny), which was regarded as an important step in bringing the composer's works to the stage. [1]

Walter Felsenstein Austrian theatre director

Walter Felsenstein was an Austrian theater and opera director.

Komische Oper Berlin opera house

The Komische Oper Berlin is a German opera company based in Berlin. The company produces opera, operetta and musicals.

Leoš Janáček Czech composer

Leoš Janáček was a Czech composer, musical theorist, folklorist, publicist and teacher. He was inspired by Moravian and other Slavic folk music to create an original, modern musical style.

Herlischka staged Janáček's Das schlaue Füchslein also at the Hamburg State Opera, both in 1976, [12] conducted by Armin Jordan, and in 1981, conducted by Lawrence Foster. [1] He staged Mozart's Le nozze di Figaro at the Staatstheater am Gärtnerplatz in Munich in 1977, conducted by Heinz Drewanz. [14] In 1985, he directed Alexander Goehr's Behold the Sun – Die Wiedertäufer (Sehet die Sonne), an opera commissioned for the 25th anniversary of the Deutsche Oper am Rhein, based on a libretto by John McGrath. It premiered on 19 April 1985, conducted by Hiroshi Wakasugi, in a set designed by Ruodi Barth. [15]

Herlischka died in Düsseldorf in February 2006, a few weeks before his 87th birthday. [2]


Edited by Ilka Kügler, a book reflecting Herlischka's work for the opera stage, Ein Magier der Bühne:Der Regisseur Bohumil Herlischka (A Magician of the Stage:The Director Bohumil Herlischka), appeared in the series Dokumente zur Theatergeschichte (Documents of theatre history) in Düsseldorf in 1989. [1]


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  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 Herlischka, Bohumil (geb. 25.04.1919 Časlav) Archived 2019-04-10 at the Wayback Machine
  2. 1 2 3 Name & Fakten Archived 2019-03-08 at the Wayback Machine (in German) Oper & Tanz, February 2006
  3. Russische Lady Macbeth Archived 2019-04-15 at the Wayback Machine on Der Spiegel (25 November 1959)
  4. 1 2 Premieren der Oper Frankfurt ab September 1945 bis heute (in German) Oper Frankfurt
  5. Christopher Hailey (18 March 1993). Franz Schreker, 1878-1934: A Cultural Biography. CUP Archive. pp. 374–. ISBN   978-0-521-39255-6.
  6. Hans Joachim Schaefer: Du hast vielleicht noch nicht alles versucht: Erinnerungen (in German) Kassel University Press, 2007, ISBN   978-3-89-958288-8
  7. David Littlejohn (1 January 1994). The Ultimate Art: Essays Around and about Opera. University of California Press. p. 55. ISBN   978-0-520-07609-9.
  8. Oper Frankfurt, October 1, 1971
  9. Gewalttätigkeiten am "Woyzeck" Archived 2019-04-30 at the Wayback Machine (in German) Die Zeit , 11 May 1962
  10. Frederik Hanssen: "Le Prophète" an der Deutschen Oper / Lob des Lesers Archived 2019-04-10 at the Wayback Machine Der Tagesspiegel, 29 November 2017
  11. 1 2 Helmut Söring: Wilder Tanz ums Goldene Kalb / Moses und Aron: Schönbergs Oper galt lange als unspielbar. Jetzt kommt sie in Hamburg heraus Archived 2019-04-10 at the Wayback Machine Hamburger Abendblatt, 29 October 2004
  12. 1 2 David Littlejohn (1 January 1994). The Ultimate Art: Essays Around and about Opera. University of California Press. pp. 236–. ISBN   978-0-520-07609-9.
  13. Astrid Varnay, Donald Arthur: Fifty-five Years in Five Acts: My Life in Opera UPNE, 2000, ISBN   978-1-55-553455-4
  14. Le nozze di Figaro Archived 2019-04-10 at the Wayback Machine Bavarian State Opera 1996
  15. Behold the Sun – Die Wiedertäufer (Sehet die Sonne) Archived 2019-04-10 at the Wayback Machine Schott Music