Born May 30, 1901, in Vienna; died Oct. 8, 1975, in Berlin. Stage director and actor of Austrian descent.
Felsenstein first worked as an actor and director in various theaters in Germany in 1923. From 1927 to 1932 and from 1938 to 1940 he worked in Switzerland. His production of J. Strauss’ operetta Die Fledermaus in Frankfurt, Germany, enjoyed great success. Felsenstein directed a number of productions in Zurich, including R. Strauss’ opera Salomé, under the composer’s supervision. In 1947 he became head of the Komische Oper, which he founded in East Berlin; he directed more than 25 productions in this theater.
Felsenstein, a leading innovator in opera, sought to integrate music and stage action. His reforms, based on the introduction of stage realism, were similar to K. S. Stanislavsky’s principles of directing opera. Wide acclaim was won by his stagings of Bizet’s Carmen (also staged in 1969 in the Stanislavsky and Nemirovich-Danchenko Theater in Moscow), Mozart’s The Magic Flute, Janacek’s The Cunning Little Vixen, Offenbach’s The Tales of Hoffman, Smetana’s The Bartered Bride, Prokofiev’s The Love for Three Oranges, and Verdi’s Otello.
Felsenstein became a member of the German Academy of Arts in Berlin in 1951 and vice-president in 1956. He was made an honorary doctor of Humboldt University of Berlin in 1961 and of Charles University in Prague in 1962. He frequently toured the USSR with the Komische Oper. Felsenstein was awarded the National Prize of the German Democratic Republic in 1950, 1951, 1956, 1960, and 1970.
REFERENCESabinina, M. “Val’ter Fel’zenshtein i ego teatr.” Muzykal’naia zhizn’, 1965, no. 10.
O. T. LEONTEVA