Walter Felsenstein

Also found in: Wikipedia.

Felsenstein, Walter


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.


Sabinina, M. “Val’ter Fel’zenshtein i ego teatr.” Muzykal’naia zhizn’, 1965, no. 10.


References in periodicals archive ?
After Masur had led orchestras in Erfurt, Leipzig, Dresden and Schwerin, the famous theater director Walter Felsenstein hired him as chief conductor at the Komische Oper in Berlin in 1960.
For plenty of understandable reasons, Janaeek's seventh opera enjoys the favour of record labels and DVD producers, hence those interested can choose from among four recordings, with the previous three starting with the legendary 1965 archive recording of a performance at the Komische Oper Berlin, directed by Walter Felsenstein and conducted by Vaclay Neumann (Arthaus), through the 1995 recording of the outstanding production at the Opera national de Paris explored by Sir Charles Mackerras (Arthaus) to the animated film of the opera with Kent Nagano as music director (Opus Arte).
Walter Felsenstein, the founder and director of Berlin's Komische Oper from 1947 until his death in 1975, is often cited as a pioneer by today's proponents of "opera as theater." Unlike many directors of his era, many of his productions were recorded and his rehearsal process was well documented.
Walter Felsenstein described this fundamental requirement.
This historic film of Leos Janacek's The Cunning Little Vixen documents a production by one of the most revolutionary directors of the 20th century, Walter Felsenstein (1901-1975).
(Although, as I was reminded by Professor Fred Grab of Bard College, the great director of the East Berlin Komische Opero Walter Felsenstein never attempted a realization of Cosi because he considered it too difficult to pull off.)
Yet on Friday 24 June 2011 and in the five subsequent performances (my review is of the 26 June performance) the Smetana opera most frequently staged abroad was presented by the Chamber Orchestra of Europe (COE), the Arnold Schonberg Chor and a first-class international ensemble of soloists without a single Czech singer, and what's more in Emanuel Zungel's literally authentic translation which, although made in 1869 upon Smetana's commission, hasn't been heard on stages in the German-speaking world since being replaced by newer translations by Max Kalbeck, Kurt Honolka and Walter Felsenstein.
Gotz, Harry and the rest should be reminded that even their mentor, Walter Felsenstein, once said, "We must reject any interpretation whose primary aim is to produce an interesting performance but which does not carefully explore the intentions of the composer and the author and try to fulfill them as closely as possible.
After the 1945 peace he had a long period doing opera in Budapest, as well as a lively production with Walter Felsenstein at his Komischeoper in East Berlin.
In the end what made a far greater difference was the invitation from Walter Felsenstein to the Comic Opera in Berlin, which opened his way to other guest appearances at the end of the sixties.
There are insights and case histories in this book that might give ammunition to both sides, though at root, the nine essays support the credo of the great German director Walter Felsenstein, who wrote, "The first and most important stage director is the composer."
Many of the protagonists in the debate are major international figures - Ernst Fischer, Arnold Zweig, Walter Felsenstein, Johannes R.