Klaus Michael Grüber

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Klaus Michael Grüber (born June 4, 1941 in Neckarelz , † June 22, 2008 in Belle-Île , Bretagne , France ) was a German director and actor .


Grüber - son of a Baden pastor - learned after two years of acting lessons in Stuttgart , a. a. with Siegfried Melchinger , from 1962 his profession as assistant director and employee of Giorgio Strehler at the Piccolo Teatro di Milano . He made his directorial debut there in 1967 with Brecht's Il processo di Giovanna d'Arco a Rouen - 1431 (The Trial of Joan of Arc in Rouen) (stage design and costumes: Ezio Frigerio ; music: Fiorenzo Carpi). In 1969 he staged at the Theater Off Limits of Arthur Adamov (Set Design: Eduardo Arroyo ).

Grüber then staged u. a. at the Schauspielhaus Zurich , in Freiburg im Breisgau , in Bremen (1969 William Shakespeare's Der Sturm ), in Stuttgart (1970 Heinrich von Kleist's Penthesilea ), in Düsseldorf (1972 Adamov's Off Limits ) and in Frankfurt am Main (for Bertolt Brecht's Im Thicket of Cities ) as well as in Berlin at the - at that time - Schaubühne am Halleschen Ufer , where his production of Ödön von Horváth's Tales from the Vienna Woods premiered on August 18, 1972. At the Schaubühne, Grüber met the assistant director Ellen Hammer, who from then on became a regular director of his productions. Further directorial works by Grübers from Berlin, which caused a sensation throughout Europe, followed - such as 1974 Euripides ' Die Bakchen (set design: Gilles Aillaud , Eduardo Arroyo), 1975 Empedocles - reading Hölderlin (set design: Antonio Recalcati) and 1977 Winter Journey in the Olympic Stadium , text fragments from Hölderlin's novel Hyperion or the hermit in Greece (set: Recalcati).

An ensemble of actors developed with whom Grüber preferred to work, including Bruno Ganz , Jutta Lampe , Angela Winkler and Otto Sander . Although almost not present in public, Grüber advanced to become a second fixed star at the Schaubühne alongside Peter Stein . In the early 1980s, Grüber worked at the theater of the Freie Volksbühne in Berlin, where he wrote an enchanted, poetic version of Luigi Pirandello's Six People Looking for an Author (set: Titina Maselli) and a production of Faust by Johann Wolfgang Goethe (set: Aillaud ), which with its radical reduction of the material caused disagreement from some viewers. The main role was played by Bernhard Minetti , who had worked with Grüber in 1973 on Samuel Beckett's The Last Volume in Bremen. He also accompanied the director at Hamlet in 1982 (Schaubühne am Lehniner Platz; set design: Aillaud; title role: Ganz; Minetti as first actor) and embodied the leading role in King Lear (Schaubühne 1985; set design: Aillaud; costumes: Dagmar Niefind).

Other works by Grüber from Berlin, some of which were shown in guest performances across Europe, were Anton Chekhows An der Grosse Strasse (set design: Aillaud), Eugène Labiches Die Affaire Rue de Lourcine (set design: Francis Biras; costumes: Moidele Bickel ; with Udo Samel and Peter Simonischek ) and Heinrich von Kleist's Amphitryon (set design: Aillaud; with lamp and sander). Grüber brought out Bantam , a play by his painter friend and set designer Arroyo, at the Munich Residenztheater in early February 1982 , with his other permanent partners Aillaud and Recalcati being responsible for the stage and costumes (music: Carpi; with Heinz Bennent , Nicole Heesters , David Bennent , among others , Karl Lieffen , Heinz Werner Kraehkamp ). In 1987, Grüber and Minetti started again in Frankfurt The Last Band , which they first brought together in 1973 in Bremen.

In the late 1970s, Grüber began to relocate his work to other European countries. In 1975 he designed a highly acclaimed Faust Salpetrière (set / costumes: Aillaud, Arroyo) in the Chapelle Saint Louis , where Goethe's piece came out as an associative station drama and left both irritated visitors and perplexed reviewers behind. 1977 Grüber directed Fernando Arrabal's The Architect and the Emperor of Assyria in Barcelona (stage and costumes: Arroyo). Grüber returned to his beginnings once again when he staged Heimweh by Franz Jung at the Milan Piccolo Teatro in 1984 (set design: Arroyo; costumes: Renata Bulgheroni; music: Carpi; with Raf Vallone , Delia Boccardo and Lino Troisi ) and in 1988 with La medesima strada , a text collage made up of fragments by Sophocles and the pre-Socratics Heraklit , Parmenides and Empedocles (stage: Aillaud; costumes: Aillaud, Bulgheroni; music: Carpi; inter alia with Winkler, Tino Carraro , Lino Troisi, Raf Vallone).

In 1984 Grüber made his debut at the Comédie-Française , where he presented his version of Jean Racines Bérénice (set design: Aillaud; costumes: Niefind; with Ludmila Mikael, Catherine Samie, Richard Fontana, Roland Bertin and others). Grüber first worked for the Salzburg Festival in the summer of 1986 when he staged Prometheus, tied up at the Felsenreitschule there (by Peter Handke based on The Fettered Prometheus by Aeschylus ; set and costumes: Recalcati; with Ganz, Winkler, Simonischek, Samel and others). In December of the same year, the main actress Jeanne Moreau in Grüber's direction in Le récit de la servante Zerline by Hermann Broch (from his novel The Guiltless ; set and costumes: Biras) was celebrated in Paris . This work, praised for its great intensity and concentration, has been invited to numerous guest performances. The story was performed by numerous European actors in the respective countries in the following years.

In 1989, to mark the 200th anniversary of the French Revolution , Grüber developed a gloomy vision of Georg Büchner's La mort de Danton ( Danton's death ) for Nanterre . In the spring of 2001, Grüber first staged a play by Bernard-Marie Koltès , Roberto Zucco (stage design: Recalcati; title role: August Diehl ) for the first time in the Vienna Academy Theater . In May 2003, then Gruber worked at Vienna's Burgtheater for the first time with the painter Anselm Kiefer together, which for the translated by Shakespeare Oedipus at Colonus of Sophocles Sets and costumes (designed with Ganz, Sander, Diehl, Birgit Minichmayr , Branko Samarovski , Johann Adam Oest , Martin Schwab , Mareike Sedl and others).

For the production of Adamov's Off Limits , he worked for the first time with the (then exile) Spanish painter Eduardo Arroyo , for whom at the time his first set design activity. The cooperation that began at that time lasted until Grüber's death - most recently with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Don Giovanni - as well as that with the visual artists Gilles Aillaud (since 1974) and Antonio Recalcati (since 1975). These artists - as in 2003 at the Burgtheater Anselm Kiefer at Oedipus in Kolonos - did not provide their director with simple interpretations of the play, but instead created powerful visual designs and stage landscapes, the meanings of which could not be deciphered immediately.


As Strehler's assistant director, Grüber soon came into contact with the world of opera. In 1965 he assisted in Salzburg in Strehler's version of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's Die Entführung aus dem Serail .

The beginnings

Grüber directed his first own opera in 1971 in Bremen with Alban Bergs Wozzeck . In 1972 Georg Friedrich Handel's Giulio Cesare followed in Egitto , also still in Bremen. In 1974 Grübers Weg led to the Frankfurt Opera . There he staged Béla Bartók's Duke Bluebeard's Castle and Arnold Schönberg's Expectation (with Anja Silja ; conductor: Christoph von Dohnányi ).


Much the surprise in December 1976, when was Richard Wagner's Die Walküre was that Gruber at the time of Rolf Liebermann headed the Paris Opera , the Palais Garnier, introduced (stage: Arroyo, costumes: Moidele Bickel). The astonishment arose from the fact that Grüber decided neither for a then modern - as seen in Luca Ronconi or Patrice Chéreau - political, capitalism-critical variant, nor for a neo-romantic view. Rather, he concentrated on the mythical , with him one wore neither tailcoats or tuxedos, nor an SS leather coat or business suit, the characters were rather marked by their history, equipped with large helmets that were used in Wagner performances in the 19th century. Century remembered that the costumes seemed heavy, and Siegfried had a wolf skull on his head. The stage landscape was dominated by large, steep mountains made of sandbags, which were populated by artificial chamois and deer. The performance was conducted by Sir Georg Solti .

Grüber's Walküre was part of a concept for the entire ring tetralogy that Grüber had originally developed together with Peter Stein for the Bayreuth Festival . The project was then to be realized at the Paris Opera, but after Peter Stein's production of Das Rheingold and Grübers Walküre this could no longer be completed due to lack of money and thus remained a torso. Both directors created other works by Wagner, but never again the Ring .

1980s and 1990s

In the 1980s, Grüber staged Wagner's Tannhäuser in Florence in the sets for the premiere reconstructed by Carlo Tommasi , as well as Parsifal in Amsterdam , which was then also performed in Florence, Paris, Brussels, Madrid and most recently in London and Strasbourg.

Grüber's work on Gioachino Rossini's La Cenerentola for the Paris Theater Chatelet also fell in the 1980s . Other opera productions in the 1990s were Leoš Janáček's Z Mrtvého Domu ( 1992 ) (set design: Arroyo; conductor: Claudio Abbado ) and Tristan und Isolde (Arroyo stage; conductor Abbado) for the Salzburg Festival, La traviata by Giuseppe Verdi at the Théâtre du Châtelet in Paris (conductor: Antonio Pappano ), expectation in Brussels (again with Anja Silja), Otello and Aida in Amsterdam, L'incoronazione di Poppea for the Festival of Aix-en-Provence and Il ritorno d'Ulisse in patria at the Zurich Opera House ( Conductor: Nikolaus Harnoncourt ) Idomeneo von Mozart (conductor Christoph von Dohnanyi), Katarina Ismailowa von Shostakowitsch and Die Makropulos von Janáček (conductor Philippe Jordan ) at the Zurich Opera House.

2003 to 2005

In 2003 Grüber and the conductor Pierre Boulez - with whom he was supposed to work on the then canceled ring in Bayreuth - a three-part evening from Manuel de Falla's El retablo de Maese Pedro , Igor Stravinsky's Le Renard and Arnold Schönberg's Pierrot Lunaire (with Silja). This production (stage design: for de Falla and Stravinsky Maselli; for Schönberg Aillaud) was also performed in Luxembourg and at the Wiener Festwochen .

With Anselm Kiefer as outfitter, Grüber developed a much-praised version of Richard Strauss ' Elektra for the Teatro San Carlo in Naples. In June 2005, Grüber created a staged version of Janáček's Diary of a Missing Person (collaboration with Ellen Hammer, set design Aillaud, costumes Eva Dessecker , lighting Werner Chalubinski; with Angela Winkler, Peter Straka, Lorena Espina; piano: Markus Hinterhäuser ).

Grüber's production of Mussorgsky's Boris Godunow premiered on April 18, 2006 at the Theater royal de la monnaie (director: Hammer; set design: Arroyo; costumes: Sabounghi; lighting: Dominique Borrini; choreography: Giuseppe Frigeni; conductor: Kazushi Ōno ). In the FAZ :

“Tsar Boris is in danger of being dipped in gold leaf from the bald head to the little toe and almost choking on its shine. The insignia of domination that he has to carry around clumsily ensure that he no longer has a free hand to act. The fact that the meaning of such images cannot be completely dissolved everywhere, that they sometimes remain cryptic and idiosyncratic in themselves, does not make them any less eloquent. In any case, Grüber's exquisite aestheticism does not tip over into the decorative. The picture he draws of Russia is that of a completely disparate country, presented in drastic tableaus, exactly as they correspond to the dramaturgical principle of this opera [...]. "

- Julia Spinola : From field to field. Klaus Michael Grüber enchants Mussorgsky's Boris Godunow into a game of chess. In: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 20, 2006


As a director, Grüber shot only one film, namely Fermata Etna (book: Bernard Pautrat, Grüber; camera: Tonino Nardi; editing: Roberto Perpignani; actors: Bruno Ganz, Gabriella Saitta).

In the 1991 film Die Lovers von Pont-Neuf ( Les Amants du Pont Neuf ) by Leos Carax , Grüber played - alongside Juliette Binoche and Denis Lavant - the older clochard Hans. When asked why he used Grüber, Carax said: “I got to know him, and he and his face seemed appropriate to me. I like to mix actors with non-actors. ” (Carax on June 24, 2005 at an audience discussion on the occasion of a Viennale retrospective in Vienna, Gartenbau-Kino).

Characteristics and trivia

A characteristic of Grüber's work was that he moved away from theater or stage clichés - because he broke them up and / or destroyed them. Greatest complexity could turn into great simplicity at any time and without warning, and vice versa. Superficial effects or (daily) political allusions, regardless of their nature, were alien and repugnant to this philosopher among theater directors. Grüber's productions did not satisfy the audience as much as they burdened the audience with questions, which very often resulted from a lack of clarity. Even those productions by Grüber, which were certified as not completely successful or failed, still held a high degree of fascination. He was helped not least by the stage worlds that his painter friends created for him and that had little to do with what is otherwise commonly understood as stage design: an excess of poetry was more important than any interpretation with the index finger. Exquisite light, used very sparingly, flooded the Grübers rooms, a method he had learned from his teacher Giorgio Strehler .

There were many things that differentiated Grüber from his co-directors. At first, his rehearsal times - which never began before twelve noon - were very tightly calculated and rarely exceeded six weeks. The collaboration with dramaturges was reduced, any line versions were not accepted by him, but had to be worked out together during rehearsals. Grüber often showed a preference for completely uncoated texts (including the six-hour Berlin Hamlet ). In Oedipus in Kolonos 2003 at the Burgtheater in Vienna, this finally became a problem, the production appeared when it came out, unfinished and not fully worked out, and the actors, on the other hand, were simply overwhelmed with the masses of text and seemed exhausted. This production was put on hold after performances in May and June, and in December 2003 Grüber returned to Vienna for rehearsals. As a result, this refreshed version was widely acclaimed and shown for several months.

Grüber also refused reading samples or long conceptual discussions with actors and the management team. In addition, Grüber granted his actors great freedom, which some in turn felt as being left alone. Many of his actors - such as Jeanne Moreau or the opera singers Anja Silja and Peter Hofmann - were surprised and irritated by Grüber's meager remarks. Until then, they had not yet been confronted with a director who observes and may later comment. Grüber himself stated that he did not want to be a conducting director, but rather the first viewer. Intimate contact with the actors or singers was also important to Grüber; he touched them in order to guide them, stood with them on stage during the rehearsal and accompanied them with gestures and looks.

There are no interviews with Grüber - with one exception, in Liberation in 1984 - and corresponding inquiries went unanswered. Grüber was quoted in another context in the same year that he refuses to speak about his work on principle. However, the Austrian radio journalist Volkmar Parschalk managed to talk to the director - before the premiere of Janáček's From a House of the Dead - by approaching the director in the auditorium of the Salzburg Festival Hall and engaging in a conversation that was later broadcast during the live broadcast (noted one also clearly Grüber's Baden dialect).

Grüber lived for many years with Marie Collin , who was employed at the Paris Festival d'automne, and owned apartments in Paris , Zurich and Belle-Île- en-Mer.



  • Georges Banu and Mark Blezinger: Klaus Michael Grüber… Il faut que le théâtre passe à travers les larmes. (The theater must go through tears.) Ed. du Regard - Académie Expérimentale, 1993
  • Uwe B. Carstensen: Klaus Michael Grüber. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 1988, ISBN 3-596-27121-5 .
  • Friedemann Kreuder: Forms of Remembrance in the Klaus Michael Grübers Theater. Alexander, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-89581-074-6 .
  • Hans-Thies Lehmann : Post-dramatic theater . Publishing house of the authors, Frankfurt am Main 1999, ISBN 3-88661-209-0 .
  • C. Bernd Sucher : Theater Magician 2. From Bondy to Zadek. Ten directors of contemporary German theater. Piper, Munich / Zurich 1990.
  • Ruth Walz , Karl-Ernst Herrmann , Bruno Ganz: The Transformer - Klaus Michael Grüber. Alexander, Berlin 2009, ISBN 978-3-89581-211-8 .


  • L 'Homme de Passage - The director Klaus-Michael Grüber. Documentation, Germany, 1999, 75 min., Director: Christoph Rüter. * Table of contents from Christoph Rüter Filmproduktion

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. dradio.de