Literature and theatre

A Portrait of Achim Freyer

The film examines the working methods of the theatre director, set and costume designer Achim Freyer. Freyer’s point of departure is painting; it is the origin of all his explorations. Working within such a diverse field of different artistic forms, Achim Freyer is a singular figure on the international art scene.

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Author: Markus Schneider
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The artist Achim Freyer is a legend and yet very much alive. Year for year he continues to create unseal stagings. Combining the disciplines of painting/installation/set design/theatre direction, Freyer is a singular figure among international artists. According to Freyer, in all cinematic exploration to date, the importance of painting has been given too little regard. Freyer’s impulsive-expressionist works are a form of music. Without painting – as he himself is fond of saying – The man-of-the-theatre Achim Freyer would not exist.

Born in 1934, a student in Bertolt Brecht’s master class in then East Germany from 1954-56, Freyer currently lives in Berlin. Acclaimed early productions led to engagements, for example, at the Staatsoper Berlin in 1965 with Ruth Berghaus (The Barber of Seville), and at the opera houses of Hamburg, Munich, Amsterdam, Stuttgart, Paris, Brussels, Vienna and Venice, where, due to the catastrophic fire which ravaged La Fenice opera house there in 1996, his Don Giovanni was presented in a modified version in the Pala Fenice Tent. He is also a regular guest at the music festivals in Salzburg, Vienna and Schwetzingen, where, in 1996 together with his ensemble, he realized and premiered his staged version of Bach’s b-minor mass under the musical direction of Thomas Hengelbrock.

For the theatre, Achim Freyer has, among other things, done the costume and set design for the productions of director Claus Peymann at the Württemberg Staatstheater (national theatre) in Stuttgart, the Burgtheater in Vienna and the Berliner Ensemble. Between 1987 and 1991 at the Vienna Burgtheater as director and designer he realized a trilogy comprising Ovid’s Metamorphosis (The Human Being and God), Woyzeck (The Human Being Without God) and Phaeton (The Human Being as God), the first two parts of which were invited to the prestigious Theatertreffen in Berlin, a ‘best of’ festival of the year’s German language (Germany, Austria, Switzerland) national theatre offerings. In 1997, again for the Vienna Burgtheater, he staged Goldoni’s A Servant of Two Masters in his own text version.

An important area of Freyer’s artistic work are his highly regarded premieres of works by contemporary composers such as Mauricio Kagel, Philip Glass, Erhard Großkopf, Reiner Bredemeyer, Dieter Schnebel, Alvin Curran and Helmut Lachenmann.

At the end of the 80’s Achim Freyer founded the Freyer-Ensemble, with which he developed his own brand of theatre combining elements of music, dance, speech and variety arts. On the basis of years of artistic collaboration, works such as Das Mädchen mit den Schwefelhölzern by Helmut Lachenmann (Hamburg Staatsoper, 1997) and Majakowskis Tod – Totentanz by Dieter Schnebel (in march, 1998 at the Leipzig Opera) were given their world premieres, and original theatre pieces were also created. In 1997, the production Liebe von Kopf bis konfus from the ensemble repertoire was performed at the music festival in Schwetzingen.

Freyer’s work in the fine arts arena have been shown, among other places, at the Documenta in Kassel and the Quadriennale in Prague. In 1992 "Chaos und Stille", a retrospective of works from 1965-92 was presented by the gallery of the city of Kornwestheim; In 1994 the exhibition "Taggespinste, Nachtgesichte" was shown at the Berlin Academy of the Arts; "Totentänze – Arbeiten auf Papier" was shown at the 1995 Music Biennale in Venice and in 1996 at the Jakut Gallery in Moscow. Achim Freyer has also had numerous single exhibitions in Berlin, Bonn, Brussels, Florence, Hamburg, Leipzig, Munich and Vienna.

Achim Freyer has directed feature and music films, including MET AMOR PHOSEN, which had its world premier in 1994 at the 44th International Film Festival in Berlin.
Goethe-Institut e. V. 2005
Related links German literature online

Portal for the Promotion of Contemporary German Literature