Stefan Bachmann

© Sebastian Hoppe
Born in Zurich on 1 July 1966. Studied German and General Literature Science at Zurich University from 1986 to 1988, then he jobshadowed at Zurich Schauspielhaus at the Berlin Schaubühne under Luc Bondy. He then continued his studies and took German, Theatre and Religious Sciences at the Free University of Berlin. During studies theatre work with fellow students.

In 1992 he founded Berlin’s “Theater Affekt” together with Ricarda Beilharz, Thomas Jonigk, Tom Till and Lars-Ole Walburg. The Theatre became nationally known with productions of Heinrich von Kleist’s “Penthesilea” and Goethe’s sung play “Lila”, for which the independent group received the Friedrich Luft Prize in 1995. Since 1993 directorial work at Schauspiel Bonn, the Berliner Volksbühne am Rosa Luxemburg Platz, the Neumarkt Theatre in Zurich and Hamburg’s Schauspielhaus.

At the start of the 1998/1999 season Stefan Bachmann moved to Basel Theatre as Director of Acting. He had such a brilliant start that the theatre was voted Theatre of the Year in 1999 in a survey of critics by the journal “Theater heute”. Since 2001 he has also worked as a director of operas. He did not extend his contract in Basel, which ran out at the end of the 2002/2003 season.

Since 2005, Stefan Bachmann has been working as a freelance director again, putting on most of his productions in the 2006/2007 season at the Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus and the Gorki Theatre in Berlin.
Since septembre 2013 Stefan Bachmann is director of the Schauspiel Köln, as follower of Karin Beier.

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Portrait: Stefan Bachmann

Stefan Bachmann launched his theatrical directing career at Basel Theatre in 1998 with Shakespeare’s “Troilus and Cressida”, and presented a production that clearly showed the direction in which he was going as a director. On the one hand, he developed the play as a whole and showed a panorama of human chasms and bestiality by the gates of Troy. But he did not shy away from accentuating individual findings with the stylistic methods of pop theatre. These included unexpected songs and short improvisations making topical connections.

It is noticeable that in his work Bachmann keeps going to texts that are far apart from each other and that are otherwise paid little attention in the theatre. Examples of this are Pierre Corneille’s “The Illusion” and Frank Wedekind’s “Franziska”. Stefan Bachmann once described what he was looking for and what interested him most: “In my narrative style on the stage I am not concerned with unambiguity. On the one hand, I find it so difficult that it is so difficult being unambiguous. On the other hand, I am naturally only interested in what is complex and complicated because it corresponds to our modern perception of the world.”

This basic attitude, starting from an ambivalence and complexity of modern worlds, was decisive for his four years of directing in Basel. The schedules repeatedly contain apparently distant positions, such as Wolfgang Bauer’s “Magic Afternoon” and Tankred Dorst’s “Merlin”. Bachmann was probing in three directions. On the one hand, he was searching the 1960s and assured himself of the history of pop. The high point of this search for traces was his 1999 premiere of Rainald Goetz’s “Jeff Koons” at Hamburg’s Schauspielhaus. Bachmann’s look at the artist who stylised himself into a pop icon was highly praised. “Theater heute” said that the production “effectively circumvents the business conditions of an artistic enterprise that, above all, takes itself seriously.”

However, Stefan Bachmann has also turned to the great myths and, in Dorst’s “Merlin” searched for the original of education sentimentale together with Parzival. The third prop of Bachmann the director are the classical works that he stages in a unique dramatisation – as in the case of Goethe’s “Elected Affinities”. In the production that he completed at Zurich’s Neumarkt Theatre in 1995 and resumed in Basel, he searched human souls that attract and repulse each other. Above all, the choice of cleverly illuminated dialogues, in which Bachmann sprinkled comic-strip-like passages and ironic mutations, were highly convincing.

Stefan Bachmann laid the foundation stone for his subsequent work as director of acting in Basel in the early 1990s with a production community of directors, literary managers and set designers. One member of “Theater Affekt” was the writer Thomas Jonigk, whose plays “You Shall Give Me Grandsons” (1994) and “The Aggressors” (2000) Bachmann were given national or international premieres by Bachmann. Other close collaborators from the “Affekt” period, such as the set designer Ricarda Beilharz, moved to Basel with him. Lars-Ole Walburg, who was a literary manager at his side for a long time, increasingly – as earlier – took over directorial work and became Bachmann’s successor as director of actor in Basel.

Stefan Bachmann had his last great directorial success to date in early 2003 with Paul Claudel’s monumental play “The Satin Slippper”. This journey around the world is a mixture of baroque international theatre and expressionist conversation drama. Bachmann went into every branch of the text for eight hours and produced the play on a specially built stage in the foyer of Basel Theatre. At the end of the 2002/2003 season Stefan Bachmann, who now also produces operas, took his leave of the stage for the time being and set off an a journey around the world with his family.

He then made his second debut as a freelance director in 2005 at the Deutsches Theater Berlin with Kleist’s “Amphitryon”, which was also seen as a guest production at the Salzburg Festival. When this was followed up with Ferdinand Raimund’s farce “The Spendthrift” at the Vienna Burgtheater, it was clear that, even after his year off, Bachmann was going to stay true to his principle of exploring ambivalence and complexity in plays that could hardly be further apart in terms of their subject matter.

This was confirmed at the very beginning of the 2006/2007 season when he returned to themes from earlier in his career: Bachmann directed the second ever production of Thomas Jonigk’s new play “You Hear My Secret Call” for Amélie Niermeyer’s debut season at the Düsseldorf Schauspielhaus, before moving on to the Thalia Theater Hamburg to stage the German premiere of Jonigk’s “Dear Cannibals Godard”, which is based on Godard’s “Weekend”. He therefore found himself collaborating with his colleague from the early days of Theater Affekt twice within a short period of time.

In March 2007, Stefan Bachmann continued where he had left off in Basel by staging Paul Claudel’s historical trilogy “The Godless” during Armin Petras’s opening season as artistic director at the Gorki Theatre in Berlin.

Jürgen Berger

Productions - A selection

  • After Wolfram von Eschenbach "Perceval"
    2015, Schauspiel Köln
  • Ibrahim Amir "On my Honour"
    2014, Schauspiel Köln
  • nach Ayn Rand "The Strike"
    2014, Schauspiel Köln
  • William Shakespeare "The Merchant of Venice"
    2014, Schauspiel Köln
  • Elfriede Jelinek "Winter's Journey"
    2012, Burgtheater (Akademietheater), Vienna
  • Nach Harry Mulisch "The Stone Bridal Bed"
    2011, Staatsschauspiel Dresden
  • Martin Suter "Geri"
    2010, Schauspielhaus Zürich
  • Kathrin Röggla "Die Beteiligten" (i.e. "The Involved")
    2010, Burgtheater (Akademietheater), Vienna
    Invitation to the Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Ödön von Horvath "Legends of the Viennoise Forest"
    2010, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • Thomas Jonigk "Ach, da bist du ja" (i.e. "There you are")
    2010, Düsseldorfer Schauspielhaus
  • Alfred de Musset „Lorenzaccio“
    2009, Burgtheater Wien
  • Botho Strauß „Three Acts of Recognition“
    2009, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • Friedrich Schiller „Mary Stuart“
    2008, Schauspiel Düsseldorf
  • Stefan Bachmann and Carmen Wolfram after Thomas Mann „The Magic Mountain“
    2008, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • Calderón de la Barca „Life is a Dream“
    2008, Thalia Theater - Thalia im Zelt im Seelemannpark, Hamburg
  • William Shakespeare „Measure for Measure“
    2007, Thalia Theater Hamburg
  • Paul Claudel „The Godless“ (1. Part „The Hostage“, 2. Part „Hard Bread“, 3. Part „The Humbled Father“)
    2007, Maxim Gorki Theater, Berlin
  • Wajdi Mouawad „Scorched“
    2007, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • Thomas Jonigk „Hörst du mein heimliches Rufen ?“ (i.e. „Do You Hear My Secret Calling ?“)
    2006, Schauspiel Düsseldorf
  • Richard Wagner "Tristan und Isolde"
    2006, Oper unter den Linden, Berlin
  • Ferdinand Raimund "The Wastrel"
    2005, Burgtheater, Vienna
  • Heinrich von Kleist "Amphitryon"
    2005, Deutsches Theater, Berlin, Salzburg Festival
  • Paul Claudel “The Satin Slipper”
    2003, Basel Theatre
  • William Shakespeare “Hamlet”
    2002, Basel Theatre
  • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart “Cosi fan tutte”
    2001, Lyon Opera
  • Frank Wedekind “Franziska”
    2000, Basel Theatre
  • Rainald Goetz “Jeff Koons”
    premiere 1999, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg
  • William Shakespeare “Troilus and Cressida”
    1998, Salzburg Festival/Basel Theatre
  • Pierre Corneille “The Illusion”
    1997, Deutsches Schauspielhaus Hamburg, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Wolfgang Bauer “Sketchbook”
    premiere 1996, Vienna Festival, awarded the Josef Kainz Prize for Direction
  • Stefan Bachmann after Johann Wolfgang von Goethe “Elected Affinities”
    1995, Theater am Neumarkt Zurich, invitation to Berliner Theatertreffen
  • Johann Wolfgang Goethe “Lila”
    1995, Theater Affekt Berlin, awarded the Friedrich Luft Prize
  • Thomas Jonigk “You Shall Give Me Grandsons”
    premiere 1994, Schauspiel Bonn, invitation to the Mülheimer Theatertage
  • Nick Withby “Dirty Dishes”
    1993, Schauspiel Bonn
  • William Shakespeare “Titus Andronicus”
    1992, Theater Affekt Berlin
  • Bertolt Brecht “Baal”
    1991, Studiobühne at Berlin Free University