Ralf Merkel was born in Altenburg, Germany. He studied electrical engineering and, after graduating as an electrical engineer, became involved in the technical and artistic aspects of theatrical lighting. After the Landestheater Altenburg and the Prinzregententheater Munich, where he was also a lecturer at the Bavarian Theater Academy, he joined John Neumeier's Hamburg Ballet in 2002. Since that time, he has been the lighting director of this ensemble and has made guest appearances with it in numerous theaters around the world. John Neumeier's work with other ballet companies has taken him to Moscow, St. Petersburg, New York, San Francisco, Houston, Toronto, Beijing, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Amsterdam, Oslo and Warsaw, among other places. At the Vienna State Ballet, he was most recently responsible for the lighting design of John Neumeier's ballet evenings Verklungene Feste | Josephs Legende and Le Pavillon dʼArmide / Le Sacre.