© Max Brunnert

Martin Schläpfer Appointed Director of Wiener Staatsballett from September 2020

Starting with the first season of Wiener Staatsoper’s director designate Bogdan Roščić, the award-winning Swiss choreographer will serve as the artistic director for the ballet company of Vienna’s two federal opera houses, the Wiener Staatsoper and the Volksoper Wien.

Martin Schläpfer, currently artistic director and chief choreographer of the Ballett am Rhein, the dance company of Deutsche Oper am Rhein Düsseldorf Duisburg, will become the director and chief choreographer of the Wiener Staatsballett and its Academy on September 1, 2020. This was announced today by Robert Meyer, director of Volksoper Wien, and Bogdan Roščić, director designate of Wiener Staatsoper.

Martin Schläpfer received ballet training in St. Gallen (Switzerland) and at the Royal Ballet School in London. In 1977 he joined the Basel Ballet, where he soon advanced to become one of the most charismatic soloists. In 1990 he founded the Basel ballet school Dance Place, where he began to teach. In 1994 he was appointed Director of the Bern ballet and created the Visions of Dance foundation. From 1999 to 2009 Schläpfer was at the head of his newly formed ballettmainz, which advanced to the upper ranks of German companies under his direction. Since 2009/10 he has been Director and Chief Choreographer of Ballett am Rhein. After only one season under his direction a panel of international critics of “tanz” magazine nominated the ensemble “Company of the Year”, proclaimed Martin Schläpfer to be “Choreographer of the Year” 2010. Furthermore Ballett am Rhein was awarded as “Best Company of the Year” in 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2017. In addition to the performances at the opera house in Düsseldorf and the theatre in Duisburg the company made numerous guest appearances at home and abroad and also at international festivals.

In over 60 works Martin Schläpfer has been able to distil his own choreographic style into an entirely individual contemporary ballet aesthetic. He created new productions for the Bavarian State Ballet in Munich and for the Dutch National Ballet. In 2014 Ballett Zürich presented his “Forellenquintett” in the Zurich Opera House. In January 2017 he was invited as choreographer and ballet teacher at Canada’s National Ballet School Toronto. After Martin Schläpfer in 2012 already has returned for the Pas de deux “The Old Man and Me” as a dancer on stage, in 2014 the renowned Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen created with “Alltag” first time a new piece for him as a soloist.

Martin Schläpfer was awarded the Arts Prize of the region of Rhineland-Palatinate (2002), the Dance Prize of the Spoerli Foundation (2003), in Moscow the Prix Benois de la Danse (2006), the theatre prize of the Düsseldorfer Volksbühne (2012) and the German Der Faust theatre prize in 2009 and 2012. In 2013 he won the Swiss Dance Award and in 2014 the “Taglioni” – European Ballet Award of the Malakhov Foundation in the category “Best Director”. His full evening ballet “DEEP FIELD“ with commissioned music by Adriana Hölszky has been nominated for the Prix Benois de la Danse 2015, in November 2015 – after the choreographers Hans van Manen and Pina Bausch – he received the Music Prize of the city of Duisburg. Since 2017 he is a member of the Academy of Sciences and Arts of North Rhine-Westphalia.

Several of Martin Schläpfer’s ballets were filmed for television (ZDF/Theaterkanal, 3sat, arte, SWR). From April 2014 to June 2015, film director Annette von Wangenheim created the portrait „Keep the flame – don’t pray to the ashes“ which is also available on DVD in a co-operation of arte/ WDR with Swiss Television SRF.

Bogdan Roščić said: „Martin Schläpfer is first and foremost a creator, one of today‘s most important choreographers. This gives him a special perspective on the duties of a ballet director. At the same time, he is a dancer and an experienced leader of ballet companies, who in his repertoire decisions has always fought for bringing great choreographers’ best creations to his theatres. He therefore doesn’t just represent a body of new works but also the classical canon of the 20th century, maintained and developed with a sure instinct, a love of variety, an academic precision steeped in tradition and an uncompromising sense of quality. This combination has made his path over the last years a unique one while making him one of the artists who have contributed significantly to the development of their discipline. His acceptance of this position is a great step for the Wiener Staatsoper and the city as a centre of ballet performed at the highest level.”

Robert Meyer said: “I am delighted that Martin Schläpfer has accepted the appointment as Director of the Wiener Staatsballett. His tremendously exciting choreographies both in the classical and especially the contemporary repertoire will give new impulses to the highly successful company of Wiener Staatsballett.”

Martin Schläpfer commented on his appointment: “It is a great honor and my great pleasure to take over the artistic leadership of the Wiener Staatsballett and its Academy. I will tackle this wonderful challenge with all my knowledge, experience and creative energy. My respect for the two theatres, their history, the uniqueness of the city and the achievements of my predecessors could not be greater. The company under my leadership will continue to curate and perform its grand classical repertoire but at the same time fully embrace contemporary expressions of our art. I will do everything in my power to contribute to the future growth of the Wiener Staatsballett. This is my task and my goal. I thank Bogdan Roščić and Robert Meyer for the trust placed in me and look forward to getting to know all the dancers, the members of the academy as well as the company’s whole team.”