Master­class for Opera Directors

with Barrie Kosky
artistic director and chief stage director
of the Komische Oper Berlin
Barrie Kosky - hier bei den Proben für Jewgeni Onegin im Januar 2016 © Jan Windszus Photography
While masterclasses – generally workshops spanning several days where experienced musicians pass on their knowledge and expertise to the younger generation – are a common feature of the education and training of singers and instrumentalists, they are a comparative rarity when it comes to stage direction. Yet in opera directing just as in singing and instrumental musicianship, soundly based technical proficiency is a prerequisite for high-quality artistic achievement. Ever since it was founded by the director Walter Felsenstein in 1947, the Komische Oper Berlin has attached particular importance to staging, irrespective of the prevailing aesthetic. The opera house would therefore seem predestined to be the venue for a masterclass delivering hands-on practical coaching in stage direction.

In its 70th season, 2017/18, the Komische Oper Berlin for the first time (from 16th to 20th May 2018) invited applications to a five-day masterclass open to three young directors and hosted by its artistic director and chief stage director Barrie Kosky.The next masterclass will take place in the 2019/20 season. The application deadline has already expired and the three master-class students have been selected.

Barrie Kosky

Barrie Kosky is a director in the field of opera and theatre. He is also the General Manager and Artistic Director of Komische Oper Berlin. As a director he is working in international houses suchas Bayerische Staatsoper in Munich, The Bayreuth Festival, Glyndebourne Festival Opera, Teatro Real Madrid, Oper Frankfurt, The Royal Opera House, Covent Garden, the English National Opera London, Opernhaus Zürich and the Opernhaus Amsterdam, as well as at houses such as Deutsches Theater Berlin and Schauspiel Frankfurt. He was the Artistic Director of The Adelaide Festival in 1996, Artistic Co-Director of Schauspielhaus Wien from 2001–2005 and since 2012 he manages Komische Oper Berlin as General Manager and Artistic Director. He has been awarded several prizes for his productions, such as the Theaterpreis Der Faust for his production of Aus einem Totenhaus 2009, the Laurence Olivier Award for Castor et Pollux 2011 and the International Opera Award in the category Director of the Year in 2014. His ensemble at Komische Oper Berlin received the International Opera Award in the category Ensemble of the Year 2015 and the house was awarded Opera house of the Year 2012. In 2016 he was named Director of the Year by the international magazine Opernwelt and in 2018 his production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg with The Bayreuth Festival was announced as Production of the year.

The three master students from 2019/20

Nadezhda Bakhshieva
Hrvoje Korba
Kenza Koutchoukali
Opera director Nadezhda Bakhshieva was born in Russia. She studied stage directing at the Saint Petersburg University of Culture and Arts, then graduated from the Russian Institute of Dramatic Art (GITIS) in Moscow as a music theatre director. In 2016, she made her directorial debut with the opera Mozart and Salieri by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov at the Astrakhan State Opera and Ballet Theatre. In 2018, she produced her version of Hänsel and Gretel by Engelbert Humperdink at the Natalie Sats State Children's Theatre in Moscow as her graduation work from university. Later that year she was invited to Samara State Opera and Ballet to stage Giacomo Puccini’s Gianni Schicchi, which also was shown in 2019 at the festival of Russian music theatres in Moscow. She is also a regular participant of theatre workshops for young directors. Next season, Nadezhda will stage productions of Pagliacci by Ruggero Leoncavallo and Francesca da Rimini by Sergei Rachmaninov.
Hrvoje Korbar (1995) was born and raised in Zagreb, Croatia. In 2017 he obtained his Bachelor degree and began his Masters in stage directing and broadcasting at the Academy of Dramatic Art in Zagreb. He worked both on small-scale independent productions, in institutional theatres (Satyrical Theatre Kerempuh, Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, Dubrovnik Summer Festival) and as a freelance radio author. In 2019, he adapted and directed The Little Prince (Antoine de Saint-Exupery) with Croatian composer Ivan Josip Skender, who composed a suite for chamber orchestra specially for this purpose. He is currently focused on researching new and innovative ways of using sound and music in theatre, as well as his interest in comedy and satire. His work has received a very positive reception and he is considered to be one of last season's theatrical discoveries in Croatian theatre.
Kenza Koutchoukali encountered opera at the age of 10 when she sang in the children's choir in Tosca at the Dutch National Opera (DNO). From that moment she was hooked. Her focus on interdisciplinary art continued throughout her undergraduate degree in Music Education at the Utrecht School of Arts. After being assigned a student production of Benjamin Britten's Billy Budd for the community department of DNO, three incredibly formative years at the DNO followed, amplifying her natural passion for dramaturgy and knowledge of opera. In 2015/16 she made her directorial debut with a festival production of Mozart’s Figaro for Bold Opera. That same season she directed the contemporary opera All Rise! By Jan-Peter de Graaff, after which DNO offered her a two-year talent development program. This enabled her to assist Lotte de Beer, Romeo Castellucci and Claus Guth, in both Amsterdam and Paris. Soon after, she was selected as the new director for Kameroperahuis (Zwolle). Recently she directed the contemporary song cycle This is (not) a fairy tale by Anne-Maartje Lemereis, which was well received by the press. Currently she’s preparing several contemporary opera productions (De Graaff, Lemereis amongst others) and a new dance opera (MANIICO). In her work she’s always looking for the fantastic dimension called reality.

The three master students
from 16th to 20th may 2018

Béatrice Lachaussée
Natalia Kozłowska
Kai Anne Schuhmacher
Opera director Béatrice Lachaussée was born and raised in Paris. She studied philosophy at the Sorbonne, then later musical theatre direction at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna. In 2013, she made her directorial debut with the world premiere of the opera Biedermann und die Brandstifter by Šimon Voseček at the Neue Oper Wien. Her interpretation of Wolfgang Rihm’s opera Jakob Lenz at the Trinitatiskirche of the Cologne Opera won the 2014 Götz Friedrich Studio Prize for the best chamber opera production in the German-speaking world. This was followed by directorial engagements at the Luzerner Theater (Béatrice et Bénédict), the Theater Aachen (Die verkaufte Braut), and the Cologne Opera (L’heure espagnole/L’enfant et les sortilèges). Next season, Béatrice Lachaussée will direct Puccini’s Madama Butterfly at the Stadttheater Bremerhaven.
»The masterclass at the Komische Oper Berlin offers a wonderful opportunity to refine your own directing methods during rehearsals under the close observation of, and through incisive analysis by, Barrie Kosky. The focus is on individual direction, and you get to work with outstanding singers from the ensemble. Barrie Kosky is respectful in his approach to teaching valuable directing tools – an exceedingly inspiring dialogue!«
Natalia Kozłowska graduated from A. Zelwerowicz Theater Academy in Warsaw. She was director assistant for several production at the Polish National Opera, among others she has worked with M. Treliński and B. Wysocka. She debuted with production of Dido and Aeneas by H. Purcell. She was stage director of 17 opera productions, such as: A. Vivaldi’s Farnace (Royal Theatre in Royal Łazienki in Warsaw), four operas by G. Puccini: Le Villi, Gianni Schicchi, Suor Angelica and Il tabarro (Baltic Opera in Gdansk), Pierrot Lunaire by A. Schönberg (Center for Contemporary Art in Warsaw), S. Rachmaninoff’s Francesca da Rimini, Eros i Psyche by L. Różycki (Baltic Opera). Agrippina and Orlando by G. F. Händel (Royal Theatre in Royal Łazienki in Warsaw), pasticcio Baroque Living Room prepared for the Royal Philharmonic Concert Hall in Warsaw, two opera-ballet by J. P. Rameau Pygmalion (Warsaw Chamber Opera) and Les Indes galantes (Opera Nova in Bydgoszcz). In 2014 she did an internship at the Odéon-Théâtre de l’Europe within production of Les Fausses Confidences by Marivaux directed by Luc Bondy. Her production of G. F. Händel’s Agrippina was nominated for the Koryfeusz award in 2015 in the category event of the year.
»The masterclass organized by the Komische Oper Berlin is a rare opportunity for young opera directors to exchange experiences and to meet a real master of this art form - Barrie Kosky. Working under his guidance for me was a chance to rethink my methods and recognize my strong and my weak sides. Barrie Kosky really wants to share his experience, he understands how important it is for beginners to improve their skills, and his advice was eye-opening. This masterclass was also a chance to see from the inside how the Komische Oper Berlin is organized, it was a really inspiring adventure.«
After studying musicology at the University of Bayreuth and the University of Ferrara, Kai Anne Schuhmacher began her directorial studies in 2011 at the University of Music and Performing Arts Vienna, where she earned her degree in 2014. While still in university, she worked as an assistant and director in Germany, Austria, France, and Switzerland. In 2016, Kai Anne Schuhmacher made her directorial debut with Britten’s The Rape of Lucretia at the Cologne Opera, where she subsequently also staged Pierrot Lunaire. In her production of Hoffmanns Erzählungen for children at the Cologne Opera, she incorporated elements of puppetry and masked theatre for the first time, building her own puppets, and she even wrote the libretto herself. Since the 2017/18 season, Schuhmacher has been an Artist in Residence at the Figurentheater Gera. In addition to productions in spoken and musical theatre, her work also includes off-stage collages and projects in the public arena. Her last project was the interactive multi-stage theatre piece Re:Play, which premiered in December 2017 at the Out of Control Festival in Vienna with the Netzzeit ensemble.
»A masterclass like the one offered by the Komische Oper Berlin is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Promoting young singers is a given in the world of opera; yet it is often overlooked that they can only shine on stage if they have a skilled director as a partner at their side. The Komische Oper Berlin has recognised the lack of in-depth training available to young directors of musical theatre and reacted in a brilliant way with Barrie Kosky’s master class. I think it is both pioneering and idealistic in the best sense of the word when an institution spends its own money to provide three young directors with a week’s intensive training at one of Europe’s most prestigious opera houses – in the belief that good directing skills are the foundation for the blossoming world of musical theatre of tomorrow. After this week, I felt I had been once more reminded of what actually matters when it comes to directing: studying the music exactingly, trusting in the singer-performers and their individual abilities, and not least the clarity of the words. One needn’t be afraid of great operas, but merely have respect for the music. One has to listen closely; the score tells a director everything they need to know. That was the key insight I gained from the class.
Kai Anne Schuhmacher, Barrie Kosky, Alma Sadé (Soprano/Ensemble), Béatrice Lachaussée, Natalia Kozłowska on rehearsal stage ...
Komische Oper Berlin
Dr. Rainer Simon
Referent of the intendant
Behrenstraße 55-57
10117 Berlin