Barrie Kosky

Stage director

"He has an unerring antenna for finding hidden pockets of silliness and tenderness, of humour and pathos, in works that have been performed to death."

Mark Swed, Los Angeles Times

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Barrie Kosky is the Intendant and Chefregisseur of the Komische Oper Berlin. He is one of the most internationally sought after stage directors of today presenting productions all over the world.

His work at the Komische Oper Berlin has included The Magic Flute (co-directed with 1927), which has been seen by over a quarter of a million people in three continents, The Monteverdi Trilogy, Ball at the Savoy, Eugene Onegin, Les Contes d’Hoffmann, Rigoletto, La Belle Hélène, Moses und Aron, La bohème, Rusalka, Le Grand Macabre, West Side Story, Pelléas et Mélisande, Semele, The Bassarids, Die Perlen von Cleopatra, Anatevka and Candide. At the end of his first season for 2012/13, the Komische Oper was voted 'Opera House of the Year' by Opernwelt magazine.

Barrie Kosky has directed opera productions for the Bayerische Staatsoper (Die Schweigsame Frau, Agrippina, The Fiery Angel and Der Rosenkavalier), the Salzburg Festival (Orphée aux Enfers), Glyndebourne Festival Opera (Saul), Festival Aix en Provence (Falstaff, Coq D´Or), Oper Frankfurt (Dido and Aeneas/Bluebeard's Castle, Salome and Carmen), Opera Zurich (La Fancuilla del West, The Stigmatized, Macbeth and Boris Gudonov), Opéra National de Paris (Prince Igor) and Royal Opera House Covent Garden (The Nose, Agrippina and Carmen). He has also presented his productions at the Los Angeles Opera, Teatro Real Madrid, Gran Liceu Barcelona, Vienna Staatsoper, Het National Opera Amsterdam, English National Opera, Oper Graz, Theater Basel, Aalto Theater Essen, Staatsoper Hannover, Deutsches Theater Berlin and Schauspielhaus Frankfurt and is a regular guest at the Edinburgh International Festival.

His awards include the Olivier Award for Best New Opera Production for Castor and Pollux (English National Opera), Best Director at the 2014 International Opera Awards, Best Opera House (Komische Oper Berlin) at the 2015 International Opera Awards, the 2015 Gold Iffland Medal from the Berliner Theater Club and the 2016 Royal Philharmonic Society Award for Opera and Music Theatre for Saul (also nominated for a 2016 International Opera Award). In 2016 he was named Director of the Year by Opernwelt and in 2017 Kosky’s production of Saul won six out of seven categories at the Helpmann Awards, including Best Opera and Best Opera Direction. In 2018 Kosky’s Bayreuth Festival production of Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg was announced as Production of the Year by Opernwelt. In 2020 he was the recipient of a Sidney Myer Performing Arts Award, in recognition of his unique and influential contribution to the Australian Arts world.

New productions in 21/22 include Mahagonny for Komische Oper Berlin, The Cunning Little Vixen/ Bayerischen Staatsoper Munich, Don Giovanni/Wiener Staatsoper and Tosca/Dutch National Opera.

Born in Melbourne, Kosky was Artistic Director of Gilgul Theatre Company 1990–97, Artistic Director of the 1996 Adelaide Festival and from 2001-2005 he was co-Artistic Director of the Vienna Schauspielhaus.

This biography is for information only and should not be reproduced.

Hercules, Oper Frankfurt

Premiere 30 April 2023

Barrie Kosky refers to the essentiality of Greek tragedy for his new staging of Handelian work, staged with great success at the Oper Frankfurt [...] The work done by Kosky on the Chorus of the Oper Frankfurt is extraordinary, musically precise and fully participating in the eloquent choreographic design that transforms him into one of the opera's protagonists, completely erasing any trace of static monumentality frequent in the oratorio form, which has always been extraneous, however, to Kosky's directorial style.

Stefano Nardelli, Giornale della Musica

There was no end to the jubilation when director Barrie Kosky stepped in front of the curtain at the Frankfurt Opera on Sunday evening after the Frankfurt premiere of Handel's oratorio "Hercules" [...] How Kosky choreographed the "Jealousy Choir" drooling after [Dejanira] as a rising wave of hatred is one of the most impressive things to be seen at the Frankfurt Opera this season.

Musik Heute

This is how a marital psychodrama unfolds, reminiscent of the great cinematic abysses of Ingmar Bergman. But Barrie Kosky is a master director himself. This "Hercules" is neither an oratorio nor an opera, but music theater in which the staging shows why people sing. Every note, every sound, every da capo aria has its meaning in the dramatic gestures.

Bernd Künzig, SWR2

What makes the production at the Frankfurt Opera a sensational artistic success is precisely Kosky's ability to make the complicated and sometimes agonizing human relationships of the ancient myth credible and movingly vivid [...] Kosky, who from his time at the Komische Oper Berlin was able to gain rich experience with the involvement of a dramatically active choir, stages the ensemble partly as a people (also in its willingness to become a pack at any time, which initially torments the bound Iole with a sneer), but partly also as a commentator in the style of Greek tragedy.

Wolfgang Fuhrmann, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung

Kat'a Kabanova

Salzburg Festival, August 2022

"When the lights went up, Kristina Hammer, the festival’s new president, was wiping tears off her cheeks."

"Barrie Kosky's staging was the highlight of a week at Salzburg, classical music’s pre-eminent annual event [...] Kosky has pared down this pared-down work even further, to its core of quivering human beings."

Zachary Woolfe, The New York Times

As a director, Kosky tackles this immobility of society and places 200 puppets on the stage with their backs to the audience. He actually allows his drama to step out of this area of ​​social conflict. That's particularly clever, because the Felsenbühne doesn't allow a peep-box illusion theater, but calls for creative solutions.

"The director Barrie Kosky and his stage designer Rufus Didwiszus confront Salzburg's most iconic opera space with radical emptiness"

"It is from [the contrast between the vast space and the intimacy of the piece] that his unfussy, logical, completely minimalist staging draws its tension."

Manuel Brug, Welt

The advantage of this direction: It doesn't need any folklore to create an oppressive atmosphere. Movement, light and song: Kosky limits himself to these alone and thus achieves impressive results.

Christoph Irrgeher, Wiener Zeitung

“Barrie Kosky managed to transform the huge stage of Felsenreitschule into the setting of a claustrophobic drama”

“From the wall emerge the characters, perfectly drawn by Kosky in their personalities and relationships.”

Xavier Cester, Opera Magazine

Barrie Kosky's All-Singing, All-Dancing Yiddish Revue

Komische Oper Berlin, June 2022

This was not a normal evening at the Komische Oper, this was a party. [Barrie Kosky] created the party and all of his favourite players were invited […] A description cannot be reproduced here. What you should definitely do is go and see it. You only have nine more opportunities and then never again […] And this production is a further step in Kosky’s war on German high-culture snobbery. “Entertainment is not a dirty word for me. Entertainment is what Shakespeare did, it’s what Euripedes did,it’s what Molière did. And Richard Wagner did it too. Come on Germany!” The Germany that was assembled at the Komische Oper that evening was cheering in a decidedly unsnobbish way.

Susanne Lenz, Berliner Zeitung

It’s difficult to pinpoint the most outrageous moment of “Barrie Kosky’s All-Singing, All-Dancing Yiddish Revue,” which opened at the Komische Oper here on Friday. Is it the 1960s-era pilot and flight attendant in drag belting “My Way” (sorry, “Mayn Veg”) under a shower of golden confetti? The subtle camp of an imaginary Choir of Temple Beth Emmanuel singing with straightfaced sincerity? The “message from our sponsors” advertising “delectably light, always right, gefilte fish in jars”? [ … ] Throughout, Kosky — who also hosts the show through prerecorded introductions — is committed to the bit in a delicate balance of irony and camp. Both men and women sing in drag; borscht belt humor (“below the girdle”) abounds; and the performers assume personas on a Marvel Cinematic Universe scale. There’s the “mezzo from Minsk” Sylvie Sonitzki, a boy band of orthodox Jews, and don’t forget the temple choir. In an ending out of something like Verdi’s “Falstaff,” Kosky brings out everyone, an enormous ensemble backed by an enormous orchestra, for a spectacle that, joyous and celebratory, sends off the audience with a command: “Dance!” Kosky couldn’t have said goodbye any other way.

Joshua Barone, The New York Times

Kosky was a boon to the Komische Oper. He took over a house that was filled to seventy percent and brought it today to ninety percent. Kosky made it a family opera house – “one for all” – with sensual, mostly clever, highly professional and always entertaining theatre. His sendoff production, “Barrie Kosky’s All-Singing, All-Dancing Yiddish Revue” is once again just that […]

Jan Brachmann, Frankfurter Allgemeine

What we saw on Friday night with the “All-Singing, All-Dancing Yiddish Revue” was his last production as artistic director. An evening by him, not for him. No opera, no operetta – for he decided to do a revue. The advantage is that in this colorful pot pourri all of his collaborators from the past ten years are gathered together on the stage […] Another result of Kosky’s directorship is that again we are served the Jewish-influenced musical culture of the late 19th – and early 20th – centuries, the audience are confronted and challenged with newness and the unknown and shown that there are other ways to deal with Jewish culture in Germany than just Hitler and Auschwitz.

Udo Badelt, Der Tagesspiegel

With “Barrie Kosky’s All-Singing All-Dancing Yiddish Revue” the master of the house, who is giving up his position after ten years, has dug deep into his bag of glamour tricks once again. It is an evening full of charm, wit, heart and aspiration. More could not be possible. […] Kosky has somehow put his whole artistic vision for the house in this Revue.

Volker Blech, Berliner Morgenpost

At the premiere of “[Barrie Kosky’s] All-Singing, All-Dancing Yiddish Revue” on Friday there was a good two hours of jazzing and swinging in Yiddish. Kosky showed us once more just why the public love him: precise timing, opulent images and big emotions.

B.Z. Kultur

After ten happy years for theatre, this is Barrie Kosky’s parting gift to his public as Intendant of the Komische Oper in Berlin. True to its name “Barrie Kosky’s All-Singing, All-Dancing Yiddish Revue” ignites a firework of emotions. Happiness, joy, high spirits and sadness, shrillness and simplicity, desire and love, wit and madness – all sung and sometimes spoken in Yiddish. Theatre can do anything! What a creation! What a party!

Sabine Dultz, Münchner Merkur

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