20 years of Ruhrtriennale

What remains, what was important and what was exciting?

On the occasion of the Ruhrtriennale's 20th anniversary, dramaturge Dorothea Neweling, who worked for the festival from 2002 to 2017, compiles a personal retrospective here on behalf of the Ruhrtriennale.

The review will be regularly expanded until the end of 2022. Dive with us into the diverse memories of the individual festival years!

2002

The industrial legacies in the Ruhr region from the great days of mining and the steel industry are immense. From 1989 to 1999, the International Building Exhibition IBA Emscher Park made collieries, power stations, washeries, coking plants, blower and machine halls, slag heaps and wastelands visible, accessible and usable. The potential for transforming these places was uncovered. On the initiative of the state government, the Ruhrtriennale is founded: A festival with both regional and international appeal is to take place annually in the summer in what are now called "industrial venues". On 31 August 2002, the opening of the first edition of the Ruhrtriennale takes place under the artistic direction of Gerard Mortier.

With one hundred railway sleepers, Agustín Ibarolla gives the Haniel slag heap its own rhythm and a touch of poetry. This first installation already contains much of the idea and form of the Ruhrtriennale of founding director Gerard Mortier: the revitalisation of the former industrial sites of the Ruhr region with art that is as political as it is poetic by international artists.

In Bottrop, Peter Sellars calls for a discussion on asylum and immigration with his interpretation of Children of Heracles; in Duisburg, Winterreise is performed in a boxing ring; and Hanns Eisler's Hollywood Elegien are turned into an original experience by the punk musician Schorsch Kamerun in the Salzfabrik at Zollverein.

Agustín Ibarolla: "Totems" on the Haniel slagheap in Bottrop.
Agustín Ibarolla: "Totems" on the Haniel slagheap in Bottrop. | © Michael Kneffel
Peter Sellars: »The Children of Herakles«, Lichthof Bottrop, 2002
Peter Sellars: »The Children of Herakles«, Lichthof Bottrop, 2002 | © Ruth Walz
Oliver Herrmann: »Winterreise«, Kraftzentrale im Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2002
Oliver Herrmann: »Winterreise«, Kraftzentrale im Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2002 | © Manfred Vollmer
Schorsch Kamerun: »Hollywood Elegien«, Salzfabrik der Kokerei Zollverein Essen, 2002
Schorsch Kamerun: »Hollywood Elegien«, Salzfabrik der Kokerei Zollverein Essen, 2002 | © Mara Eggert

2003

Angels evoke the utopian power and humanistic potential of theatre, opera, dance and art in 2003 - the second season of Gerard Mortier`s Ruhrtriennale. There is, for example, Olivier Messiaen's Saint François D`Assise in front of Ilija Kabakov's large cathedral dome in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum and the 8-hour performance of Der seidene Schuh. Much spiritual power unfolds in this second programme. A new art form of theatre, music and dance emerges with the creations. Among the most formative creations of the Mortier years are Wolf in the Kraftzentrale Duisburg and Sentimenti in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum. With this story of a family of miners, the festival explicitly connects with the labour history of the region. With the Century of Song concert series, the festival proves that popular music also belongs in this new festival. Because pop songs have been firmly inscribed in the biographies of all of us and in the history of the 20th century - and over many festival years also in the history of the Ruhrtriennale.

Olivier Messiaen / Ilya Kabakov / Sylvain Cambreling: »Saint François D`Assise«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2003
Olivier Messiaen / Ilya Kabakov / Sylvain Cambreling: »Saint François D`Assise«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2003 | © Michael Kneffel
Paul Claudel / Stefan Bachmann »Der seidene Schuh«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2003
Paul Claudel / Stefan Bachmann »Der seidene Schuh«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2003 | © Sebastian Hoppe
Alain Platel: »Wolf«, Kraftzentrale Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2003
Alain Platel: »Wolf«, Kraftzentrale Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2003 | © Ursula Kaufmann
Johan Simons: »Sentimenti«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2003
Johan Simons: »Sentimenti«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2003 | © Ursula Kaufmann
»Century of Song« mit Suzanne Vega, Bill Frisell & Friends, Gießhalle Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2003
»Century of Song« mit Suzanne Vega, Bill Frisell & Friends, Gießhalle Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2003 | © Andreas Mader

2004

"Rebuilding the Sky" - this is the title of the new literary series in 2004 and this is the leitmotif over the 2004 season. The programme brochure shows unpublished pictures from Gerhard Richter's Cloud Atlas for this purpose: clouds, sky, an open space, full of utopias. Peter Brook's "Tierno Bokar", something more like a meditation on dealing with violence than a classical theatre performance, fits in with this. The stirring scenes that Ariane Mnouchkine finds in "Le dernier Caravansérail" fit this in a completely different way - they are more than topical 20 years later.
Finally, the "Young Triennale" is a programme especially for children and young people. Cooperations with the independent scene are established in the special programme "Raum.Pfad". At the end, Mortier, who came to the Ruhr from Salzburg, says goodbye to the Opéra in Paris with a brilliant performance of "La Damnation de Faust". But soon afterwards he lets us know: "It was  most beautiful à la Ruhr!" 


Translated with www.DeepL.com/Translator (free version)

Peter Brook: »Tierno Bokar«, Gebläsehalle Landschaftfspark Duisburg-Nord, 2004
Peter Brook: »Tierno Bokar«, Gebläsehalle Landschaftfspark Duisburg-Nord, 2004 | © Ursula Kaufmann
Ariane Mnouchkine: »Le dernier Caravansérail«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2004
Ariane Mnouchkine: »Le dernier Caravansérail«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2004 | © Wolfgang Silveri
Junge Triennale: »Irrfahrten über Tage«, Kokerei Zollverein, 2004
Junge Triennale: »Irrfahrten über Tage«, Kokerei Zollverein, 2004 | © Wolfgang Silveri
Raum.Pfad: »Der Mann von oben«, SWB Hochaus Mülheim, 2004
Raum.Pfad: »Der Mann von oben«, SWB Hochaus Mülheim, 2004 | © Ursula Kaufmann
La Fura dels Baus: »La Damnation de Faust«, 2004, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum
La Fura dels Baus: »La Damnation de Faust«, 2004, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum | © Ursula Kaufmann

2005

A Ruhrtriennale directorship lasts three years. The audience from the Ruhr region was very open-minded about the first edition. Open to the unknown and free in their perceptions, they try things out and go along with craziness. In this spirit, the change to the second artistic director in 2005 is also accompanied by curiosity. The German director and theatre-maker Jürgen Flimm has been appointed.
Flimm and his team are going backwards in cultural and intellectual history with their programme for three years: Romanticism - Baroque - Middle Ages. In doing so, the festival has given itself and the invited artists a theme.
The first season is dedicated to German Romanticism, and lines of connection to the early days of industrialisation in the Ruhr region become discernible. "Nights Underground" by Andrea Breth and Christian Boltanski in the mixing plant of the Zollverein coking plant is an exploration of unknown depths, a treading of abysses and like a timeless floating without romantic transfiguration. In Gladbeck, Alvis Hermanis stages Sorokin's "The Ice". This is also a kind of searching station theatre. Coming to Bochum for the "School of Romanticism" are: Patti Smith (who of course also gives a concert), Michel Houellebecq, Olga Neuwirth and Haroun Farocki. Sven-Eric Bechtolf and Franui have invented an exuberant and fun homage to alpinism - the beginning of which coincides with Romanticism - with "Stones and Hearts" for the Kraftzentrale in Duisburg. The music theatre creation "Das Trojanische Boot" by the music band Mnozil Brass is also full of beautiful lightness and subtle humour.

Andrea Breth und Christian Boltanski: »Nächte unter Tage«, Kokerei Zollverein Essen, 2005
Andrea Breth und Christian Boltanski: »Nächte unter Tage«, Kokerei Zollverein Essen, 2005 | © Bernd Uhlig
Alvis Hermanis »Das Eis«, Maschinenhalle Zeche Zweckel Gladbeck, 2005
Alvis Hermanis »Das Eis«, Maschinenhalle Zeche Zweckel Gladbeck, 2005 | © Ursula Kaufmann
»Schule der Romantik« mit Patti Smith, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2005
»Schule der Romantik« mit Patti Smith, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2005 | © Christoph Sebastian
Sven Eric Bechtolf: »Steine und Herzen«, Kraftzentrale Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2005
Sven Eric Bechtolf: »Steine und Herzen«, Kraftzentrale Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2005 | © Clemens Sippel
Mnozil Brass: »Das Trojanische Boot«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2005
Mnozil Brass: »Das Trojanische Boot«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2005 | © Ursula Kaufmann

2006

Von Beginn an wird die Ruhrtriennale finanziell durch Freunde, Stiftungen, Initiativen und Förderer großzügig unterstützt. Ein großes Engagement, das zu einer raschen Verankerung des Festivals in der regionalen, nationalen und europäischen Kulturlandschaft beiträgt.

Die Themensetzungen Romantik – Barock – Mittelalter für die Jahre 2005-2007 sind kein Gedächtnisakt und kein Vorgang des Bewahrens – die Suche nach Reibung und Gegenwartstauglichkeit macht die Verknüpfungen interessant. Nach der Romantik rückt 2006 der Barock in den Fokus. Den Anfang machen Johan Simons und Peter Vermeersch mit »Das Leben ein Traum« von 1653, das in Gladbeck als ein surreales Märchen stattfindet, in dem der Mensch in seine eigene Geschichte eingreifen kann. Die Partitur der Marienvesper von Monteverdi dient Alain Platel in »VSPRS« als Ausgangspunkt für eine Performance über Kontrolle und Verlust. Mit dem Barockgarten an der Jahrhunderthalle Bochum kommt (endlich) etwas Grün auf den Vorplatz – temporär erdacht stehen die Pappeln bis heute! »Rubens und das nichteuklidische Weib« lautet der auch nach Erleben der Aufführung rätselhaft bleibende Titel von Christian Stückls Inszenierung in der Duisburger Kraftzentrale. Bleibenden Eindruck davon hinterlassen haben die Tableaux vivants der Gemälde des übrigens in Oberhausen geborenen Peter Paul Rubens. Die vielleicht größte Anstrengung überhaupt unternimmt das Festival 2006 mit der Aufführung von Bernd Alois Zimmermanns »Die Soldaten«. Eine 130 Meter lange Szenenfläche, auf Schienen fahrende Tribünen, 22 Solist:innen, allein das Schlagwerk füllt schon einen Orchestergraben... 2008 wurde die Produktion zum Lincoln Center Festival in der Armory Hall New York eingeladen – und ist heute noch als DVD-Aufzeichnung zu erleben.

Pedro Calderón / Johan Simons / Peter Vermeersch: »Das Leben ein Traum«, Maschinenhalle Zweckel Gladbeck, 2006
Pedro Calderón / Johan Simons / Peter Vermeersch: »Das Leben ein Traum«, Maschinenhalle Zweckel Gladbeck, 2006 | © Ursula Kaufmann
Alain Platel: »VSPRS«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2006
Alain Platel: »VSPRS«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2006 | © Ursula Kaufmann
Eröffnung des Barockgartens, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2006
Eröffnung des Barockgartens, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2006 | © Olaf Ziegler
Péter Esterházy / Philipp Stölzl: »Rubens und das nichteuklidische Weib«, Kraftzentrale im Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2006
Péter Esterházy / Philipp Stölzl: »Rubens und das nichteuklidische Weib«, Kraftzentrale im Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2006 | © Matthias Baus
Bernd Alois Zimmermann / David Pountney / Steven Sloane: »Die Soldaten«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2006
Bernd Alois Zimmermann / David Pountney / Steven Sloane: »Die Soldaten«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2006 | © Michael Kneffel

2007

The Middle Ages is the focus for the third year of Jürgen Flimm's directorship. Independent of thematic considerations are the concerts in the "Century of Song" series. As a fixed part of the programme - curated by chief dramaturge Thomas Wördehoff since 2002 - they always take place under an opulent chandelier. A play commissioned on the theme goes to the author Wilhelm Genazino: "Courasche oder Gott lass nach", the premiere is in the Duisburg Gebläsehalle. This space is also the (ideal) location for the performance of another medieval material: "Le vin herbé". Willy Decker directs this secular oratorio by Frank Martin from 1941 about the Tristan and Isolde material. The young composer Jörn Arnecke receives a commission to set "Unter Eis" to music, a text by Falk Richter, who also directs. Also in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum: Jan Fabre's "Requiem for a Metamorphosis": images of death and decay in an endless sea of flowers. Dance has been an important section of the Ruhrtriennale programme every season since 2002. Stefan Hilterhaus curates the programme at PACT Zollverein. Choreographers and their companies from all over the world celebrate premieres in the Ruhr region - such as works by Wim Vandekeybus or Trisha Brown in 2007.

»Century of Song«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2007
»Century of Song«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2007 | © Michael Kneffel
Wilhelm Genazino, Stephanie Mohr: »Courasche oder Gott lass nach«, Gebläsehalle Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2007
Wilhelm Genazino, Stephanie Mohr: »Courasche oder Gott lass nach«, Gebläsehalle Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2007 | © Marion Bührle
Frank Martin / Willy Decker / Friedemann Layer / Wolfgang Gussmann: »Le vin herbé «, Gebläsehalle Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2007
Frank Martin / Willy Decker / Friedemann Layer / Wolfgang Gussmann: »Le vin herbé «, Gebläsehalle Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2007 | © Clärchen und Matthias Baus
Jörn Arnecke, Falk Richter, Johannes Debus: Titel in »Unter Eis«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2007
Jörn Arnecke, Falk Richter, Johannes Debus: Titel in »Unter Eis«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2007 | © Michael Kneffel
Jan Fabre: »Requiem für eine Metamorphose«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2007
Jan Fabre: »Requiem für eine Metamorphose«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2007 | © Ursula Kaufmann

2008

In 2006, Marie Zimmermann was named as successor for the years 2008-2010. But the dramaturge and experienced festival director died during the preparations. Jürgen Flimm's team then extended the festival for another year at short notice. The programme titled Aus der Fremde includes projects already planned by Marie Zimmermann, new productions, a selection of guest performances, concerts in the Century of Song series and readings.

In Duisburg's Gebläsehalle, Christoph Schlingensief recreates Oberhausen's Herz-Jesu church, where he »celebrates« his lung cancer diagnosis as an autobiographical liturgy. Schlingensief's latest work radically and pathetically intertwines art and religion. The work Eine Kirche der Angst vor dem Fremden in mir is invited to the 2009 Theatertreffen in Berlin. Schorsch Kamerun stages Westwärts in a labyrinth of milky foil tunnels. The Maschinenhalle Zweckel a quarantine camp? Sandra Hüller sings and speaks poems and writings by Rolf Dieter Brinkmann in this walk-in state of emergency. Alain Platel is also a guest at the Ruhrtriennale in the 2008 season. The performance pitié. Erbarme Dich! seeks compassion and pity in the face of death and finds touching images and intense moments for it. Fidena has long been a partner of the Ruhrtriennale. In 2008, life-size rabbit figures in the puppet theater performance Cuniculus. Eine Menschwerdung by Neville Trenter spread their terror at PACT Zollverein. Visconti's Rocco and His Brothers is staged by Ivo van Hove at Jahrhunderthalle Bochum. The story of the five brothers tells of the hope for happiness and the harsh reality of migration and uprooting: the stage is a boxing ring. Over the course of the 2008 festival, an open space for literature has been set up in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum. In memory of the late festival director, readings from Marie's books will be held there.

Christoph Schlingensief, »Eine Kirche der Angst vor dem Fremden in mir«, Gebläsehalle, Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2008
Christoph Schlingensief, »Eine Kirche der Angst vor dem Fremden in mir«, Gebläsehalle, Landschaftspark Duisburg-Nord, 2008 | © David Baltze
Katja Eichbaum, Schorsch Kamerun: »Westwärts«, Maschinenhalle, Zeche Zweckel, 2008
Katja Eichbaum, Schorsch Kamerun: »Westwärts«, Maschinenhalle, Zeche Zweckel, 2008 | © Ursula Kaufmann
les ballets C de la B, Alain Platel, Fabrizio Cassol: »pitié! Erbarme dich!«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2008
les ballets C de la B, Alain Platel, Fabrizio Cassol: »pitié! Erbarme dich!«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2008 | © Ursula Kaufmann
Neville Tranter: »Cuniculus. Eine Menschwerdung«, PACT Zollverein, 2008
Neville Tranter: »Cuniculus. Eine Menschwerdung«, PACT Zollverein, 2008 | © Michael Kneffel
Ivo van Hove, »Rocco und seine Brüder«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2008
Ivo van Hove, »Rocco und seine Brüder«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2008 | © Jan Versweyveld
David Tushingham, Joachim Janner: »Maries Büchern«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2008
David Tushingham, Joachim Janner: »Maries Büchern«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2008 | © Birgit Hupfeld

2009

The Ruhrtriennale follows its claim of permanent renewal by electing music theater director Willy Decker as its third artistic director from 2009-2011. The self-confessed Buddhist is the first festival director to also present his own productions. As if written by hand, the word »Urmomente« and a logo painted as if by a Zen master appear at the Ruhrtriennale. Decker precedes each of the three years with a word: departure – migration – arrival. Departure reflects Judaism, Migration reflects Islam, and Arrival reflects Buddhism. In the years 2009-2011, which are accompanied by spirituality, many things seem distant and unknown: Dervishes, rituals and ceremonies, the mysticism of the Sufi. Willy Decker's production of Arnold Schoenberg's Moses und Aron in the Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, with the participation of Chorwerk Ruhr and the Bochumer Symphoniker, succeeds in opening the 2009 festival. The story of the suffering of the Jew Hiob, based on Josef Roth, is certainly one of director Johan Simons' most beautiful productions. In Dritte Generation, ten young players from Germany, Israel and Palestine discuss their origins. Yael Ronen stages them sparingly and directly. Jordi Savall has put together a special concert for the Ruhrtriennale with Jewish and Palestinian musicians and texts about the dramatic history of a special city: Jerusalem. Die Stadt der zwei Frieden.

In the Maschinenhalle Zweckel Gladbeck, Sing für mich, Tod – ein Ritual for the composer Claude Vivier can be experienced. Vivier's life and work revolved around loneliness, fear and the search for love. A fictional land far away, far from any time - that is Autland. In this music theater piece, Johannes Ockeghem's canon for 36 voices from the 15th century meets music of the present time by Sergei Nevsky. From order to chaos to sensory overload.

Willy Decker, Bochumer Symphoniker, CHORWERK RUHR: »Moses und Aaron«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2009
Willy Decker, Bochumer Symphoniker, CHORWERK RUHR: »Moses und Aaron«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2009 | © Paul Leclaire
Johan Simons: »Hiob«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2009
Johan Simons: »Hiob«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2009 | © Ursula Kaufmann
Yael Ronen: »Dritte Generation«, PACT Zollverein, 2009
Yael Ronen: »Dritte Generation«, PACT Zollverein, 2009 | © Ursula Kaufmann
Jordi Savall, La Capella Reial De Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI: »Jerusalem«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2009
Jordi Savall, La Capella Reial De Catalunya, Hespèrion XXI: »Jerusalem«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2009 | © Michael Kneffel
Albert Ostermaier, Christoph Poppen, musikFabrik: »Sing für mich Tod«, Maschinenhalle, Zeche Zweckel, 2009
Albert Ostermaier, Christoph Poppen, musikFabrik: »Sing für mich Tod«, Maschinenhalle, Zeche Zweckel, 2009 | © Paul Leclaire
Beate Baron, Sergej Newski und Justyna Jaszczuk: »Autland«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2009
Beate Baron, Sergej Newski und Justyna Jaszczuk: »Autland«, Jahrhunderthalle Bochum, 2009 | © Michael Kneffel

The next years will be published shortly!