Festival Archive

The Ruhrtriennale is the festival of the arts in the metropolis Ruhr. Halls, coking plants, machine houses and slagheaps of the mining and steel industries every year become distinctive protagonists for the festival. The programme is located at the intersection of musical theatre, drama, dance, performances, concerts, installations and visual arts. Artistic Director of the Ruhrtriennale 2024-2026 is the Belgian theater director Ivo Van Hove.

Immerse yourself in the history of the Ruhrtriennale and discover the programmes of the artistic directors from 2002-2023 on the websites of the past festival editions.


The Emscher Park international architectural exhibition (IBA) under Prof. Karl Ganser comes to an end after ten years, raising the issue of the future of the industrial monuments it had rediscovered for the arts. At the same time, the government of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia is working on plans to raise NRW’s international profile in a lasting way. The discussions take into account changes in economic, social and cultural structure. One key suggestion to emerge from the IBA, the creation of a decentralized and project-oriented art festival for the Ruhr District, opens up a historic opportunity. Saved from dereliction and now the focus of aesthetic awareness, the fascinating halls, decommissioned power stations and collieries prove to be predestined for new forms of artistic debate. The venues develop to become the distinguishing feature of a festival directed towards the entire region.

2002 – 2004

Founding director Gerard Mortier (1943 - 2014) places the creations at the heart of the festival – productions that transcend genres and seek a dialogue with the individual venue. Former machine halls and coking plants witness drama and opera entering into combination with innovative developments from the worlds of fine art, pop, jazz and concert music. The festival acquires further instantly recognizable facets in the form of its high calibre programme of literature, the Century of Song concert series and the Junge Triennale.

Websites: 2002 | 2003 | 2004

2005 – 2008

The second Ruhrtriennale takes place 2007 under the direction of Jürgen Flimm. The programmes for the three seasons take Romanticism, Baroque, and The Middle Ages as their central artistic themes. The spectacular new production of Bernd Alois Zimmermann’s opera Die Soldaten in Bochum’s Jahrhunderthalle makes musical theatre history.

Following the death of Marie Zimmermann, the appointed director for the 2008 to 2010 seasons, Jürgen Flimm, stays on as General Manager. The slogan for this season’s festival is Aus der Fremde.

Websites: 2005 | 2006 | 2007 | 2008

2009 – 2011

With new artistic director Willy Decker at the helm, the Ruhrtriennale explores the tension between art and creativity and the primal moment of religiousness. In 2009 it was looking at the arena of Jewish culture, in 2010 at Islamic and in 2011 at Buddhist culture.

Websites: 2009 | 2010 | 2011

2012 – 2014

The composer and theatremaker Heiner Goebbels is Artistic Director of the Ruhrtriennale. During these three years the festival becomes and open laboratory for contemporary innovations by international artists. Major themes of his work include 20th century music theatre, visual arts and new formats to promote emerging artists.

Websites: 2012 | 2013 | 2014

2015 – 2017

The Dutch theatre and opera director Johan Simons runs the Ruhrtriennale. The leitmotif for his artistic directorship is Be Embraced. With these words from Schiller’s Ode to Joy, which Beethoven later set to music in his 9th Symphony, the festival makes a gesture of artistic, geographical and social inclusion.

Websites: 2015 | 2016 | 2017

2018 – 2020

In between times was the motto of the Ruhrtriennale under the artistic direction of Stefanie Carp and at the same time a call to creatively help shape the change in global social and cultural conditions. While the first edition in 2018 focused on the perspectives of the Global South, the invited artists in 2019 dealt with European self-criticism. In 2020, the festival could not take place due to the Covid pandemic.

Websites: 2018 | 2019 | 2020

2021 – 2023

The Swiss director Barbara Frey - still one of the few female theatre directors in the German-speaking world - will take over the directorship of the Ruhrtriennale 2021-2023. Her directorship is characterised by an intensive preoccupation both with the region and the venues that are so distinctive due to their history and with the "nature of man" in double readability: What is the nature of man? And what concept does he have of nature? Against the backdrop of the pandemic, the war of aggression in Ukraine and its consequences, and the urgency of ecological sustainability efforts, the polyphonic programme focuses on encounter, change and reflection.

Websites: 2021 | 2022 | 2023